Is Remote Patient Management Heading Down The Right Path?

VP Product-Marketing at Itamar-Medical | Digital Health Expert | Business Growth Mentor | mHealth Israel | G-CMO. 

News about Best Buy’s $400 million investment in a company that offers a remote patient monitoring platform is just one example of major efforts to provide better, more efficient remote patient monitoring (RPM) solutions across the health care industry.

Looking beyond health care and toward the larger trend of digitalization, McKinsey recently found that “personalization matters more than ever, with COVID-19 and the surge in digital behaviors raising the bar. … Seventy-one percent of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions. And seventy-six percent get frustrated when this doesn’t happen.” But there are important dos and don’ts for getting personalized digital interactions right.

I previously discussed opportunities specific to the health care industry. In that article, I mentioned that “tech leaders who are able to connect patient complexities with physician specialties and provide effective, billable remote or digital management tools to physicians and their teams will likely succeed in their missions to facilitate a greater continuum of care.”

Although I’ve seen increased excitement around the topics of remote, digital and personalized health care, there is still a lot to do to make it a reality. As Mario Aguilar explains (paywall), the fact remains that a “doctor’s recommendation to use an app to help manage blood pressure, back pain, or anxiety remains the exception and not the rule.” This raises several questions:

1. What does not work today with RPM?

2. Where are we heading, and how do we get there?

3. Where should the industry focus? What are the obstacles it will face along the way?

The Digital Health Priority

Health care tech was traditionally divided into two categories: diagnostics and therapeutics. Today, the value-based care path and the whole-patient health approach are challenging tech leaders to focus on integrated solutions that facilitate patient management throughout the entire process. The foundation lies on the premise that if physicians assess better, diagnose faster and offer the optimal therapy program to patients, this may impact patient compliance and create better outcomes and cost savings. While this puts patient engagement on tech’s top priority list, it also emphasizes the importance of the patient’s relationship with their health care provider (HCP). In my opinion, tech hasn’t done a good job here yet.

A recent report (via Managed Healthcare Executive) from the World Economic Forum shows that “around 66 percent of healthcare providers spread across 14 global markets are investing significant amounts of resources and time into digital health solutions.” Yet, according to a recent industry study from Eagle Hill Consulting cited in the article, “the average healthcare worker cites frustration and ease-of-use as having a significant impact on their day-to-day interactions with technology — 63% said that digital health solutions added more stress [and] 83% said their jobs were harder to do when ‘new’ digital tools were introduced.”

So, what now? How can tech empower HCPs with better tools and services to diagnose and monitor their patients without creating an overwhelming experience while preventing a digital disconnect?

Next Steps For Digital Health

In my experience, some of the biggest headaches for digital health leaders include integrating digital solutions in their EMR systems and solving patient-centered interoperability challenges. Nevertheless, Ricardo Johnson explains that “digital health investors and innovators should focus on solutions to simplify the complicated U.S. healthcare system.”

Also, in Europe, discussions about and enablement of digital solutions that can be connected to the overall healthcare system seem to be a priority. Dr. Wiebke Löbker, head of innovation and change management at BfArM, explained that though the positive health care effects of digital health tools are important, interoperability is also important because it allows collected data to be transferred to the EHR. Nora Blum, co-founder at Selfapy, stated: “DiGAs [digital health applications] need to be integrated into the physicians’ workflows and included into EHRs. We need clear processes for DiGAs to be reimbursed from private insurers.”

But the reality for entrepreneurs is often a one-step-forward, three-steps-back road: Moving from a fee-for-service infrastructure to preventive medicine and value-based care is not a fast process. Recently, for example, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services repealed its Medicare Coverage of Innovative Technology final rule, leaving “unanswered questions for [DTx] reimbursement, with payers using a patchwork of existing coverage, benefit, coding, and billing options.” The CMS cited concerns with “Medicare patient protections and evidence criteria.” Still, some DTx reimbursement contracts are launching with value-based (VBP) arrangements, like those from Pear Therapeutics. It will be interesting to look at their data and insights in the coming year.

The Digital Health Mosaic: Building Up And Cooling Down

Medicine is not only complex, but it can also be intimidating from the patient’s perspective. Digital health tools and services are heavily dependent on user experience to ensure simplicity, accessibility and engagement, and meeting these needs can be an ongoing challenge for tech companies.

According to the CHIME Digital Health Most Wired survey (via MobiHealthNews), telehealth use increased overall in 2021, but the growth pace stabilized from 2020’s growth. I believe the reason is that, as Rock Health research (via MobiHealthNews) found, telehealth adoption is highest among the young, educated and wealthy. What about the rest of the in-need population? Digital health solutions will need to address all audiences financially and operationally, and their convenience could define their success.

Regarding provider experience and adoption and their current sense of digital overwhelm, I saw an interesting McKinsey discussion about the potential health care payers’ role in the care-delivery ecosystem via innovative managed-care models and technology solutions. This may well generate real impact by challenging providers to own and deliver more innovative, higher-value care to members.

One Last Thought

For the ones who dare to enter the healthcare technology space, here’s my opinion: There will be no place for pure DTx programs, but rather, we’ll see a range of digital versus human-led interventions emerge that are both asynchronous and synchronous based on patient complexity and patient progress. Physicians or HCPs will be the ones initiating the use of remote, digital and personalized patient care solutions, and this is a larger discussion.

The needs are clear and the stakes are high. In 2022, prior to developing new solutions, tech leaders should be asking themselves, their customers, patients, clinicians and other stakeholders: Can we do it? Will it work? Is it worth it?


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