Digital health platforms must be high tech and high touch to win


Originally posted on MedCity News by 


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Apps are out, platforms are in. Investors and entrepreneurs have figured out that not only does it sound better to call your product a platform, you can charge more too.
At the start of June, two new healthcare “platforms” have started to take shape. At its annual developer conference, Apple gave us a few more clues about its Healthkit:

The new app, called simply “Health,” will collect a number of body metrics including blood pressure, heart rate, and stats on diet and exercise. The app will share all its information with a new cloud platform called “HealthKit.” The platform is designed to act as a global repository for all the user’s health information.

The second bit of healthcare platform news comes from The California Healthcare Foundation. It is running a new contest to help doctors understand a patient’s life beyond the office visit. The non-profit wants new tools to help doctors understand a patient’s family life, job situation and finances.
Both of these platforms have promise but to really change healthcare, any platform will have to consider these 3 realities of healthcare.

 1. It’s messy – in many ways.

Healthcare data comes from multiple sources – lab results, prescription refills (or lack thereof), doctor visits, specialist visits, personal trackers, CT scans, even gym visits. Consolidating all this information is not easy, but the only way to give a complete picture of a person’s health. Also, there is a lot more emotion in the healthcare equation. This factor effects decisions and communications, so optimizing for logic and efficiency does not guarantee an ideal outcome.

 2. There is no one-size-fits-all patient persona.

There may not even be a dozen or two dozen. Even if you group people into age ranges, there are many other variables that can put them into their own special groups. Family situation, income (or lack thereof) and education level all affect healthcare choices.

 3. The personal touch is unavoidable.

There is such a strong push to let technology do everything – algorithms will determine treatment plans, biometrics will set insurance premiums and avatars will give online counseling. But with healthcare, there has to be some element of personal, face-to-face communication. Not for every visit or every health question, but the option has to be there.

There are 33 health IT companies in this month’s Startup Index. Sixteen of them are building “platforms” to improve almost every aspect of healthcare:

Technology can do a lot to fix each of these problems healthcare but it is no silver bullet. Any platform that is going to succeed will have to be built around the reality that people aren’t always rational when it comes to healthcare decisions and sometimes a real live caregiver has to be involved in the equation.

Download the entire report to pass your own judgment on which companies are getting the right mix of high touch and high tech