Managing Your Health Should Be as Simple and Safe as Managing Your Money
Managing healthcare is complicated, expensive and time-consuming. This is equally true for everyone involved – patients, physicians, medical staff, payers, healthcare networks and the government at every level. The promise of Health 2.0, or a more descriptive term, digital health, is to make health data standardized, accessible and portable, while keeping it protected and under patient authority. Some progress has been made in the decade since the Affordable Care Act mandated digitizing health records, but there still is a significant way to go.
There are other industries that healthcare can look to as it builds the future of digital health. The online brokerage and banking industries are good examples. Copious amounts of sensitive, personal financial data are online, available to customers, brokers, bankers and their institutions. Customers, at any time, can manage their assets, portfolios, data, etc. and even easily move to a new service provider. This is made possible, in part, because of data standardization and portability. Accessibility, manageability and portability of healthcare data should really be no different, but progress has been slow.
It helps to understand the history of digital health to anticipate where it is headed.
The First Wave – EMRs
Healthcare data management innovation has occurred in two waves. The first wave was the introduction of the Electronic Medical Record (EMR). EMR solutions at the beginning were basically a technology that was built by engineers and businesspeople, not doctors. Hospitals’ revenue cycles and meeting compliance requirements dictated workflow within the EMR. EMRs have become mainstream and have evolved somewhat over the last 10 to 15 years. The problem early on was that EMR solutions weren’t ready for primetime when the Affordable Care Act mandated them in 2010. Today’s EMR solutions don’t provide the functionality and benefits that the next wave of digital healthcare innovation aims to deliver.
The Second Wave – Digital Health
The healthcare industry is now in its second wave of digital innovation.
The first generation of digital health focused on low-hanging fruit. The approach was: there is a problem; build a solution to address that problem. The result is a deluge of applications that address a single disease, single workflow function or a single technology gap.
The problem with that approach is threefold:
- The Apple Store now has hundreds of patient-facing health applications that are not connected to anything. But, in patients’ minds, these applications set an expectation that their health can be managed digitally and on demand, like every other aspect of their lives.
- For large health systems and independent practice associations, the explosion of technology point solutions has created massive IT overhead needed to support all these different applications.
- The final issue is that all that patient data is segregated in these different applications and there is no connectivity across the data. And, on a systemic level, this data is still siloed among healthcare providers, whose systems are not interoperable.
Add to those challenges the fact that, outside of large health systems, 70 to 80 percent of healthcare communication across the United States today still takes place via regular mail, fax or phone. In every other industry, that practice is 20 to 30 years old.
Digital health’s most prominent manifestation is telemedicine. Its usage dramatically increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the pandemic, digital health technology was slowly being adopted. The pandemic has placed extreme pressure on the healthcare system and virtually mandated alternatives to in-person care. Telemedicine has rapidly escalated it to a point where every health system is now saying it is a core solution.
Telemedicine is being driven by the large provider organizations. Much of it is going to be directed to addressing the key gaps in how providers interact with each other, how providers provide care and care delivery pain points. And the good news now, unlike the early development of EMRs, is that telemedicine development is being directed towards patient needs. Until now, the patient has been the somewhat neglected component of digital health.
For patients, telemedicine allows connecting with doctors without wait times often experienced during in-person office visits. In many cases, it offers patients the ability to schedule earlier appointments, not waiting a month or more.
Patients’ attitudes and expectations are changing about healthcare technology capabilities. The healthcare industry has recognized the need for more than just an EMR. It is a perfect storm helping prompt the next phase of digital health to evolve.
The Next Phase of Digital Health
Basically, the healthcare industry needs to become more digitally connected.
To advance digital health, the key is to build multiple functionalities into a single platform that address the most common provider needs and the most common patient needs.
The ROI of an integrated platform for large health systems is significant: instead of supporting multiple applications, there will be one platform to maintain. Integrated data will allow smart data analysis that can provide insights to help identify and address bottlenecks in care delivery.
For independent physicians, the next set of tools and technologies will help their practices migrate into a more productive world at a price point that makes it affordable for them.
The ultimate goal for digital health is to connect patients and providers across the ecosystem so we can start breaking down barriers to care delivery across communities. What is needed to deliver this includes:
- Connection: a communications and collaboration environment that brings the community together – provider groups, patients and their families, and caregivers.
- Integration: patient management tools that connect the team across the care continuum and across health systems.
- Smart engine/data: applying AI and a rules engine to patient data so that the providers and patients each receive the right alerts at the right time.
Altais is actively working to build this vision of digital health. Altais recognizes that, without the connectivity, integration, and smart data, technology is as much a part of the problem as it is the solution.
As a company with a mission to cultivate the health and well-being of patients, physicians, and the entire clinical community, Altais is now riding digital health’s second wave to the destination of making managing health as easy as managing money.