TECHNOLOGY-ENABLED HEALTH – Digitally Connected Health Technologies: Blazing Meaningful Trails in Healthcare
A new age is dawning in healthcare. Patient-centered care has become the driving force behind everything from healthcare legislation (such as MACRA and MIPS), payment models (ACOs and P4P models), to changes in the care delivery structure (think eHealth and telemedicine), and the management of chronic and complex conditions. The latter, which accounts for 81% of all hospital admissions, 91% of prescriptions filled, and 76% of doctor visits, is at the very core of an emerging market known as digitally connected health technologies.
The overall digital health market is currently $76 billion, and is estimated to grow at 21%. This space includes life sciences companies and medical device companies that are incorporating digital technology into their products and services, such as smart inhalers and remote therapy devices, which can provide data about how and if patients are adhering with prescribed care plans and medications. When done correctly, this data can be used to reduce the incidence of costly complications and improve health outcomes. And that benefits everyone.
START BY ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
An effective connected health program starts with answering some important questions, such as: What is the benefit of digitally connected programs to our organization? How do we systematically introduce connectedness into our products and services? How will we leverage this investment in our marketing and competitive strategy? What assets and resources are required to implement and support the connected health program? Are our partners aligned in a sustainable strategy and approach?
SUCCESS COMES IN MANY FORMS
For life sciences and medical device companies, an investment in digital health has short- and long-term business benefits. For example:
– Business impacts, such as increased sales, competitive positioning, and operational efficiencies;
– Impacts on the care process, such as improving adherence, care management decisions, and enabling process efficiencies;
– Improving patient outcomes, such as increased loyalty, satisfaction or preference, better health outcomes, or behavior change and improved quality of life;
– Clinical impacts, such as the ability to inform the care decision process, and to optimize their costs/revenue; and
– Impacts on the total cost of care and outcomes, including adherence, reduction in complications, participation in shared-risk contract opportunities, and expanded market access.
There is one, common denominator for all healthcare companies with a connected health program: the need to generate real-world results. Real-world results include data that demonstrate a product’s ability to improve outcomes and lower costs outside of a clinical research setting or allow the same outcomes to be achieved in a more effective way. In other words, outcomes from real patients in real healthcare situations.
For example, imagine the benefit of knowing not only how many times patients with asthma or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) used their inhalers, but how much of the medication was successfully received and when the medication was dispensed.
When sending a patient home following a clinical procedure, imagine the difference in follow-up care if nursing professionals could remotely monitor their status and adherence with wound care, antibiotics, or pain management. And just think of the reduction in emergency department visits if an entire care team and patient support system could be digitally connected to help people with complex or chronic conditions maintain an optimal lifestyle.
Once you define what success looks like for your company, there are several factors that will determine your ability to achieve the targeted outcomes within the desired timeframe. In addition to delivering a product that produces optimal results, there’s the sticky matter of getting said product into the hands of the right end-users and embedding it into a value-based contracting and payment system.
ENSURE YOUR SUCCESS WITH A PROVEN ROADMAP
Once you’ve addressed the core strategic questions and success metrics, you can ensure your success by following a proven roadmap that helps you identify the opportunities, challenges, and risks for your organization, as well as factors you need to address to mitigate risks. Some of the most common challenges for implementing a digitally connected health program include:
– Capturing device-generated and patient-generated data
– Data security, privacy, and governance
– Management and metrics
– ROI models and cost
– Payment and reimbursement
– Predictability of outcomes
– Existing and forthcoming government regulations
Approach these factors wisely and with a clear eye on both initial and long-term success, as well as your ongoing pathway to manage growth, costs, risks, and opportunities. The initial decisions and infrastructure partners you choose can make a big difference between an ongoing program that produces sustained results, or a series of experiments that show promise, but never make the jump to meaningful results. Evaluate your options to ensure the right balance between your market opportunity and the needs of your organization, today and in the future.
DIGITALLY CONNECTED HEALTH CARE FOR RESPIRATORY THERAPY
Cystic fibrosis (CF) and COPD are two complex respiratory conditions that require ongoing monitoring because patient adherence with medication and therapy regimens can impact a patient’s stability and help slow the progression of these conditions. RespirTech is a Minnesota-based manufacturer of medical devices designed to improve airway clearance therapy for patients with these and other respiratory conditions.
The inCourage® Airway Clearance Therapy system (Figure 1) features a therapy vest that delivers air pulses and chest compressions to loosen and move mucus from the airways of people with cystic fibrosis and bronchiectasis, a common underlying condition of COPD. The comfort, ease of use, and emerging connected capabilities of the inCourage System are designed to enhance adherence by patients, which in turn, can improve clinical outcomes.
RespirTech and HealthFactors began working to expand the capabilities of RespirTech’s inCourage System to capture therapy information useful for patients, families, and healthcare providers. The company aims to provide more timely and complete therapy information to contribute to improved care management and lower overall disease costs.
Today, RespirTech’s Bluetooth-enabled system is capable of connecting to both cellular and Wi-Fi networks; securely transferring data from patients’ inCourage Systems to doctors, caregivers, and device support staff; and implementing ongoing data security and compliance updates. In addition, a related mobile application is easy and convenient for patients and their families to use and manage. The company is currently gathering and evaluating real-world evidence on the digitally connected airway clearance system’s ability to enhance patient adherence and overall care.
A rapidly expanding area in respiratory therapy is smart inhalers and their use in the treatment of COPD and asthma to assess and manage the effectiveness of prescription medications for patients. Collaborations are emerging that focus on several clinical and technology advancements needed to implement these treatment solutions into mainstream clinical practice. Look for continued activity in this area from a variety of healthcare stakeholders in the coming months.
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Daniel Spors is Chief Commercial Officer at HealthFactors, Inc. As a founding member of HealthFactors and Preventice, he has led and participated in the development and rollout of a variety of healthcare programs over the past 14 years of his 24-year career. Prior to HealthFactors, he held staff and leadership positions at Preventice, IBM, ShowCase Corporation, and Centerfield Technology.
Dr. Kyle Dolbow is Chief Executive Officer at HealthFactors, Inc. Prior to HealthFactors, he was a pioneer at Preventice, a company focused on remote cardiac monitoring and integration into health management. He also served as President of Vree Health, an innovative subsidiary of Merck, Sharp & Dohme Corp., which focuses on bringing new technology-enabled services to the healthcare market. HealthFactors creates outcomes-based, therapy-specific care management programs using digitally connected health technologies. The company’s technology, expertise, and proven processes help life sciences and medical device companies improve health for people with chronic or complex conditions. Dr. Dolbow earned his PhD in Chemistry from MIT.
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