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Digital Health Devices Can’t Change Human Behavior Alone

Recapping the Connected Health Summit in San Diego CA

Inaugural Digital Health summit hosted by Parks Associates September 4th – 5th

A few of our team members, and I, attended the Connected Health Summit. While the event itself was great and Parks Associates did a fantastic job as hosts – the overall subject matter seemed dated. I don’t want to take anything away from the panelists, many of them had great and innovative solutions to present, but there were very few takeaways that we had not already heard or were not being covered daily online.

The focus of the event was how to best enable patients to take control of their health by leveraging new technology and IT solutions. However, this is nothing new. Digital health monitors, activity trackers, Personal Health Records have permeated popular culture and some of the discussion seemed to belabor the well known fact that tracking your health via digital health solutions is a good thing. Furthermore, the audience was not comprised of end-users, but rather of industry professionals, technologists, physicians and media.

What I think was missed, which would have been well received by the whole audience, were the challenges from the clinical side with regard to the implementation and use of any new Health IT platform. Very few speakers touched on the abandonment rate of non-integrated IT solutions or the frustrations voiced from the clinical staff due to poor user-experience (UX). From first-hand conversations that we have had in the past as well as with physicians at the event, we have heard that for new technology systems to succeed they have to be seamlessly integrated into the physician or nurses’ workflow within the EHR. Otherwise, it just becomes a separate “pane of glass,” another interface to navigate, another login to remember and an added security vulnerability.

That’s not to say that there were not a number of great discussions among the panelists and the audience. The two-day event helped to reinforced some Health IT axioms, illuminate new trends and create new opportunities for our team at Achieve Health. In an effort at brevity I will try to highlight some of the key sound bites that piqued my interest while listening to the presentations:

  • The industry is finally realizing (in small segments) that more data is not always a good thing: “Nobody wants just data” Julie Cherry, Care Innovations, and without proper data visualization, none of this matters.
  • Chris Young, from Ascension Health, hit the nail on the head when he asked, “why is this good for the physician?” when speaking about adopting new internal technology systems. He also mentioned that more technology, for technology sake, is not always the right answer.
  • A few speakers were focused on the challenges of the current EHR systems, pointing out that they were originally developed as coding and accounting systems so workflow and patient communication tools have all been after thoughts.
  • To expand on the last point – disruptive technology rarely comes from the incumbents, and I am sure Dr. Robert Rowley would agree, that the industry is ripe for disruption from more innovative and end-user focused engineering firms.

One of the key takeaways for me is the big push by large retailers from the likes of Lowe’s and Walgreens to bring healthcare monitoring to the home. Lowe’s and Walgreens were a few of the larger retailers present at the event and they stressed that they were in it for the long haul, which is very intriguing seeing as how their interests sit between the payer and provider.

Overall, I was really encouraged to hear that certain people within the industry are focused on closing the loop between the patient and their care teams, because we believe that is the only way for value-based care to succeed. Many of the speakers also seemed to discount the idea that a majority of the end-users are going to use/listen to the results we get from our devices. Just because my Fitbit says I should get off the couch – doesn’t mean I am always going to listen. Because of this, a few of the speakers stressed the need for seamlessly integrated solutions between technology platforms to ensure effective data portability, communication and improved outcomes. This mentality aligns perfectly with our upcoming event as well as our overall focus when creating healthcare technology solutions.

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