It’s rare for me to hear a panel discussion on digital health and not hear the same conversation repeated and reiterated over and over again. In a discussion between health IT company CEOs at the JP Morgan Healthcare conference, some of the most interesting points raised were the ones the healthcare industry is struggling with the most. Of course, there were a lot of sound bites too. Here are five of the most interesting digital health insights.
If you control the capital, you control the data and if you control the data, you control the product. This is a sound bite, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Providers’ relationship with their digital health companies revolves around this balance. Digital health companies are using their technology to help providers deliver better patient care. But investors have an impact in shaping business model. With the shift to outcomes-based care, data generated by digital health tools will become even more critical to care delivery.
Do we have to dismantle the healthcare industry (or parts of it) to make it better? One of the ongoing debates in healthcare, particularly digital health, is whether it’s better to tear down systems and build them up again or improve what’s already there. Oscar is a startup health insurance company, launched last year, that’s trying to change the way healthcare is delivered through things like telemedicine. Its co-founder and former venture capitalist Joshua Kushner can’t be sure if it will work or not, considering the size and scope of its rivals. But with so much change taking place in the health insurance industry, its gamble could pay off big time. Separately, Graham Gardner, the co-founder and CEO of Kyruus, pointed out that despite the healthcare industry’s transformation through the Affordable Care Act and digital health, nothing will change the fact that doctors will still be the ones delivering healthcare, and entrepreneurs have to make doctors part of the conversation. He emphasized that his company takes the approach of working with physician networks to help them be more efficient.
We have enough big data in healthcare. What we need are predictive analytics. Andrew Thompson, the CEO of Proteus Digital Health made what sounded initially like a good point. There is an evolving shift towards hospitals, insurers and accountable care organizations using analytical tools to better understand the needs of their patient population. And yet, how do you do that analytical deep dive without the data to inform it? Jeff Arnold, the co-founder of ShareCare, is helping users create patient profiles using their own information through a model that combines business to business and business to consumer.
Data + Knowledge = Engagement. Another sound bite, and the truth of it is that the healthcare industry is taking a multi-pronged approach to figure out the best way to prove it. Arnold pointed out that if you can show people how much they save by quitting smoking — i.e., in their wallets and their lives — it can have an impact on patient behavior.
This point also fits in with fellow panelist Andrew Thompson’s company Proteus Digital Health. Its digital feedback system for medication involves an ingestible sensor and a patch that picks up and relays data on the effect of the medication on a particular patient to a bluetooth-enabled device. According to the company’s website, the ingestible sensor is made of ingredients found in food and activated when the patient swallows it alongside the patient’s medication. With a better understanding of how and why their body responds to a particular medication, patients theoretically will be more engaged and it can help physicians better tailor the patient’s medication or dosage, which could increase adherence.
In the early stages, revenue is a trap. Of course this can be widely applied to companies in most industries but it works especially well for startups in digital health. Thompson pointed out that digital health startups can do themselves a disservice if they become consumed with how to generate revenue. Their focus should be on how to attract users and produce data that shows their technology not only works but is more effective than what’s available. Once they do that, it should be much easier to focus on revenue.
[Photo from Big Stock Photos]