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Who ‘owns’ the healthcare consumer of the future?

Who ‘owns’ the healthcare consumer of the future? | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

CVS and Aetna are merging. Amazon, JPMorgan Chase, and Berkshire Hathaway are forming a joint venture aimed at reducing health care costs and improving outcomes. Cigna is acquiring Express Scripts. The proposed mergers promise a revolution that could fundamentally alter the current healthcare landscape and the relationships between providers and patients. With these giant corporations betting big on healthcare, a logical question to ask is: What’s behind it all?

 

The answer is simple: ownership of the healthcare consumer experience, and by extension, the consumer.

Digitalization and healthcare consumerism

In the past few years, Amazon has reshaped the relationship between consumers and marketers. It has forged itself into being the preferred destination for consumers seeking convenience. Now, imagine Amazon applying this power to the healthcare sector. The company already offers a wide range of the over-the-counter drugs in their health and wellness section. Going from there to selling prescription drugs is not a big step. However, that step could become a big leap in terms of the shift in consumer loyalties if consumers are provided the option to order their 90-day medication refill and have it delivered to their doorstep (maybe even by a drone).

 

Recognizing the threat, many health systems are taking measures to digitalize their relationships with consumers by focusing on something they have long neglected: convenience. Virtual visits and e-visits are now becoming commonplace. A young mother of three no longer has to bundle her kids into the car and drive an hour each way to her hospital for a routine follow-up that takes all of fifteen minutes in the physician's office. A senior citizen in a wheelchair on multiple chronic-care medications no longer needs to "check in" by getting physically to a physician's office. They can both do their visits through secure messaging, or if required, through a virtual real-time consultation.

 

The above is just one example of how digitalization could reshape relationships between consumers and providers.

Data, analytics, digital

Here is another scenario that is already starting to play out. Consider a patient with high blood pressure. Technology is enabling patient-generated health data (PGHD) from wearables and sensors that include blood pressure, heart rate, glucose levels, and medication adherence to be transmitted seamlessly into the patient’s electronic health record (EHR). The combined data is being analyzed for trends and insights and made available to everyone involved in that patient’s care, enabling care teams to manage the patient more effectively. The patient can still control who can see the information by following an e-consent process through an app right on the mobile device. If a patient opts to participate in clinical studies, that person can be matched automatically with relevant opportunities. Both the individual patient and the population improve their health outcomes as a result.

 

Data-driven advancements are arriving in the form of both precision medicine and healthcare consumerism. Advancements in precision medicine are expected as the relationship between data from wearables, sensors, social determinants and other emerging sources is better interpreted through advanced artificial intelligence (AI), and yielding better outcomes. We are in the early stages of a new push toward patient-centered, consumer-directed care that is demonstrating strong growth potential.

 

What we are also starting to see is some redistribution of the in-person visits between traditional providers and emerging ones. As an example, CVS and Aetna are betting that consumers may prefer to visit one of their many walk-in clinics for minor conditions instead of waiting to schedule an appointment with their primary care physician in the hospital down the road. Urgent care is already shifting out of hospitals, and in many cases, going virtual altogether. The rise of companies such as Teladoc and Doctor-on-demand is clear evidence of this.

Bricks and mortar is not going away

None of this suggests that the traditional healthcare setting is fading into obscurity. Health systems, especially those with strong brands in their local and regional markets, have an unassailable lead today as trusted healthcare partners in their communities. Many of them are already making big investments in digitalization programs that will enable consumers to get the best of both worlds, namely a virtual experience for routine healthcare and urgent care needs, and an in-patient experience for acute care needs. For a high-quality patient journey, these two worlds must be tightly integrated. Only traditional hospitals can provide that truly integrated experience today.

The future of healthcare consumerism is not an either/or

If Big Data’s relationship to precision medicine has been on a more or less predictable trajectory, the explosive growth of healthcare consumerism has opened up options for healthcare consumers seeking convenience in addition to the quality of care. The healthcare leaders of tomorrow will ideally sit at the intersection of these two critical aspects of healthcare delivery. A reputation built on high-quality care alone will no longer be enough; neither will a reputation for slick user interfaces and transactional convenience.

 

A friend, who is also the CIO of a large health system, recently suffered a heart attack during a race. As he felt it coming on, he wisely checked himself into the medical tent from where he was rushed to a nearby hospital. A stent was put into his chest that saved his life. Imagine a scenario where with the help of real-time, advanced analytics and AI technologies, his imminent heart attack could have been predicted. Imagine, too, if he had not had access to one of the most experienced and qualified cardiologists in the country to attend to him during the emergency. Digitalization can ensure that the cardiologist's knowledge, wisdom, and experience are still accessible no matter the current physical location of the patient.

 

Ownership of the healthcare consumer experience requires a mixture of convenience and quality enabled by a robust data and analytics capability. No one sits precisely at that happy intersection today. However, the race is already underway to get there.

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Digital health’s last mile problem

Digital health’s last mile problem | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

In my book, The Big Unlock, I describe the four major categories of technology providers as Custodians, Enablers, Arbitrageurs, and Innovators. Each of these categories of providers has staked a claim to reimagining the digital future of healthcare.

