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Driving adoption of digital health innovation in 2022

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Doug Biehn, chief commercial officer, Cala Health, highlights the key actors driving adoption of digital health.

Digital health is in a perpetual state of innovation, with life-changing therapies, medical devices and more hitting the market daily. But what drives adoption of these innovations? Insurance coverage and reimbursement are often the main drivers, but before a digital health company can hit those milestones, where do they start?

Ease of use and value

A huge driver of adoption is ease of use for both patients and prescribers. Think about the devices we choose to buy and interact with in our daily lives. For computers, cell phones, and even cars, we wouldn’t bother to buy them if they were difficult or frustrating to use. When a digital health solution isn’t designed with the patient experience in mind, demand will be almost non-existent.

We see this play out often with digital health technology because it can be extremely sophisticated and may contain complex technology. Despite that, keeping in mind ease of use for the end user (an often diverse range of patients and prescribers) is key to adoption. Although a new treatment option may be superior, physicians will not adopt or prescribe if it adds steps or complexity to their workflow. Physician and patient adoption are directly tied to the propensity of a Health Plan to cover and reimburse.

Ease of use is also strongly correlated with value. Overall, healthcare can be incredibly expensive, even after reimbursement, so showing that a treatment is being offered at a reasonable, affordable cost prior is key. Value goes both ways. If a new treatment is not affordable, then physicians will be less likely to adopt it and patients will not use it. Additionally, if a treatment is not affordable, then it is also perceived to be not easy by both physicians and patients hence reducing the overall demand and adoption.

The telehealth boom

Despite the many losses and human setbacks of the pandemic, one positive following the past two years of lockdowns is that they’ve enabled incredible advancements across industries.

In healthcare specifically, we’ve seen rapid advancements in telehealth technology. Patients have learned the skills needed to improve safe access to healthcare services. We’ve also benefited from CMS’s expanded reimbursement for telehealth and similar virtual care options, such as remote patient monitoring and wearables. In the past, the creation of new reimbursement categories was slow-moving, but following the critical need for remote care, it has opened the door for a plethora of new digital health innovations to make significant moves towards adoption.

The past two years have given the digital health industry not only an incredible proof point for developing treatments that can be monitored remotely, but nearly forced these advancements. Because keeping patients – particularly those who are at high risk – out of in-patient settings is critical, it has allowed digital health to advance even more rapidly than before and picked up the pace significantly around adoption. Solutions that can tap into the growth in telehealth and related technologies stand to do well in this environment.

Empowering patients

A somewhat unexpected driver of adoption is the patients themselves. In addition to studies and other tangible information pointing to the success of digital health treatments, patients make up a portion of what makes digital health adoption possible.

Today, patients are active participants in their healthcare and feel empowered to proactively ask about new treatments and therapies. This can be compelling enough for a prescriber to consider new options for their patients.

New digital health solutions need to consider that patients will be active, empowered consumers of the solution. It’s no longer enough simply to get a solution into prescribers’ hands — you need to create patient demand as well.

Many things can help drive adoption of digital health innovations. The surge in telehealth and remote care, coupled with a move toward consumerisation and the fact that patients are increasingly taking ownership of their healthcare have all come together to create a high level of momentum. This can in turn create a flywheel effect where the more value that patients and prescribers perceive, the more likely it is for digital health solutions to achieve wide scale adoption. In other words, it’s a good time to be bringing new solutions to the market — if they can meet the criteria above.



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