Getting ahead of the digital health avalanche
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Getting ahead of the digital health avalanche

May 23, 2019
Business Affairs
By Mike McSherry

Although no one can agree on what digital health is, everyone agrees that digital health is here to stay, and many hospitals are struggling to keep up with the pace of change and development.

Doctors are now prescribing more than medications — adding fitness trackers, meal delivery services, transportation, patient education and home monitoring devices to treatment plans. These tools have fantastic potential of elevating patient care and tailoring treatments to best fit that patient, but we are currently in the Wild West of this field, where promise is high and standards are few.

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Digital health tools can be exciting at first, but then often become “yet another” initiative added to the mix, with low utilization and engagement. The reality is that many times there is still a lot of manual work involved in incorporating these digital tools as well. How can a health system avoid devoting time and attention to a new tool with minimal benefit, especially when the return on investment is untested?

The right data at the right time
Hospitals are looking to incorporate digital health prescribing to maximize impact on care delivery, but with so many tools, the options can be overwhelming and one-to-one connections are not the answer. Digital health strategies need to be in place that assure data security while easily adding and removing tools, all while staying in the clinician workflow.

HL7 interfaces, technically, will make a connection. However, it opens a fire hose of all patient data, when only certain information is relevant to that downstream app or service. The maker of a diabetes-related device, for example, may only need a patient’s A1C levels, and a transportation service cannot accept any protected health information (PHI). No one wants unnecessary PHI risk. The amount of data that is exposed should be relevant and time out when it is no longer required.

With the proper structure in place, new digital tools can be added in a fraction of the current average time, offered only to providers when the patient fits certain parameters, and delivery and analytics are enabled around usage of digital solutions to improve patient care.

Picture an electrical power strip. Devices are simply added without much effort and are removed just as easily when they are no longer needed. Once that connection is terminated, no power or data is retained, reducing accidental risk exposure and letting IT staff focus on other projects.

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