Planning for the digital healthcare needs of tomorrow
Digital solutions have come a long way in delivering connectivity, workflow efficiency and insights that inform clinical decisions and patient care. They meet the expectations of today, but how should they evolve for the future?
Technology has revolutionized the practice of healthcare and the management of many major diseases. It modernized systems to enable them to collect information that can be turned into meaningful clinical action. Patient choices expanded. Workflow efficiency has improved significantly. These are significant steps and, for the most part, meet the expectations of today. What does tomorrow look like, and what will digital solutions need to address?
A focus on providing the right kind of ‘more’
It is a wholly human reaction to want more of a good thing. In the case of advanced healthcare technology, that could mean more data, more choice and more efficiency. It is not surprising, however, that more is sometimes, but not always, better. As digital solutions evolve, here is how ‘more’ in the future breaks down.
- Data: Cloud connectivity, used across industries such as financial services, will continue to be a significant benefit for the healthcare industry in its ability to collect information and distill it for actionable use. Advances in technology will enable collection of more data from a wider variety of services and tools that are used together. But ‘more’ data can be overwhelming and even disruptive. It is critical that next generation digital solutions have the capability to not only capture additional data from different sources but also efficiently harmonize it so it can deliver increased value and insights.
- Choice: More and different options that enhance patient management will be needed. For example, today it might be important to ensure a digital system can align and focus on providing remote patient therapy. New platforms must have the capability to evolve over time to keep improving telemedicine and distance patient therapy, so it’s better, more efficient and easier for the healthcare provider to deliver, and more comprehensible and actionable for the patient to receive.
- Resources: Objective evidence will continue to drive clinical decisions. Resources available in next-generation digital solutions must provide clinical and health economic support that is not necessarily simply an add to what we have today, but remove what has not been proven useful and instead include answers and information to lingering issues not yet addressed.
- Insights: One significant output of a digital solution is greater connectivity. In the future, what technology do we need to derive more insights from that connectivity? For example, what information will we need, but don’t have today, that can help us individualize therapy? A next generation platform needs to maximize technology in ways that allow more effective communication and better and more satisfying consults for both the clinician and patient. Further, strong population health capabilities are a significant part of our digital future, and platforms must support that.
Patient data protection is a priority
The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the necessity of protecting patient information given the increased remote consults and non-traditional locations in which healthcare is being practiced. At the height of the pandemic in many cities, doctors were caring for patients under tents in public parks and pharmacy parking lots. In the post-pandemic world, digital solutions must protect patient-sensitive data while it circulates within a healthcare ecosystem regardless of how variable the environment is.
Similar protections must apply for storing data over time. Security is critical to sustainability – short and long-term—and is a key issue to consider with digital health partners. At Roche, we strongly believe digital healthcare and its ability to continue to be leveraged by healthcare systems and trusted by patients, is predicated on the partnership between institutions and industry to ensure data is protected.
Improved timelines and workflow
Combining patient data from different sources will enable clinicians to deliver the right solution at the right time for the patient and the doctor. This is extremely important, for example, with insulin delivery for patients with diabetes. Next-generation platforms need to provide efficiency beyond the patient care process.
Data needs to be easily accessible without compromising the efficiency of workflow. What other elements of workflow can be further streamlined? What if billing efficiency can be added that would track patient data and activity to enable billing through Medicare/Medicaid? A comprehensive audit of capabilities, needs, and wish lists enable development of platform capabilities that will future-proof clinics and help them do more with less.
Health technology can get in the way rather than provide value. Next-generation platforms must do more than simply be an upgrade on meeting the needs of today. Assessment, thought and dialogue today will enable platforms to be sustainable and evolve for the answers we’ll need tomorrow.
We at Roche are actively preparing for a future in which integration of digital technologies and solutions will lead to dramatically improved coordination among healthcare providers, workflow and patient care. Together with telemedicine, these advancements will produce more effective care models for all patients under any circumstances, even in the event of the next health crisis.
How health plans can reduce healthcare inequalities
The COVID-19 pandemic has put inequalities accessing the healthcare system in the spotlight. Jim Clement, Vice President of Product & Services at cloud provider Inovalon, tells us that health plans play the most integral role in advancing the health equity movement.
Why did it a global pandemic to highlight the issue of healthcare inequities?
Health inequity in the US has been well understood by healthcare professionals for many years, but it has become more evident due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It wasn’t until the racial and ethnic differential seen in response to COVID-19 related infections, deaths and vaccinations that many Americans became acutely aware of the health inequity due to sociodemographic factors such as race, geography, education and income.
Fortunately, there’s now a growing health equity movement afoot in America which aims to improve public health and achieve equity in health status for all people by ensuring opportunities are available to attain the highest level of health. While the entire healthcare ecosystem is important to this transformation, it is health plans that arguably play the most integral role.
How can health plans help?
Achieving health equity means obstacles to health must be removed, including poverty, discrimination, powerlessness, and lack of access to the basics like physicians, hospitals, medicine, technology, and health education. This is not only a social justice initiative, but also a clear call to action for health plan organisations that are bearing the economic brunt of the costs due to health disparities.
Health plan organisations that recognise the alignment between efforts to improve health equity and broader member engagement initiatives will be in the best position to move the needle. Plans must also understand that the provision of medical services within hospital walls, physician offices and other health services providers is necessary, but not sufficient.
By recognising that health inequity also includes non-medical factors such as employment, income, housing, transportation, childcare, and more, plans will be better equipped to ensure their members are set up for success.
What do healthcare providers need to do generally to address inequities?
Outreach by both health plans and providers is critical to ensuring people have knowledge of available services, the reason those services are critical to their health, and options to access those services based on their unique circumstances. With both stakeholders beating the same drum, progress can be made quickly.
Given the impact of social determinants of health (SDOH), should healthcare providers take a more active role in addressing these, or other agencies?
While communicating with patients is critically important, what is truly required to address inequalities is helping patients take medical actions – like regular PCP visits, monitoring A1C and accepting health coaching – that are necessary to maximise their health, along with non-medical actions –like availing themselves of community resources that address homelessness, food insecurity and employment services.
The most progressive providers and payers have or are putting in place programs to address these non-medical issues. In addition, non-medical tools such as transportation services can certainly help drive the effectiveness of medical services.
How important is it to educate patients about their health and how can this be done?
Education is a social determinant of health and a key lever to be used to drive health equity. Patients who do not understand their medical conditions or the consequences of non-compliance with their treatment plans are prone to poor outcomes.
For health plans, understanding member needs is one of the biggest drivers of quality care. A continuous cycle of engagement through feedback and appropriate responses will provide health plans with an opportunity to uncover, discuss, and resolve problems faster.
Improving member outreach and engagement can be made easier with a programmatic approach involving four stages of intentional outreach: Getting to know your members, educating members, seeking feedback from members and gaining member loyalty. Each stage not only contributes to a better member experience but also to improved outcomes and higher satisfaction scores.
Now that the issue has come to the fore, what do you think things will look like in 5 years or so?
I predict that health plans that get member engagement, education and equity right will achieve better health and greater value, faster. Those who get it wrong or delay will suffer the consequences of competitive disadvantage and pay a larger share of the rising costs associated with health inequity.