 

First, the Custodians: These are the big electronic health record (EHR) vendors like Epic and Cerner who have the data and the workflow. As systems of record, they enjoy the long-term strategic commitment of the health systems they serve and are the first port-of-call whenever a health system decides to enable new functionality for enhancing the patient and caregiver experience. 

Systems of record have certain limitations and are arguably weak in several areas, such as advanced analytics, which is critical for a digitally reimagined healthcare experience. Along came the Enablers to address this problem. Big technology firms such as Google, GE Healthcare, Microsoft, Salesforce and IBM’s Watson Health business have built technology stacks that integrate multiple emerging and traditional data sources, including EHR systems, and have incorporated some proprietary data sources as well, such as images in the case of GE Healthcare.

 

These big technology stacks include inbuilt advanced analytics capabilities that can deliver insights to power digital health experiences. Google’s Deep Mind, for instance, recently analyzed eye scans from over 125,000 patients to build an algorithm that could detect diabetic retinopathy, the number one cause of blindness in some parts of the world, with over 90 percent accuracy. The company claimed the accuracy of the analysis was on par with board-certified ophthalmologists.

 

The Arbitrageurs are mostly technology agnostic consulting firms such as Accenture and Deloitte, as well as India-heritage firms such as Wipro and Infosys, that rely on information and labor-arbitrage models to build digital experiences from scratch using the preferred technology tools that exist in health systems.

The Last Mile problem

All three categories of technology providers described above have stopped short of building ready-to-deploy digital health experiences, which leads us to the Last Mile problem in healthcare. Despite the powerful computing and data analytics infrastructure that big technology firms have invested in, there is a shortage of viable, proven digital health experiences for health systems and their key stakeholders in healthcare delivery i.e. patients and caregivers. The challenge – and the opportunity – has fallen to the fourth category of technology providers, namely the Innovators.

By definition, the Innovators are typically startups that have come up with a whole new way of addressing an existing problem with technology-enabled healthcare experiences, or for filling a gap in the current healthcare experience with technology. Digital health startups raised an estimated 11.5 billion in 2017, and money continues to pour into the sector, despite the slow pace of exits. Despite the promise, a report by IQVIA indicates that while over 318,000 health apps and 340 consumer wearable devices are now available worldwide, 85 percent of the apps had fewer than 5000 installs. The few apps that did reach critical mass demonstrated strong clinical evidence, robust integration with the established workflow integration, and high user ratings – prerequisites for any digital health solution looking to break into the health systems marketplace.

Addressing the bottleneck

The need for last mile applications is enormous, and yet the innovation ecosystem has not built and implemented viable applications fast enough and at scale to meet the demand. Common challenges include:

  • Extended cycles to hit prime time usage: most health systems follow a traditional approach that takes promising new solutions through the phases of a free pilot, paid pilot, and enterprise adoption. The process could take years, and many solutions remain in "pilot purgatory" for an extended period, often failing to break through to enterprise adoption. Health systems need a newer, more agile model, to assess and deploy promising solutions more quickly and efficiently
  • Too many standalone solutions: the digital health landscape is littered with thousands of point solutions that stand in isolation, with no established connectivity to systems of record which is the price of entry for any new solution. Health systems are loath to sign up dozens of point solutions and take on the burden of integrating and managing these solutions. They prefer to default to the many solutions that EHR vendors have built or are actively building (or claim to be building) that effectively make stand-alone solutions redundant, despite the superior experience architectures that startups are known for. A potential approach for startups is to align with one of the big Enabler companies who, through established relationships with health systems, can create a pathway to adoption and growth.
  • An absence of scale: No single platform addresses all the needs of a digital health enterprise today, unlike the mature enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems of the manufacturing and financial sectors. There is a significant opportunity for Enables companies to build ready-to-deploy innovation ecosystems through partnerships with digital health startups. However, Enabler platforms too have increased and are at risk of becoming too fragmented to present a real alternative to health systems looking for scale and velocity in the digital transformation journeys.

The digital transformation of healthcare is in its early stages, and the gold rush is underway. Wanted: creative approaches to solving the Last Mile problem and unifying the fragmented ecosystem of point solutions and stand-alone technology enablement platforms.

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Reimbursements red herring, trust, and key infrastructure needs for Telemedicine success  

Reimbursements red herring, trust, and key infrastructure needs for Telemedicine success   | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Telemedicine is a growing part of modern healthcare and could play a pivotal role in the U.S.’s efforts to streamline and expand preventative services. Virtual, video-based doctor’s appointments can help alleviate the general practitioner shortage and encourage preventative care. They also offer a cheaper, more convenient alternative to in-person appointments for many patients. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of hype and misinformation being reported so I was pleased to see that TechnologyAdvice (TA) surveyed 504 U.S. adults about telemedicine and their willingness to use such services. I think the results shed important light on where healthcare providers and telemedicine vendors still need to gain acceptance with patients so I reached out to Cameron Graham, Managing Editor at TA to see if he can give us the facts on the ground. Cameron heads market research for healthcare IT, business intelligence, and other emerging technologies and is uniquely qualified to help shed some light on the subject. Here’s what Cameron said:

 

1. It’s not just about reimbursements

Despite the promise of telemedicine, the vast majority of Americans still aren’t using such services. One oft-cited reason for this is the lack of insurance reimbursement for many telemedicine procedures. While some private insurers will cover telemedicine, many only cover select types of visits or specific applications. Medicare, for instance, covers face-to-face interactions, but only when the originating site (point of care, not the patient’s home) is in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA). Although coverage is slowly improving in many states, the American Telemedicine Association gives just five states (plus DC) an A grade in coverage and reimbursement.

