Digital health’s Achilles heel needs therapy only humans can provide

There have been numerous remarkable advances in all facets of healthcare technology. There are patient support websites, care team platforms, wireless glucometers, iPhone mobile apps, iPad apps for hospital rooms, patient education and clinical guideline delivery, etc. There is a simply breathtaking amount of activity and innovation in the space. There is also a great […]

There have been numerous remarkable advances in all facets of healthcare technology. There are patient support websites, care team platforms, wireless glucometers, iPhone mobile apps, iPad apps for hospital rooms, patient education and clinical guideline delivery, etc. There is a simply breathtaking amount of activity and innovation in the space. There is also a great deal of activity in the media space associated with healthcare. AT&T, Cox, Time Warner, Amazon, T-Mobile, Apple, and Microsoft all have significant conduits and platforms in development to address the coming sea change of patient accountability.

Technology in and of itself can be convenient. It can be a wonderful source of behavior tracking. It can be a treasure trove of data acquisition and analysis. And it can help encourage the kind of behavior, like adherence to medication regimens that contribute to positive advances in “self-care.” Yet as great as all of these technologies are, they share the same Achilles heel.

As my colleague Gary Austin with OneCare and I often discuss, last year in America we spent $2.8 trillion dollars on healthcare according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, and 60 percent of each dollar spent was on preventable episodes of care. Chronic conditions are becoming more prevalent, costs are increasing, and traditional healthcare models are failing. New healthcare delivery models put much more responsibility on patients and people need help adopting healthier lifestyles to turn the tide. Personal accountability is a big factor, but people need information, tools, and support to be successful in assuming that responsibility.

The Achilles heel to all of this is how to connect this technology to actual improvement in patient outcomes and decrease the healthcare spend. Many technologies not only fall short in this department, but have no plan for an ultimate patient connection. Technology alone is not a silver bullet and most times does not provide meaningful improvement in patient outcomes or engagement. According to CIO.com’s Brian Eastwood, we are still seeing widespread inability to improve patient portal adoption rates in spite of the healthcare industry’s ongoing efforts to address patient engagement through this technology1. So how does the health care technology space connect all of the dots and bring their offerings closer to patient outcomes?

Success lies in the convergence between digital health and true human interaction. Partnerships will be forged, quite soon I might add, among companies with prescient acuity in digital health and mHealth technology and those that provide the kind of high touch, trust-based, “treat you like family” patient care that can only come from empathetic, human-to-human engagement.

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