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Technology Advisor – The reasons why digital health initiatives fail

March 23, 2016
From the March 2016 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

By: Bipin Thomas

There is growing consensus that transitioning to digital health is fundamental to achieving a financially sustainable health care system in the U.S. Health care organizations are scrambling to execute digital health strategies from mHealth to data analytics. The term “digital health” has been used as a buzzword and meant many things to many people. Now it seems foolish to have a digital strategy. You just need a business strategy for the digital age. Whether it’s Oscar reinventing the health insurance business, ChenMed changing the care delivery model or Teladoc disrupting telemedicine, what binds these companies is they brought digital thinking to the very heart of their companies, and not just bolted it onto the side.

Oscar is using technology and design to make health care simple, intuitive and human. Sixteen months after going live, Oscar has joined the elite group of startups known as unicorns, or those with billion-dollar valuations. Through user experience, customer service and innovative care options, Oscar attempts to expand the role of the health insurance company to a health services provider. Among its innovations are an intuitive website — type in symptoms in plain English and receive a list of prospective treatment providers — free calls to doctors and more price transparency.

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Teladoc is a national network of U.S. board-certified physicians and pediatricians that lets you resolve your routine medical issues, on-demand 24/7, via phone or online video consultations. Teladoc doctors can diagnose many medical problems, recommend treatment and can even prescribe medication if necessary. Teladoc is an affordable alternative to costly urgent care and ER visits for non-emergency medical care.

ChenMed is devoted to elderly people who may have multiple chronic diseases. It profits when they are kept well and their health care costs are kept low. ChenMed has vans to take patients to and from its clinics. Patients wave a card at the front desk and are automatically checked in. Staff perform a tightly choreographed routine, with advanced data analytics to find further improvements.

Examination rooms circle a central hub so that doctors can confer easily with assistants and specialists. A mobile app lets doctors see patients’ medical records and refer to clinical protocols. The clinic has a pharmacy, so doctors give patients pills directly and answer any questions. Most administration is centralized elsewhere, so staff at the clinic devote their attention to treatment. Medicare patients at ChenMed spent nearly 40 percent fewer days in the hospital than the national average.

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