 

However, the current hodgepodge of reimbursement rules is not the only thing holding back telemedicine from widespread use. An equally important factor is likely Americans general comfort with video-based platforms and their trust in remote appointments. According to our study, less than half of adults (44.9%) said they would be comfortable conducting a doctor’s appointment over video. Only 35.3% of respondents said they would choose a video appointment over an in-person one. Until patients are more comfortable with the notion of remote care, it is unlikely that telemedicine will gain significant traction.

 

In order to facilitate acceptance of telemedicine among Americans, providers and vendors need to work on educating patients about the benefits of such systems. Telemedicine vendors, in particular, should help patients navigate the complex reimbursement rules currently in place, and promote the cost-savings of remote appointments. By doing so they will not only gain brand awareness among patients but will be able to recruit patients as advocates for more comprehensive insurance reimbursement policies.

 

2. Trust is a key component of effective telemedicine

Americans are not only hesitant about scheduling telemedicine appointment, they are also sceptical about diagnoses made through video platforms. Forty-five per cent of respondents said they would trust a virtual diagnosis less than one made in person. An additional 29.3% said they simply would not trust a virtual diagnosis. This suggests there is a distinct lack of trust among Americans in the quality of medical services that telemedicine platforms can provide.

 

Much of this scepticism is likely due to a lack of familiarity with the services. It also reinforces the fact that telemedicine providers must earn patients trust before they can effectively increase adoption rates. Once that trust is established, it appears people are far more likely to consider using remote appointments. While initially, only 35.3% of respondents said they would choose a virtual appointment over an in-person visit, 65% of respondents said they would be more likely to conduct a virtual appointment if they have first seen the doctor in-person.

 

It’s unlikely that providers or vendors will be able to dramatically change such preferences given the personal nature of many medical visits. However, increased awareness about the qualifications of physicians could make potential patients more comfortable about conducting preventative care via video. Incorporating a rating system, or minimum quality threshold for participating physicians is one potential solution.

 

3. Personal and professional infrastructure is key

The personal infrastructure for telemedicine is already in place across much of the United States, in the form of video-enabled smartphones. According to the latest PEW research, 64% of Americans own a smartphone. In theory, this provides them with the basic means to access remote, video-based health care. Smartphones will likely serve as first means of exposure to such services for many people.

 

More advanced, capable systems (such as dedicated telemedicine kiosks) however are far from established. Aside from a few test programs in select areas, there is no nationwide, professional infrastructure or technology for telemedicine. This hinders adoption and limits the use of telemedicine to basic, preventative care that can be conducted entirely remotely. Dedicated kiosks can greatly expand the use-case for telemedicine, by incorporating sensors, multiple cameras, and other advanced technology. Further investment from telemedicine vendors and insurance companies could help to boost the nationwide profile of telemedical services and expand access for many Americans.

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Digitally managed clinical trials will accelerate results and reduce costs 

Digitally managed clinical trials will accelerate results and reduce costs  | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Digitally managed clinical trials have the potential to accelerate results report and reduce costs but workflow questions and regulatory questions remain. In many facets of our lives, digital data collection has improved services, eliminated errors, and reduced waste in time and resources. Think about the ticketing and check-in process at airports ten years ago vs. today: when airlines put the information in our hands we were able to do the check-in, seat selection, and other work for them. Plus, we were happy to do it. Also consider ATMs, online banking, and retail banking for how we are able to move money, get cash, and get loans by providing data ourselves and get immediate services. When we think about the medical industry, though, very little of the kind of automation created by self-service digital data collection exists. While we can see some patient portals and self-service triage apps appearing in limited uses, large-scale use seems very far away. One specific area that digital data collection can, potentially, literally save lives is in clinical research. The use of digital collection tools, primarily mobile devices, in clinical studies, is nascent but growing. Evidence indicates that these tools have the potential to significantly improve the quality of research outcomes and reduce the costs associated with such research, but there are still questions about how exactly these tools will work and some of the issues surrounding electronic data collection. To help answer some common questions, I spoke with James Emerson, who is a director of clinical research and helps run a variety of clinical trials.

How are mobile devices being used for digital data collection in clinical research?

For several years now, IT in the enterprise has been moving toward consumerization; that is, people are bringing their own devices to work and many of the same applications are used outside of the office. Clinical researchers have realized that same consumerization of IT that is revolutionizing the way that we work can do the same for research. Trial participants using clinical trial research technology are able to use their own smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices, which makes it much more likely they will comply with the requirements of the study.

Essentially, depending on the setup of the study, patients simply need to input information into an application, eliminating the need for paper journals or surveys.

