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Digital health is transforming healthcare access, management, provision, and payment. According to a recent American Medical Association (AMA) report, digital healthcare can only reach its full potential if healthcare models are redesigned or implemented differently in the future.
Digital health companies have received over $100 billion in venture funding since 2010. The AMA report contends that despite all the funding and new business models, there should be more to show for the huge investments. Challenges in healthcare remain largely unchanged, with unequal access to quality healthcare and ongoing affordability issues. AMA calls this divide between investment and outcomes the “digital health disconnect” and acknowledges that overcoming the disconnect will take time, resources, and stakeholder commitment.
Recommendations for Optimizing Digital Health
The AMA report identified six pillars of digital healthcare optimization to move US healthcare toward it goal of reducing the digital health disconnect.
Build for Patients, Physicians, and Clinicians
Digital healthcare must center around the client and healthcare provider rather than reimbursement and regulation. The report identifies some digital health companies already making patient-provider relationships a priority Simple digital healthcare technologies that are easy to navigate will help to drive success.
Design for Equity
The report specifies areas of bias that need attention. It suggests internal audits to root out any bias based on race or gender present in the brick-and-mortar clinic or digital health company should be addressed in the transition to digital care. It also recommends greater investment in identifying and working with underserved communities.
Recenter Around the Physician-Patient Relationship
New digital health companies will often start by selling their innovative health services to self-insured employers, providing digital healthcare that is disconnected from the members’ primary healthcare source. The result has been a fractioning of the patient-practitioner relationship.This can often be seen in traditional settings when clients or patients come into the session with information obtained from a teletherapist. Consumers are not typically aware of the sensitivities related to therapeutic relationships. Greater attention to these and similar issues is warranted as companies build innovative ways of working with people in need. Therapeutic relationships are essential to detecting health and behavioral health problems early. Finding ways to build upon one another is key. Future clinical models must emphasize and build on the importance of strong patient-provider relationships.
Payment Models Must Offer Incentives for High-Value Care
Changes to payment models must extend beyond public emergencies and become permanent to ensure the financial sustainability of digital healthcare models. A digital health company investing in innovative healthcare models must know that those models will have payment model support in the future.
Reducing Fragmentation Through Policies and Technologies
There is a need for data integration across virtual and in-person healthcare. Patient information is fragmented and spread across multiple systems, preventing clinicians from accessing all relevant patient healthcare information. This divide is particularly noteworthy between medical and behavioral healthcare, with different facilities, payors, and electronic health record systems all too often operating alongside rather than in unison. The AMA recommends that policymakers develop and enforce health information-sharing rules.
Fast-Track Evidence-Based Models
Stakeholders should share information and build on each other’s successes to quickly scale digital healthcare models that work. It is no longer acceptable to wait for decades to implement working models. This is particularly true in behavioral telehealth and digital therapeutics, where effective models have waited decades before being made known to practicing providers. Organizations should implement evidence-based models and refine them along the way. The report offers suggestions for how such sharing may best evolve.
All Stakeholders Can Contribute to Revealing the Unveiling Digital Healthcare Potential
The AMA report, completed in collaboration with Manatt Health, also offered commentary on how all stakeholders in the industry could contribute to bringing digital healthcare to its full potential. Each stakeholder, from clinicians to the digital health company, employers, equity providers, and policymakers, has a role in closing the disconnect in digital healthcare and bringing the healthcare industry to its full potential.
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