I recently attended and spoke at the Health 2.0 Conference in Las Vegas. As a first-time attendee, I was interested in meeting with industry peers and thought leaders to hear what’s new in the industry, and what issues are top of mind amidst the many headwinds being discussed.
I sat on two panels, one about breaking down barriers in digital health adoption and another on health equity, an important issue facing healthcare today. Here are some takeaways from the discussions.
Ease of use is essential for breaking down the barriers to digital health adoption
A big part of the discussion on the panel about digital health adoption centered on ease of use – from clinician to consumer. The user who is adopting the application must trust the information it provides, understand its intent, and the technology should not dramatically change operational efficiencies without meaningful return.
Market pressures to adopt digital solutions are also a force multiplier where regulatory pressures force adoption – for example the 21st Century Cures Act, United States Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI) rules, or risk model changes. Next, financial levers which highlight qualitative, quantitative, and time savings remain very important. And finally, at a time when full-time, clinical employees are scarce, provider workflow satisfaction and ease of integration are critical; if the digital strategy your organization is trying to adopt can’t even spare people to do the integration, the project will fall flat on its face.
Which leads to the digital initiative’s technical debt and change management operations since all layers of impact need to be recognized for any digital solution adoption to succeed. If the process is too difficult or complex, no one will do it, even if it means changing the world or the success of larger industry goals.
Taking an even further step back and focusing on the end-user, we must make digital health products that meet them where they’re at on a technical level. For example, is internet access available? Or at a semantic/syntactic level, do they know that a ‘Myocardial infarction’ is a ‘heart attack’?
Interoperability became a key piece of the discussion, as well as regulatory security requirements, international variations, and real-life deployment examples where a product might not meet the criteria or needs of a given market.
Health IT has a role to play in health equity
Distinguishing between health equity and healthcare equity was an interesting topic of discussion with my co-panelists. Generalized health equity is making sure that a patient is healthy and there are no differences between access and proper care. This is different and distinct from healthcare equity, which focuses on ensuring the industry understands that some people are more in need than others across healthcare. This scenario includes, but is not limited to, ensuring access to drug trials; managing organizational care gaps for marginalized patients and populations; and making sure that patient engagement and adherence to care plans is equitable in coverage and strategy.
Our discussion focused on the different roles of healthcare, from first responders and their needs, to how organizations qualify and quantify in-need patient populations. We also discussed how bleeding-edge therapeutic care is being identified for patient populations. And finally, if you are defining in-need patients or distributing medication to specific patient types, how do you define those patients appropriately in a healthcare ecosystem where everyone has a different definition of diabetes, or housing needs? These issues can be further complicated by the disparate ways we currently ask and document questions related to social determinants which complicates data collection and aggregation, making certain patient populations even more underserved over time.
Breaking down barriers to digital health adoption and health equity are critical issues currently facing the industry. Unfortunately, more robust regulatory pressure is needed if we are to see meaningful, positive change. As organizations utilize data for the betterment of our patient populations, or for alleviating the burden on providers, we all must be cognizant that healthcare data, as it flows downstream, might not have the same meaning to one user persona type as it does for another. Many issues facing healthcare require that we all speak the same language if we are to truly share our interpretations and understanding. Industry-wide standards for data quality and interoperability are issues that IMO advocates for and Health 2.0 was a great venue to share this vision.