 

While research indicates that most patients actually prefer this technology over other forms of data collection, in particular, voice response systems, there are still some challenges. One thing that researchers need to overcome are the differences among devices themselves, and how applications actually function on different devices.  Training trial participants — and providers — in the use of the application is an important task. Connectivity issues are also a concern, as is privacy. Protecting sensitive personal information is of paramount importance, and researchers are cognizant of the need for data protection protocols and security, both in terms of protecting the devices themselves and in the transfer of data.

Why are digitally managed clinical trials ideal for clinical research?

Digital data collection has many significant benefits. For starters, it reduces costs. Major clinical studies often have thousands of participants, all of whom need to be trained in how to record data and submit it to their providers. That data also needs to be collected and analyzed, often manually. Digital data collection reduces or eliminates the need for many of those expensive tasks. When clinical trial participants are allowed to use devices that they already own and are familiar with, the complexity of the training and on-boarding decreases and compliance increases.

 

The simplified data collection process also has a significant impact on the overall quality of the study. Again, compliance is a major benefit. Studies have shown that patients vastly prefer mobile data collection over other options like paper journals or interactive voice response systems. It’s simply much easier to input your data into your mobile device and move on with your day than it is to navigate a complex menu of voice response options or fill out a paper questionnaire.

 

The accuracy of the data collected also improves; when patients use paper journals, for instance, they have a tendency to add additional extraneous information or skip questions, which can affect how the data is analyzed. Not to mention, when the researchers have access to real-time data, they can identify compliance issues earlier on and monitor patient safety more efficiently, improving the overall outcome of the trial.

 

While digital data collection can improve the accuracy of the data collected, there are some obstacles to overcome. Digital data collection protocols require that researchers consider facets of study design that they might not have otherwise. For example, what happens if a device is lost or stolen? How can we protect that data and the integrity of the study? We need to use a technology infrastructure that complies with regulatory protocols, but that is also easy for subjects to use.

 

Many researchers are also concerned about equivalence among the devices being used. In other words, are all of the subjects having the same experience when using the application, and how do differences affect outcomes? These are all questions that researchers are considering in their study design.

Can digitally be managed clinical trials really save that much money?

The short answer is yes. In 2014, the Department of Health and Human Services released a report estimating that using mobile technologies in clinical trials has the potential to save clinical research organizations (CROs) tens of millions of dollars. The greatest savings come in the later stages of trials, but even in the early stages, mobile saves money.

Are there regulatory issues related to the use of digital collection tools that CROs face?

The FDA is actually encouraging CROs to do as much electronically as possible. That being said, yes, there are some stringent regulations that CROs must adhere to that ensure the accuracy and protection of the data. The FDA has issued guidance on how CROs can capture and use data to maintain those protections.

Are there times when digital data collection isn’t ideal? What about barriers to participation?

While it might seem like everyone on the planet has a smartphone these days, the fact is that there are some people who either do not have access to the technology necessary to participate in a research study via a mobile device or have the skills to do so correctly. It’s important to carefully assess the target population of the study to determine whether digital data collection is appropriate or if more traditional methods would be a better choice.

 

For example, many older adults either do not have or do not use smartphones and aren’t interested in learning how to use the application to participate in the research. For someone who isn’t a digital native, using an application to record data could be intimidating or confusing.

 

Another issue is a lack of access to the internet or cellular service. In many rural areas of the country, access to broadband is still limited, and cell service is limited or nonexistent. Relying solely on digital data collection via smartphone has the potential to exclude viable candidates from research studies, simply because they cannot provide data efficiently. We need to be very careful in how we design studies, and the technological requirements, or risk inadvertently creating disparities within the study population based on economic or geographic situations.

 

And of course, not all studies lend themselves to self-reporting — and as with any self-reported data, there will always be a margin of error. Researchers need to carefully consider their reasons for choosing digital data collection, and evaluate whether they are ideal for an individual study.

Are digitally managed clinical trials really the future of clinical research?

Yes, we believe so. The fact is, the old ways of doing things are no longer infallible. Using digital tools has the potential to solve many of the long-standing problems within clinical research, including low study recruitment numbers, gender bias, accuracy, compliance, and more. By incorporating digital tools, new, more effective treatments can get to market faster while keeping patients safe and improving their overall health.

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Understanding IoT: Is Healthcare Harnessing the Potential?

Understanding IoT: Is Healthcare Harnessing the Potential? | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Digital technology has paved the way for businesses and industries alike to utilise its benefits to incredible calibers, such as providing ergonomic solutions solely by “smart” machines or eliminating tedious methods of organising large quantities of data. However, the healthcare industry in particular can find itself to be most affected by digital technology and the Internet of Things (IoT).

 

By the year 2020, it is predicted that IoT inventions will result in a digital healthcare market of $117 billion, bringing to the table a plethora of inventions that will revolutionise the industry and save millions of dollars. According to analysts, the digital healthcare revolution and its innovative methods will completely change the way society optimises technology.

 

First, it is expected that all patients will soon be able to use “advanced wearable devices” solely for at-home use that automatically sends data to a healthcare provider regarding their condition status thanks to digital sensors worn on the body. This is especially helpful for individuals who have chronic conditions, such as cancer, high blood-pressure, or kidney disease requiring constant dialysis.

