Is the Digital Health Bubble Bursting?

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We sat down with Indu Subaiya, MD, MBA, co-founder and president of Catalyst @ Health 2.0 and senior advisor to HIMSS, to get her insights into new technologies and initiatives driving sustainable change in today’s healthcare landscape. Here’s what she had to say.

What’s Next in Health Technology?

We’re seeing this ‘war of the clouds,’ which is the idea that as health data moves into these cloud-based systems, there’s a real question of how that health data is being stored and accessed, and who controls the access and flow of that data. Cloud-based platforms and app stores attached to EMRs are becoming more common than ever. There needs to be a deeper dive into how the war of the clouds could play out when it comes to healthcare data, and how health systems and health technology organizations think about their partnerships and the resources for managing healthcare data. With more partnerships between healthcare organizations and large tech players developing successfully, the potential for artificial intelligence projects increases exponentially—positively impacting patient care across the spectrum.

We’re looking very closely at digital therapeutics and using a combination of technology platform-based coaching. There is a lot of discussion around virtual communications between patients and providers and how this can potentially demonstrate better impact on health outcomes—versus traditional in-person visits and traditional pharmaceutical profiles. It’s a field that’s growing very quickly and so we’re really excited about new approaches to health with tailored, outcome-based platforms.

 

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There’s also a new breed of company that we’re calling the flipped stack company—these use a combination of an intelligent database, real-time monitoring of patient health data, live coaches or clinicians, and a feedback loop to further inform the database. These flip stack companies are emerging in spaces like diabetes, but also in niche areas such as addiction recovery and maternal and child health.

Watch Dr. Subaiya talk with HIMSS TV about how digital health companies are evolving.

We’re also taking a hard look at the role of delivery models. So, how is healthcare delivered—and the idea that there are entirely new models emerging from the ground up. And if that’s the case, what does the payment side look like for these models? Companies are filling gaps in the marketplace that current care delivery providers are not meeting, like functional medicine enterprises. This new healthscape challenges many traditional delivery models because tech companies are beginning to deliver care directly by hiring providers and entering into value-based contracts with payers where they take on risk for the outcomes they’re delivering for specific patient populations. Delivery models are rapidly changing and that’s shaping the new healthscape.

What Other Topics Should Be Top of Mind for Providers?

We continue to see a lot of innovation in the space of social determinants of health thanks to new reimbursement codes specifically for mental health and efforts around digital health entrepreneurs coming together to support Medicaid populations. And more and more health systems are exploring how they can take accountability for the social determinants of health, ranging from mental health to culturally appropriate engagement.

 

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Health technology can help systems and providers address the social determinants of health and the problems they may not be able to address in a 15-minute visit. Companies focusing on transportation, social services and data directories are helping address this issue through creating additional avenues for people to go to appointments, maintain their health regime, etc. All of those tools will be very important for healthcare systems to become more aware of.

There’s also this phrase ‘health happens everywhere’ which is the idea that providers have to find new ways to partner outside their own walls because care needs to be delivered wherever people are. Whether that means partnerships with large technology companies or smaller, local community organizations, or whether that’s partnerships with pharma companies around chronic disease management, for example.

Organizations should innovate and partner together, and think collaboratively about how healthcare occurs outside the walls of their own organization. A lot of models at Health 2.0 show how that’s possible: models for integration, new technology models for developing new technology and other ways to deploy innovation so you can reach the people you need to reach.

Another key focus is on the ever-changing nature of business models, financial models and how providers need to address the changes and what they can do for those models to stay sustainable amidst these changes. Of course, technology is a huge part of that.

Any Other Takeaways?

I think many people are asking: Is the digital health bubble bursting? Do we need new digital health companies? While we’re not seeing a significant increase in funding this year, what we are seeing is more consolidation as large companies acquire smaller companies in order to vertically integrate—focusing on specific patient populations, along the lines of the new flip stack model. With this, we’ll continue to see a growing evidence base for the impact of digital health technology on patient outcomes.

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Updated October 15, 2019; originally published August 30, 2018

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