29 Jun 2021

BearingPoint: Telemedicine is just the start: three Trends in Digital Health

Telemedicine is a huge catalyst for change in healthcare services.  Taking geography out of healthcare delivery transforms the speed and convenience of access and brings the right clinical expertise to bear earlier, meaning better outcomes, and most likely reduces cost.  Use telemedicine in as few as, say, a third of cases, and you have a winner, pandemic or not. 

But telemedicine is just the start, and digital health is poised to lead a wave of innovation that spans the full continuum of care. So, in designing future healthcare services with digital, what should commissioners, providers and technology suppliers be thinking about?  I offer three themes:   

First, digital health solutions must be trusted and easy to use. 

The Apple App Store boasts more than 45,000 mobile health applications.  Many do the same job, and user experience and familiarity have become critical differentiators.  Trends show that customers of healthcare applications favour integrated solutions where data is fetched from, and written to, singular data repositories.  These integrated solutions massively improve user experience across the ecosystem of applications which each data repository serves – examples being Apple Health Kit and Google Fit. 

Meanwhile, customers are increasingly aware of the risks of data mismanagement. The trusted status of familiar companies like Microsoft and Apple offers enormous leverage when winning custom and loyalty.  

Second, while it is accepted practice for clinicians to use digital decision support when prescribing medication, the opportunity is increasingly for digital solutions – apps and wearables – to be the treatment, whether for a bad back or low-level mental health problems. 

The question is, how do clinicians decide between a flood of novel digital health applications and solutions, when there is a vacuum for digital therapeutics around the kind of evidence, best practice, guidelines and frameworks to which they would normally turn? 

The good news is that a number of innovators, such as ORCHA, Psyberguide and AppScripts are seeking to fill this vacuum by providing a service that helps clinicians navigate the market and make prescription decisions. Much more effort will be needed industry-wide, involving the professions, regulators and suppliers, to mainsteam this digital therapeutics opportunity. 

Third, the potential of digital health products to transform care is multiplied when they are designed to feed data-rich insight ecosystems. 

In 2001, Jeff Bezos sketched the 'Amazon Flywheel’1, a simple illustration of a business strategy that seeks to leverage customer experience to drive traffic.  A similar, virtuous cycle is emerging with respect to many digital health solutions. 

Whilst the sale of wearables and apps will generate substantial revenue, it is the data that these products accrue that has the potential to provide the greatest value in the longer term. 

Digital products can improve therapeutic outcomes not just through their own functionality, but also by deriving actionable insight from the huge quantity of data collected by their users.  Clinical recommendations and improved therapeutic outcomes will drive increased product usership, which, in turn, will provide a greater quantity of insightful data which can be leveraged to improve therapeutic outcomes, ad infinitum. 

So, we have touched on the importance of integration and trust in user experience, the need for evidence to support the prescription of digital therapeutics, and the value available from the exploitation of digitally generated data to drive continuous improvement in care. 

Innovators will need to draw on diverse skillsets to create the digital products that will win, but the opportunities beyond telemedicine are manifold, and we will have failed if we do not deliver a substantial dividend for patients and the taxpayer.  

This article was written by John Higton (Director) and Joseph Riou (Consultant), BearingPoint UK. To learn more about BearingPoint, please visit their LinkedIN and Twitter

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