 

Additionally, advanced wearable devices prevent patients from making unnecessary visits to the hospital - which in fact, is one of the most expensive elements of healthcare next to hospitals paying professional labour and the pharmaceutical prices of life-saving drugs. As a result, patients will have a 24/7 working support staff of nurses to call in case of any arising concern or emergency. The wearable device connects to a real-time application that establishes a consistent digital dialogue between a patient and their provider. With it, providers implement a sense of security to the patient due to the constant back-and-forth of digital “smart” communication that constantly updates the provider with not only the patient’s status, but the opportunity to instantly administer medication reminders because of careful and accurate observation.

 

If more healthcare systems participated in this system, billions of dollars could be saved for future technological investments and human research. Moreover, the digital partnership and relationship between the patient and provider creates a solidified foundation of unquestionable trust and reliability on the provider. Lastly, this digital communication ultimately depends upon the patient, which in turn can help motivate them to always take responsibility for their health and hold themselves accountable for their health-related actions.

 

Moving on from wearable devices and health system applications, IoT has the ability to create a profound IP cloud network that is able to meticulously organise overwhelming amounts of data; this data comes from not only patient conditions, but provider statuses, the coordination of medications distributed at a pharmacy, and most importantly - a cloud system eliminates the opportunity for error in inventory and workflow with digital interconnections.

 

Apart from the digital communication, IoT opened the doors to radio frequency identification (RFID), which is a type of technology that combines the implementation of electromagnetic (or electrostatic) coupling with radio frequency to identify an object, product, or individual. The main benefits of using RFID are to improve patient safety and reduce costs. For example, an RFID tag is able to monitor the time of a patient’s specific activity, physical location, and overview of their entire health record with a microchip. Unlike tracking patients with a barcode in a psychiatry hospital, for example, multiple RFID microchips embedded on a tag upon different individuals are able to be simultaneously read in one sitting - cutting down time finding each person and manually interacting with them and therefore, efficiently surveilling an entire area of a hospital. These RFID chips also track blood and temperature, making checking vitals less of a time-consuming task. 


 

Last but certainly not least, managing inventory is a completely different matter in comparison, but one that is vital to the functionality of a hospital. The overall chaos of inventory control  diminishes thanks to IoT and puts the responsibility completely on machines to track medications and perfectly interpret and send data to pharmacies.

 

The healthcare industry has not even begun to scratch the surface of the opportunities IoT provides. Smart wearable devices and a constant digital communication between the patient and provider is only the beginning of a promising era for medical technology.

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How blockchain can address the two biggest challenges in healthcare IT

How blockchain can address the two biggest challenges in healthcare IT | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

A recent study on blockchain adoption in health care by Blackbook Market Research indicated that a large percentage of payers surveyed, and a small but growing percentage of providers, were either considering deploying or were in the process of implementing, some blockchain solution sets. Blockchain appears to have moved from the awareness and education phase to actual deployment of solutions.

 

“Blockchain can solve two of the biggest problems in health care today," says Lidia Fonseca, CIO of Quest Diagnostics, a leader in lab testing services. She is referring to the gnarly issues of interoperability and data quality. While data quality has long been an issue in health care, the interoperability challenge is a legacy of the massive digitization of patient medical records over the past eight years which have left us with proprietary electronic health record (EHR) systems that don't "talk" to one another. The result is inefficiency and waste, as stand-alone information systems slow down processes and create redundant work. 

Taking a look at the healthcare blockchain pioneers

Some technology solution providers, including IBM and Change health care, along with a number of other companies listed in the Blackbook Research study, have made initial moves in establishing blockchain capabilities and launching solutions. Federal agencies such as FDA and CDC have expressed interest in applying blockchain to find solutions for public health issues.

 

Amazon, with its long-awaited entry into health care, recently announced the launch of blockchain templates for health care, aimed at making it easier for developers to create blockchain-based projects and deploy blockchain networks via open source frameworks. In a sense, Amazon has started the democratization of the blockchain-enabled application development, something we saw before with machine learning algorithms in the wake of the big data and analytics hype a few years ago.

 

A group of large healthcare enterprises, including large payers such as Humana and United Health Group (UHG), along with Quest Diagnostics, UHG subsidiary Optum, and Multiplan Health recently came together to launch a blockchain pilot program to solve for one of the most significant data challenges in health care today – provider data management. Provider data, a fundamental enabler for all manner of healthcare transactions, is a key building block for processing claims and maintaining up-to-date provider directories. Today, most provider data is stored in siloed and independent databases. Provider data quality is estimated to be a $2.1 billion problem today, according to a report by CAHQ, a non-profit alliance focused on creating shared initiatives to streamline the business of health care. By streamlining the inefficiencies in provider data maintenance, participants can have a "single source of truth." It is estimated that up to 75 percent of provider data management costs can be eliminated using blockchain solutions.

