News & Views
What Digital Can’t Do – A “Do Not” List for the Healthcare Industry As We Increase Our Reliance on Technology
Even a global pandemic can’t slow the momentum of the digital health space. If anything, COVID-19 has highlighted the enormous need for digital solutions while fueling massive increases in adoption of technologies that support virtual and remote care. In the first half of 2020, digital health funding continued its record-breaking pace from the year before, bringing in a total of $5.4 billion in investments.
Is digital health worth all the hype? At Wildflower, we believe it is. We also believe there’s a right way to use digital, and that technological advancements in and of themselves aren’t what will heal the healthcare system. In that spirt, we’d like to briefly address the things that digital can’t do, and can’t be, if we want to realize its full potential.
Digital Can’t Solve All Our Problems
Digital health solutions offer tremendous promise for a better healthcare system. But they are not a panacea. We can’t simply digitize our way to a new normal. For one, if we simply transfer all of the system’s issues from an analog to a digital world, the system will remain broken. We can’t expect to invest in some shiny gadgets, apps and tools and then watch the magic happen.
Digital health solutions have the ability to power dramatic improvements. It’s hard to argue with that statement. But again, we can’t expect digital to be a silver bullet. The best use of digital is as a connector and a facilitator of relationships, as a way to make clinical workflows more efficient and experiences more convenient for providers and patients. Digital should bridge gaps, align stakeholders and create an environment where the right next thing to do is obvious, both for those providing care as well as those receiving it.
This means that we need to couple digital interventions with a human touch. Healthcare is still personal and local. It involves real interactions between real people. And many of these interactions come at the most vulnerable, stressful, fearful times for individuals. Digital is an important tool, but it can’t do the job alone.
Digital Can’t Create New Silos
The patient journey is already impossible to navigate. Consumer-based apps and point solutions for specific conditions are creating more silos. Too many digital innovations disregard the way the current system operates, instead of being thoughtful with innovation to ensure it can plug in to the existing infrastructure, or at least account for it.
There are many standalone solutions that play important roles in the management of a family’s healthcare. The problem is that too many of them aren’t effectively incorporated into a broader consumer engagement strategy that unifies the journey for families. Digital should encourage a personalized, curated, holistic experience in a way that helps consumers connect to care, not further splinter the system.
Digital Can’t Be a Department
Digital health is still in its infancy at many organizations. Approximately two-thirds of healthcare enterprises have been strategically engaged with digital health initiatives for three years or less. When starting to seriously focus on digital health, it is tempting to place those efforts in an ivory tower where innovation can be explored without distractions. But gone are the days when you can have a digital health strategy that is separate from the core business.
Today, digital has to be an integrated part of your plans. Even if you are in the early stages, digital must not be a self-contained experiment. Should there be digital specialists within your organization that push you forward? Absolutely. But everyone on your team should be tasked with effectively leveraging digital health technologies to improve the delivery of care.
Digital Can’t Cost More Than it Saves
We recently interviewed Julie Lindberg, who serves as the Vice President of Clinical Services at Regence. According to Lindberg, the team at Regence considers the cost of an intervention just as important to consider as the outcomes it promises. She said, “When we are evaluating a new technology to deliver care, convenience without improving outcomes is of no interest to us. If it’s convenient and improves outcomes but adds cost to the system, it doesn’t work either. People already pay too much for healthcare.”
Digital solutions have to solve real problems for the system, and they must drive cost out of it. Any digital tool that costs more than it saves is a non-starter. Still, we’ve seen lots of solutions that fail to meet this requirement.
Key Questions for Your Healthcare Enterprise
How does your approach to digital stack up? Are you coupling digital tools with human touch? Are you considering how point solutions can be incorporated into a broader consumer engagement strategy? Are you ensuring that digital is part of your organization’s culture, and not just a contained innovation in a corner office? And are you evaluating all digital efforts based not only on their effectiveness but also their economics?
We all need digital health to be a success story. It has to be. Let’s make sure we keep these “cant do’s” in mind so that we can achieve a smarter way to care through technology.