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Digital Health 2020: 4 Tactics for Successful Collaboration

Summary

Digital health remains a powerful focal point in the push towards value-based healthcare. Across multiple domains, emerging technologies provide promising strategies for delivering more effective, efficient, and personalized care.

Yet the high expectations and allure that have characterized digital health in recent years were called into question in 2019 following a series of well-publicized industry shortfalls and setbacks. Taken together, these missteps underscore the difficulties of harnessing unproven technologies in a complex environment like healthcare. They also reflect some of the challenges that can accompany collaborative partnerships involving small, fast-moving tech start-ups and established healthcare and pharmaceutical organizations.

In the wake of last year’s stumbles—and with rising healthcare costs continuing to take center stage in the presidential race—demonstrating the viability and value of new digital health investments will be essential. Workable technologies that reduce costs, improve information exchange, enhance clinical decision-making, and engage patients will remain the lynch pin for a successful transformation to value-based care.

Four Key Tactics

Organizations should focus on ensuring that new or existing digital health collaborations are built on sustainable foundations. Avalere Health has identified 4 key tactics that can help support a successful digital health strategy:

1. Align Expectations

Too often, enthusiasm about a specific technology or end product undermines thoughtful analysis of how the solution aligns with a given business strategy. Similarly, creating a detailed roadmap for achieving the technology’s potential can be overlooked or oversimplified in the excitement surrounding the solution’s touted benefits. For these reasons, it’s critical at the outset of a relationship that both partners clearly identify near- and long-term success metrics in ways that align with their respective business priorities.

2. Establish a Strong Evidence-Generation Strategy

Many digital health solutions are developed by technology companies with little understanding of the evidentiary requirements for demonstrating efficacy and viability in healthcare. The ill-fated Theranos saga provided an outsized example of this problem.

Admittedly, it can be challenging for small, rapidly evolving tech companies to invest the time and resources necessary to establish empirical proof points. But a failure or unwillingness to do so should be a red flag to potential partners and future adopters of a particular technology. While peer-reviewed studies may not always be practical, digital health firms must develop, collect, and present evidence that goes well beyond the anecdotal or theoretical.

3. Pursue Connectivity Strategies for Patient-Centered Technology and Engage Patients to Refine the User Experience

Despite the proliferation of wearables and other devices that generate personal health data, comprehensive strategies for integrating these data into the larger healthcare system have been sporadic. Well-designed personal health devices cannot exist in isolation and should support or augment the larger patient medical record and/or care plan.

Establishing seamless integration will improve communication and comprehension for providers and patients alike. Connected digital patient platforms also can provide a powerful source of real-world data for both provider organizations and life sciences companies to support evidence generation and value demonstration. To ensure personal digital tools are practical and effective for end-users, developers should plan for comprehensive, iterative feedback and user-testing across a range of demographics and health conditions prior to launch.

4. Support Initiatives to Develop Regulations, Standards, and Best Practices

The diversity of innovation and velocity of change sweeping through digital health requires a new regulatory framework to assess healthcare devices and technologies. The Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health has been proactive in accommodating the changes underway, and mechanisms are being established to ensure that safe and effective technologies reach the market quickly.

On a separate track, the Department of Health and Human Services  is developing new rules to support seamless and secure access, exchange, and use of electronic health information. Additionally, some observers believe the time has come to update the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s privacy and security standards.

For innovators and providers involved in digital health collaborations, it is vital to remain cognizant of final or proposed regulatory initiatives, both to develop products in accordance with those rules and to weigh in via public comments and requests for information. Companies should also embrace other opportunities to help shape the industry landscape by providing input around the development of best practices, standards and digital health formularies. By remaining engaged in the evolution of the digital health environment, organizations will gain a competitive advantage and support larger efforts aimed at establishing industry credibility and sustainability.

As is often the case with disruptive technologies, digital health’s promise has outpaced the steps required to transform that potential into reality. In the years ahead, organizations that succeed will be those that carefully assess collaborations in the context of the problems they’re meant to address, while fully understanding and respecting the complexity of harnessing new technologies in healthcare.

To learn more about Avalere’s work in this space, connect with us.

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