What it will take for blockchain initiatives to succeed

While blockchain is coming of age in health care, we’re still in the early stages of the hype cycle for blockchain. The initial mania around bitcoin, the very first use case for blockchain, is now giving way to more carefully considered use cases for business with tangible benefits. Healthcare, a sector that generally lags in the adoption of technologies, is currently in a wait-and-watch mode; notwithstanding the high levels of interest among payer organizations, the Blackbook survey also points to low levels of interest among health systems, citing the undetermined cost of blockchain solutions as the major issue that stops health system executives from committing to a timeframe for deploying the technology. Our best hope is that the early pilots will bring tangible proof points and provide more confidence to the industry in the technology.

 

Health care is a team sport and so is blockchain. The more participants there are in a blockchain network, the better it is for the network and the industry. Pilot programs such as the provider data management initiative by Quest Diagnostics and others will need a much higher level of participation across the industry to reap the benefits of the network effects.

 

As with most transformative technologies, the big challenge is usually not the technology; it’s managing culture and workflow changes, driving collaboration, and an execution focus. In blockchain, there is an added dimension of a commitment and willingness to work across company boundaries, which is an entirely new paradigm for most health care enterprises.

In a unique development, a group of health care industry executives has come together to launch a peer-reviewed blockchain journal to share both the positive and the negative experiences with blockchain in health care.

 

The potential for blockchain to improve health care operating efficiencies is significant. High-value use cases include revenue cycle management, supply chain, clinical trials, and provider data management. The initial pilots will need to demonstrate the real benefits of the technology and lead to higher adoption of blockchain in the coming year.  

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No dilemma for innovators in healthcare

No dilemma for innovators in healthcare | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

The big trends in healthcare today are rising consumerism, a shift to value-based care, emerging data sources, and the use of advanced technologies for improving care delivery and reducing costs. There is unprecedented innovation opportunity in the digital transformation of healthcare.

 

At a recent industry event, I moderated a panel discussion on innovations in health care with a group of technology innovators and healthcare veterans. We all agreed that technology-led innovation was accelerating rapidly, but the innovation landscape had a set of unique challenges as well. In this post, I share some of the key thoughts from the discussion.

The market landscape for healthcare innovation

In the past few years, we have seen several significant changes in the market for technology-led innovation in health care. Here are some important trends.

 

  • A shift towards the virtualization of health care. Many routine health care services are now available on your smartphone – a perfect example would be urgent care visits or routine consultations. According to one report, there are over 300,000 health apps in the Apple and Android stores. However, only a small number have reached critical mass, indicating that consumer preferences for virtual care are changing slowly.
  • Huge amounts of venture capital pouring into digital health: $11.5 billion in 2017, according to one report. The first quarter of 2018 has seen continued investments in digital health, serving as a validation of the promise of digital health innovation and the opportunities in the digital transformation in health care. At the same time, many of these startups are struggling, exits are not keeping pace with expectations, and a few that have raised very large amounts of money, such as Outcome Health, have gotten into trouble for trying to find short-cuts to growth and profitability.
  • Innovations from big technology firms are also struggling to gain traction. Recent troubles at IBM’s Watson Health business which has reportedly laid off significant numbers of employees in the face of market and organizational challenges indicate a deeper problem for the business model itself.
  • New data sources such as genomics, wearables and social determinants are driving a whole new way of managing patient populations. Unstructured data, such as clinical notes, is now the new goldmine that people are digging into, with the help of emerging technologies such as AI. Other emerging technologies, like blockchain, are still in early stages but with great potential. However, data interoperability, especially with the big electronic health record (HER) systems like Epic and Cerner, remains a challenge.
  • We are in the early stages of breakthroughs such as gene-editing with CRISPR (powered by massive data analytics capabilities) that are likely to transform healthcare, along with an explosion in smart sensors and wearables. Other technologies, such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are in very early stages but show enormous potential in transforming the way healthcare is delivered in the future.

Health care’s innovation focus and the players

A recent survey by Modern Healthcare indicates that health care consumerism is the no. 1 area for innovations, followed by clinical practice, or care delivery, and payment reform or alternate payment models. Most respondents in the survey felt that innovation was accelerating.

 

Data from Rock Health, a venture capital (VC) firm, lines up with the survey responses. While disease diagnosis and treatment remain significant focus areas, consumer empowerment is emerging as a strong funding category, confirming the rise of consumerism in health care. As healthcare shifts progressively away to virtual care delivery models, interest in telemedicine, remote monitoring, and alternate care delivery models continue to drive innovation.

 

It’s not just VC firms that are funding and driving technology-led innovation in health care. We are seeing health systems getting into the innovation game themselves by setting up funds.

 

Examples include Partners Healthcare, UPMC, Intermountain and Mayo Clinic, to name a few. While these funds are relatively small, the opportunity for promising startups with innovative solutions to accelerate the path to product validation and market acceptance improves with the support of the sponsoring health system.

 

We are also seeing some non-traditional partnerships emerging. The big announcement earlier this year by Amazon and Berkshire Hathaway, and the more recent announcement by a consortium of healthcare companies to invest in blockchain technology are examples.

