When I first started medical school I was warned by everyone about the long hours, the endless studying and all the blood and guts I’d be dealing with. That was all well and good but I soon realized that that wasn’t the main challenge I’d face. It was something far trickier.
Being able to recognize, understand and communicate how my patients’ priorities differed to mine as a healthcare professional was going to be absolutely critical to me becoming an effective medical practitioner.
Nowadays, having moved on from clinical practice I spend my time doing one of two things:
1. Scouring the globe for innovative digital health based clinical services
2. Talking to healthcare executives convincing them of the merits of the aforementioned solutions
Doing that I’ve noticed a similar communication and understanding chasm often exists between a lot of digital health companies (especially start-ups) and the organisations they’re trying to convince. Part of that though is because of a lack of exposure on the side of the healthcare CxOs to all this new tech so this article is for you guys. Whether you’re a physician running a small clinic or the largest teaching hospital I’m going to get you primed for the next time someone brings a ‘Digital Health’ solution to your door. Let’s get going!
1. Digital Health ≠ Apps
I have to get this out of the way first. With digital health came around 97,000 apps promising to perform all sorts of cool tasks. Now a lot of these are really useful (e.g. reference guides, medication reminders etc) but the sheer volume of options means that many also aren’t effective or intuitive. I know a lot of doctors and executives who have had poor experiences with apps and now, unfortunately associate the whole digital health sector with it.
NO. Don’t do that!
There’s so much more to the sector than that. Just sticking to informatics it’s about intelligent, elegant, adaptive and intuitive platforms. Everything from EHR systems and remote monitoring to care management platforms and data analytics falls under that banner of digital health. Even when there are apps they’re often just the user facing component so that you can access all these great tools from you mobile or tablet. So next time you think digital health take a minute to scratch the surface.
2. This ain’t Silicon Valley
Silicon valley’s great I’m sure (I still need a good excuse to visit…) but all these solutions aren’t restricted to the most advanced institutions in the world. In fact, a lot of the mobile health tools are made precisely for difficult scenarios such as rural communities or overrun ERs (A+Es in the UK). Even more heartening is the fact that ‘the cloud’ means a lot of services are becoming more accessible than ever. I know companies in New York providing their mHealth tools to clients as far as way as India safely and securely, changing clinical practice for the better. If you see something you like, send an e-mail, you’d be surprised how soon you could be up and running with a game changing piece of technology.
3. Expensive much?
Nope. It really doesn’t have to be. With fantastic start-up communities forming digital health is one of those sectors where a lot of companies are keen to pilot their products which can often be very cost-effective or even free to trial. Moreover, working with start-ups means you are in a position to develop long term relationships early on with favorable pricing plans. In some cases you can even discuss performance related fees based on the savings you hope to generate by using a new tool. Smartphones and tablets have also been around long enough now that we’re seeing price drops make them more accessible for healthcare institutions to invest in for their staff. At the end of the day, a digital health pilot with a financial analysis at the very least will let you cast a fresh eye on how you’re doing things now but at best might offer you a practical solution for doing it better.
4. Patients won’t like it
I hear this one surprisingly often actually. There’s this assumption that patients, especially the elderly, won’t be able to get their heads around smart phones or small remote devices. Well, I’m going to be pretty blunt here. If we make that decision on a patient’s behalf without asking them or trying things out then we’re doing them a disservice. If patients for years have been able to manage diabetes and allergies using often quite sophisticated equipment then, I believe, phones, tablets and portable devices, with the right support, can make a great difference. So before you deny them actually ask your patients and make an informed decision together.
5. What about regulations?
I might not be a regulatory expert but I do know that all hospitals have legal, IT and compliance departments. Moreover, I know that sometimes, miraculously, they talk to each other. Whether you’re talking HIPAA or medical devices with the FDA maybe it’s time you got the different experts in your hospital together to really suss out the situation. The sooner you start figuring things out, the sooner you’ll be able to start doing something about it. And who knows, maybe you’ll be surprised about how much you can do already?
So there you have it. No more excuses! It’s time to get out there and start talking to all the fantastic digital health start-ups and experts out there who can help you take your practice to the next level!
Enjoyed this article? Have any comments? Tweet me @Saif_Abed
Dr Saif Abed
AbedGraham Healthcare Strategies Ltd
AbedGraham Healthcare Strategies Ltd
AbedGraham is a transatlantic market access and business development consultancy supporting the adoption of clinically oriented digital and mobile technologies. Founded by a pair of graduates from Cambridge University and Imperial College London the team is uniquely composed of medical doctors with commercial experience offering unparalleled insights into what is required to develop successful healthcare technology.