Many people –myself included- belong to that fascinating generation that is old enough to know first-hand what it was to live in a world with very little technology, yet still young enough to have experienced the digital transformation substantially changing every aspect of the healthcare field.
I have written many pieces, such as this one, about the vast universe of opportunity that the digital health revolution is bringing to the life sciences sphere. However, have you thought about what are the main challenges that this fierce digital health storm will wash ashore? I did, and these are my Top 3 challenges.
Every time I teach a class, facilitate a round table, or lead a workshop I like to split the audience in small teams –two teams per group- for a few minutes and I provide a brief statement to each group. Examples are: “Biosimilars will decrease the price of drugs”; or “Digital health prescribed therapies should be used as an adjuvant of gold standards drug treatments”, etc. You get the idea. Something ‘short and sweet’, and related to digital health and/or healthcare innovation.
Then, I task the first team with one simple thing: go online for 2-3 minutes, and find information to make an argument supporting the statement. In turn, I task the second group to do the same but finding an argument against the statement. I have done this exercise over 100 times already, on different academic and professional settings, and in more than 12 countries. The results are very consistent –and a bit scary, too!
More than 95% of people can find information “out there” in a matter of seconds to support/reject pretty much any statement related to digital health, innovation, big data, AI, m-health, etc.
In this day and age, I’ve come to the conclusion, there is almost no argument that cannot be backed up with -some degree of- evidence for, or against it. This is not only alarming for the potential decision-making implications that this phenomenon might have over the general population, but it indeed affects almost in equal proportions subject matter experts. To have more information does not equal to having better information – and the process of curating content should be at the forefront of every digital health and innovation initiative around the world.
I know, the question is a run-on. But you get the idea. Some numbers to illustrate the problem: there are over 300,000 m-health apps out there, yet 95% of customers / e-patients do not use those apps more than 2 times. Shocking, isn’t it?
A few years I co-founded the Harvard GIVE mHealth Initiative. In brief, amongst the main goals of this Harvard University digital health and innovation initiative was to help healthcare practitioners, entrepreneurs and innovators, investors, and customers/e-patients to be able to discern the apps with the most potential based on a scoring system. This system takes into consideration several factors, included but not limited to: how innovative the app is, what problem is it trying to solve, what is the market looking like for that particular segment, demographic and epidemiologic analyses, etc. In my opinion, more people should be focusing in supporting pre-existing initiatives, rather than trying to come up with the next “Insert-Top-Tech-Name-Here”.
Innovating is fun. Almost every kid in college nowadays has as a main premise to create, think outside the box, and innovate. And that is great! However, it is important to underscore that one of the core principles for creating and innovating lies in the generation of symbiotic relationships between concepts that already exist.
A colleague of mine has created a platform in which you can combine ALL your fitness data, no matter what device you use to track it. Idealistic and utopian at the very least, the idea was not well received by many at the beginning. However, after much work, strategic partnerships, and solid outcomes and results, ideas like this one aiming to facilitate the integration of pre-existing technologies, concepts, and platforms are changing the name of the name in the digital health landscape. We are still in “beta phase” of this process as a society, so therefore I believe this will remain to be one of the main challenges in digital transformation in healthcare going forward.
Looking for further reading?
About the Author
Recently graduated from Harvard, Leo gives talks around the world and teaches health policy and advocacy, health care reforms, negotiation and conflict resolution, quality improvement, management and leadership.
Leo is also a consultant for health policy issues in Governmental and non-Governmental agencies in the US, Latin America, Asia and Africa (such as the US Federal Government, the Mexican Health Ministry, the Argentinean Health Ministry, the Ghanaian Health Association, the UN -WHO, PAHO-, and many others); integrates the counseling board of Fundación SÍ -an NGO he launched in Argentina-; and is a columnist of health policy and public health issues for several high impact journals and newspapers.