 

Despite health care's reputation as a slow follower of technology, the innovation ecosystem is buzzing. In my book, the Big Unlock, I refer to four categories of technology solution providers: The Custodians such as the EHR vendors, who have the data and the workflow; the Enablers, which are big companies like Google, Microsoft, and Salesforce who have invested in health cloud infrastructures that can be rented for building digital health experiences; the Arbitrageurs, which include global consulting and technology services firms who rely on information and labor arbitrage for developing and delivering technology solutions; and finally the Innovators, which include the hundreds of startups and VC-funded companies who are developing entirely new ways to deliver health care. Every one of these categories is innovating in their own way.

 

At the heart of the innovation ecosystem is a final category of innovators, namely the healthcare enterprises. Leading health systems are innovating with health care delivery models and pricing/contracting models and are using technology to enable their digital transformation.

Into the great wide open

Despite all the activity and the fierce competition, there is good news for innovators; the market is wide open, and there is no single dominant entity in the digital health innovation landscape. Each of the categories of technology providers I refer to have their unique strengths and many would like to become that one dominant solution provider of choice.

 

While it does not seem likely that we will see a dominant digital health innovator in the near term, the window of opportunity for innovators is narrowing. As the high value “white spaces” get filled up and the risks of failure increase, VCs are committing larger and larger amounts of funding to more mature companies in the hope of a successful exit. New entrants in the innovation landscape will either need to find new white spaces or build “better mousetraps” to challenge well-capitalized incumbents on their turf. At the same time, as the pace of exits picks up, VC firms will look for new investment opportunities for their liquidation gains. For now, it’s best for digital health innovators to operate with an abundance mindset. It’s an “all you can eat” world out there. 

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Could Apple Store-like digital health retail stores be popular? 

Could Apple Store-like digital health retail stores be popular?  | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Here’s why I think the time is right. Rumour has it that CVS, Walgreens, Kroger, and many other pharmacies carrying digital health and wearables product draw in-store customers. If that’s the case, could we drive more sales of telemedicine, remote monitoring, chronic care apps, and other digital health products by creating specialty stores in which we had trained sales people that knew how to combine products, services, and solutions from a variety of companies and educate consumers, caregivers, and patients about their use? What if some smart pharmacies, smart health insurers, and smart health systems got together and put together healthcare management retail stores in malls, similar to an Apple Store or a Microsoft Store?

 

In a fee for services (volume-driven) world, selling healthcare products and services to individual institutions is certainly time-consuming but reasonably straightforward. In an outcomes-driven (fees for value) world driven by shared risks and shared rewards, selling healthcare solutions across multiple disciplines, multiple stakeholders, and multiple institutions is much harder and even more time-consuming. That’s because there’s no easy buyer to identify. Population health is all the rage but our current 3+ trillion dollar healthcare industry was never devised nor incentivized to work together as a team for a long-term patient or population benefits (it’s reimbursed mainly for episodic care).

 

Our country’s healthcare industry is more about sick care and episodic transactions rather than longitudinal care. But, since we are moving to population and outcomes-driven care where the patient is more responsible for their own care management and payment, it would seem patient education and digital health tools are more important than ever. So, perhaps we need to get together and innovate around how we’re going to present next-generation solutions from across multiple innovators and showcase them to patients and their caregivers.

 

Using the Apple Store as a model, let’s imagine a Digital Health Store where we can have computers, wearables, tablets, phones, medical devices, remote monitoring, care quality, and other cool devices sitting in one place where shoppers can see how things work together and salespeople are trained to talk about chronic care. Even Amazon, who basically killed the large bookstore retail model, is giving retail bookstores a shot.

 

If the Digital Health retail store idea is reasonable, we could even think about allowing people to shop for insurance — on existing insurance exchanges — through a guided expert in store. There are tons of way of monetizing these stores.

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Health IoT creates huge opportunities for public health and software companies 

Health IoT creates huge opportunities for public health and software companies  | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Connecting smart biological sensors to the internet is not a new idea. There are already dozens of products in the market that continuously monitor blood glucose and heart function, for example, and enable secure remote management for clinicians and caretakers. The safety of life implications are enormous, and the commercial opportunities untold. Some analysts predict a $100 billion-plus market for the healthcare segment of the “internet of things” (IoT).

 

What is new and emerging is the physical scale of the devices on the one hand, and the need to aggregate, reconcile, and consolidate those data streams for downstream clinical care services. Advances in semiconductor device manufacturing will relentlessly drive down the price and the size of these electrophysiological sensors, literally to the nanometer scale, which will ultimately be able to do more than detect, they will be able to intervene. At the same time, our ability to make sense of the torrents of information is catching up to our ability to create them.

We believe that these are tremendous opportunities for public health and software companies like ours. It is why we are investing so much of our own resources to promote the open design, secure exchange, and value-added analysis of health data systems. Perhaps the largest inhibitor to a promising future of longer, healthier, less expensive life are the software merchants and device manufacturers who still and astonishingly insist on keeping data closed, isolated, and trapped in proprietary systems. We believe this is about to change too.

 

The interoperability troubles with electronic medical records are legion, and we won’t waste our page space or your attention lamenting the deeply ignorant and the nearly criminal. The immortal words of Forest Gump’s assessment about doing dumb things find purchase here.

