Healthcare Vision Blog

  • A Panel Discussion on Digital Health by Cary Oshima, Healthcare Chief Digital Officer, Cognizant

    By: Cary Oshima | Feb 07, 2018

    Digital health applies a combination of information and communications technologies to aid in the identification and resolution of patient health problems and challenges. Today’s payer and provider organizations are placing increasing emphasis on their digital health initiatives, with a plethora of varying approaches and opinions.

    To provide clarity around this growing trend, Cognizant assembled a panel representing three distinctly different points of view with regard to what’s working in digital health, what isn’t working and what still needs work. Panel members included:

    • Rob Alger, SVP IT strategy at Kaiser Permanente—a leading health care provider serving more than 11.7 million members in eight states
    • Mikkel Krenchel, partner at ReD Associates—an innovation and strategy consultancy based on human sciences
    • Kate McCarthy, senior analyst at Forrester—a highly influential research and advisory firm.

    A Healthcare Provider’s Perspective

    Rob Alger shared with attendees the results of Kaiser Permanente’s own digital health program, and they show a surprisingly rapid trend. He spoke to how digital-based patient encounters (video, chat, tele-derm, etc.) are now more prevalent than physical encounters at their facilities—to the tune of 300 million electronic interactions per year and a 17% jump in adoption in 2017 alone. He noted that, if you were to eliminate children and other dependents, 70% of their members are now actively engaging through digital channels.

    Alger believes that digital health is at a tipping point, driven by a need for centralized data that allows a greater understanding of each patient. The systems of the past that were built around typical doctor’s office visits and maximizing physician time are now outdated—needing to be reinvented from the outside in to create an optimal experience for both physicians and patients.

    Alger also discussed the ‘open notes’ movement that recommends digitally exposing physician notes to patients so they can learn how the physician views their condition, become more actively engaged in their treatment plan and have the ability to correct record accuracy errors. This movement coincides with a growing focus on disease state panels over EMRs and the need to find a more effective way to incorporate social determinants of health into the digital health equation.

    The Human Sciences Viewpoint

    Looking at what drives consumers, Mikkel Krenchel noted that digital health initiatives face a significant adoption challenge. Digital health tools need to fit into the way consumers want to work with their applications. This includes incorporating more of a ‘thick data’ approach that integrates data science and social science. Unfortunately, healthcare systems don’t have the luxury of experimenting with these tools and applications until they get it right—the need and opportunities exist now.

    Krenchel spoke to the trust disconnect between consumers and the healthcare system that is further impacting digital health success. More people use apps like Facebook to access healthcare data than the apps specifically designed to deliver this information. However, in trying to develop solutions to capture these consumers, we have to be careful not to create a digital world for the top 20% of the population and miss the 80% in greatest need. Citing a recent study on healing conducted by ReD and Cognizant, Krenchel spoke to the opportunity to design digital to warm up care in a cold healthcare system.

    What Industry Research Shows

    According to McCarthy, who is bullish on digital health, we are now beginning to move to more ‘human-centered’ design—and, it’s about time. She gave an example of a widely-used EMR software solution that requires 84 clicks for a physician to document an encounter. Technology challenges such as these are causing physicians to leave the healthcare field, because they are tired of dealing with the additional stress and added workload these systems are creating for them.

    From a consumer perspective, McCarthy sees evolving ‘smart home’ and wristband technologies as creating new digital care options for managing aging relatives and chronic conditions. She also believes that we need a cultural shift regarding sharing information surrounding illnesses. This will require the industry to enable additional ‘safe sharing’ opportunities.

    Concluding the panel discussion, McCarthy noted that this post-EMR world is seeking insights from systems that were created to simply record. Moving forward will require solutions capable of driving these new consumer healthcare insights.

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    Written by: Cary Oshima
    Cary Oshima, Healthcare Chief Digital Officer, Cognizant


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