Digital technologies are transforming healthcare. From clinical research to clinical practice, there has been an explosion of new technologies and new possibilities. In 2016 alone, there were almost 300 digital health startups funded and $4.2 billion of VC funding focusing on the digital health space. Additionally, consumers can now access over 165,000 mHealth apps through Apple iTunes and Android app stores.
With this growth, the digital health field is quickly moving past the traditional hype around wellness apps and wearable technologies and beginning to influence disease management: think less about measuring steps and more about helping diabetics manage their blood glucose levels or improving medication adherence in HIV patients.
As a result, many complex digital health platforms have been developed and even gone through regulatory approval by the FDA. These platforms track physiological and/or behavior data, inform clinical decisions, and can even be prescribed by physicians. WellDoc’s BlueStar mobile diabetes management solution is a prime example of these complex platforms. BlueStar wireless integrates with Johnson & Johnson’s LifeScan blood glucose monitoring system. Using blood glucose data from OneTouch, BlueStar identifies trends and sends feedback and coaching information to the user while sending real-time clinical data to providers.
It’s no surprise that many of our clients are exploring different ways to utilize these digital technologies given their impact on healthcare and underlying business models. However, determining where to begin in this quickly evolving industry can be complicated.
However, meaningful digital healthcare solutions do not always need to involve complex platforms or analysis of large amounts of physiological or behavioral data. A recent study looked at how a simple technology like text messaging can help improve one of the most persistent challenges in healthcare: medication adherence. Non-adherence with medication is a complex biopsychosocial issue with no simple fix. However, improving this elusive problem can lead to better outcomes and quality of life for patients, lower overall healthcare costs, and improve reimbursement rates under newer value-based care models.
A group of researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis examined a two-way short message service (SMS)-based system to improve medication adherence. The system sent reminders to patients to take their meds but also asked why patients missed doses and alerted providers as to the reason why patients missed their medication. The researchers claim that this system can detect actionable problems for providers to address in real-time; 62.4% of the reasons for non-adherence were categorized as either “out of meds”, “felt better”, or “felt sick”. While this was only a small study, looking at 25 patients across different disease states, the results suggest that something as straightforward as a digital reminder may have a meaningful impact on patient outcomes.
Building a complex platform or app is not the only path you need to take on your digital journey in healthcare. If something as simple as text messaging can offer an innovative approach to a problem that has perplexed the medical community for decades, companies need to consider the full spectrum of digital technologies available. So when considering where to begin on your digital journey, it may be worth starting small to make a big impact.