 

What we can do, however, is find clever ways leverage of IoT as yet-another, and maybe decisive, the fulcrum of connected care. For what is today true in isolation – progressive plans, concerned parents, engaged patients – will soon-enough be more the ubiquitous standard of coordinated care; that coordination will reach deeply into pocketbooks as well as bodies.

We know that there are legitimate concerns about individual privacy and device safety and that some people would literally rather die than compromise on either. We respect that, even as we actively promote more automation and digital services in health care.

 

Some of us believe that the existential benefits of independence and longevity outweigh the potential risks of intrusion and malfunction, some of us don’t. The point is that everyone should have the choice and that no one should be coerced or manipulated into choosing one side of the argument. Fear mongering (about privacy) and fabrication (about intrusion) are forms of manipulation. In the case of health care, they cost lives and money.

 

Let’s, instead, imagine a world of seamless, secure, and reliable health data interoperability. Let’s find a better way to safely liberate data at its source – labs, pharmacies, hospital and clinics, insurance claims, as well as implantable and wearable devices – pass it through hygienically sealed pipes, and receive it in places where it does the most good. That may be during a clinical care or remote telemedical encounter (to give you the best possible advice based on evidence and your personal health history), it may be when you pick up your medicines (to check for interactions with other medicines), or it may be to help your insurance company help you (because they have always had a bird’s eye view of your services, and they can’t kick you out for pre-existing conditions anymore).

 

Because of changes in the law, it may be with a loved one or trusted caretaker. It may be you.

The data could be as simple as a reminder message about an upcoming appointment, a warning message that a clinical value seems out of range, or an answer to a securely-texted question to your doctor. We have imagined that future and it is, as Ray Kurzweil likes to say, near.

 

There are two challenges, and they are slowly receding.

The first is that the data holders are still reluctant to share, even though it isn’t “their” data.  This will become less of a problem, as forward-looking providers like VA and DoD have shown, as well as payers like CMS, Aetna, and HCSC among many others have demonstrated.  All are outspoken supporters of the Blue Button program, now in its fifth year, and still growing.

 

The second falls squarely on our shoulders:  we need to make the user experience attractive, convenient, and useful.  The health IT community has made terrific strides recently – we-two have worked on the InCircleand a soon-to-be-announced medication management app, for example –  and there are many companies that target data-driven patient-provider interactions, including AmericanWell and covers health.

 

The beautiful thing is that IoT fits so neatly into this conversation. The goal, of course, is to help us achieve our best-possible health. The best way to do this is with data. And the best data is coming at us in ever more granular packages, from patient-hosted sensors that monitor, detect, interact, and intervene. Weaving those into the tapestry of your personal health history is the next vanguard of coordinated and managed care.

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Accountable Care, Quality Metrics Must Combine for Improvement

Accountable Care, Quality Metrics Must Combine for Improvement | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

The healthcare industry has taken many positive steps towards improving the measurement of quality and patient outcomes, says Margaret E. O’Kane, MHA, President of the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), but true improvement comes from the marriage of metrics with innovative reform of payment and care delivery systems.  In a commentary for the American Journal of Managed Care, O’Kane states that providers, payers, and regulators must continue to promote the business case for providing the highest possible quality of care for patients.

“The accomplishments of the last quarter-century are real and significant,” O’Kane says. NCQA is celebrating its 25 year anniversary in 2015, and the healthcare quality measurement landscape looks significantly different today.  “In 1990, measuring quality was just an idea—today it is an everyday reality. Most Americans—more than 171 million—are enrolled in health plans that report NCQA’s HEDIS (Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set) clinical quality measures.”

HEDIS scores are now used by Medicare, the majority of state Medicaid plans, and numerous private insurers to benchmark performance, reward improvement, and pinpoint opportunities for change.  HEDIS, along with similar patient satisfaction and outcomes measures designed to drive quality improvement, will become increasingly important as more and more industry stakeholders adopt the principles and strategies of accountable care. As HHS and private industry set ambitious goals for cost and risk sharing, benefit structures for patients and provider networks should respond appropriately.

While high-deductible plans have become the norm for patients, who are now expected to shoulder a larger proportion of costs, patients do not always invest in necessary care when they feel unable to afford the large out-of-pocket bills that will result.

“Rather than the blunt instrument of the high deductible, a better approach is Value-Based Insurance Design (VBID)—low co-pays for high value services and medications, higher for those that don’t improve heath,” O’Kane suggests. “An interesting twist is to give a financial incentive to members with chronic conditions to choose a PCMH or accountable care organization with active care management.”

Quality measurement should also be used to distinguish high-quality, high-value providers from those with poorer outcomes in order to make it easier for patients to make better choices for their health and their wallets.  In order to ensure that providers deliver high-quality care, payers should create clear financial incentives.

“This is no small set of tasks,” O’Kane acknowledges. “Over the past 25 years, consumers have become accustomed to the paradigm of choice. Providers have been rewarded for doing more and for giving more complex care. These are deeply embedded cultural norms that need to change. Now, as payers look at what is being purchased, they can act as market makers who drive volume and rewards to the delivery systems that have accepted the challenge of delivering quality, patient-centered care that is affordable.”


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