November 01, 2017
By: Michael Pitsch

The three stages of Digital Health

While patients expect digital services on the basis of their experiences in other industries, doctors, while agreeing to its importance, are not as open to it. Digital health analytics could provide solutions to previously unanswered problems. They could facilitate integrated, personalized, seamless and secure patient interaction with healthcare organizations. Here are the three stages of Digital Health.

The 21st-century patient’s experience of other industries is one where analytics pre-empt needs and providers come to them pro-actively—and it’s time for healthcare organisations to follow. The change needs to be profound. Digital health is not just making existing processes like appointments and prescriptions digital, reengineering both healthcare and customer service processes to make interactive and even pro-active healthcare applications available to patients.

Doctors are less open to it

The Accenture 2016 Consumer Survey on Patient Engagement indicates consumer enthusiasm for digital health. For example, among patients surveyed in the seven countries, some 98 percent agree that they want full access to their electronic health records. But among doctors, only somewhere between 11 percent (Australia) and 26 percent (Norway) agree with full access for patients—so while consumers and doctors agree that patients should have access to EHRs, they differ vastly on the extent of that access. As a result, care organisations tend to be resistant to the market forces that normally drive businesses to meet customer demands—and may not move unless leaders and government make them move.

While digital healthcare consumerisation is critical, doctors seem reluctant. How do we unlock doctors’ minds? It becomes even more important to explain what, exactly, digital health means—and what the value could be. Doctors need to understand what value they cold derive from analytics. Technology would allow them to have access to questions and insights that are not even being asked right now—not even by them.

So, how do we pre-empt patient needs? Where is the patient in the hospital care pathway, and what logistical steps can be anticipated and made more efficient? One answer is analytics—engines driven by advanced algorithms that anticipate and prompt caregivers and administrators and fundamentally change the nature of the way healthcare is delivered—both in terms of medical treatment and patient logistics. While some are hesitant to invest in this space today, healthcare lagging behind other industries means that customer expectations are already not being met. As I see it, there are three steps to take when moving into the digital healthcare space: infrastructure, use cases and insights. Here they are, laid out in more detailin terms of living examples, where possible.

Infrastructure—Norway’s Kjernejournal

When planning an end game where analytics can help simplify and improve clinical decision making, the infrastructure foundation is critical. Norway has taken this step with Kjernejournal. The Norway Directorate of Health has enabled health care professionals in Norway to share information about patients across geographies and care levels. They have also given patients transparency about what health information about them is recorded, and allowed them to update their own information through a web-portal, empowering patients to take an active role in their own care. Nasjonal Kjernejournal is seen as a precursor to other long-term projects such as “One citizen, one record” (“En felles journal”), which is currently being considered, and a “shared token service” (one shared authentication service in healthcare). It serves over 6000 healthcare personnel, with 5 million citizens enrolled in the system. The project has taken the Directorate an important step nearer to seamless information sharing across Norway’s national healthcare sector.

Use cases—Workflow project in Ile de France

In a project led by Accenture, the TerriSanté project will enable better, more coordinated health treatment for residents in the Ile-de-France region, which includes Paris and its surrounding urban area. Started in 2015, the build phase finished in March 2017 and covers 350,000 residents, with the possibility of extending the pilot across the Ile-de-France region to over 12 million people.

The aim is for the platform to incorporate care pathways that allow for improved communication between health professionals, and provide services that include care coordination via pathways, patient scheduling, lab and radiology results, pre-admission administration, online payments for patients, e-orders, e-referrals and e-prescription.

Insights—Power of the data

Insights generated by analytics can help eliminate the unknown. It's about providing information and real-time access to services and clinical decision support information at the moment when they are needed, or relevant, and even providing value-added services at the point in time during the workflow that provides meaningful input. If you're choosing a hospital, that would mean info on beds, doctors, and admissions—integrating services at the point of demand. If you're a doctor, that means information that is automatically collated, analysed and the suggested number of decisions funnelled logically, based on all existing available data.

We see market demand moving from simply moving information online to provide a single patient view—to an entirely new experience with regard to the portal/workflow.

So what should the digital interface look like? Well, if Apple's customer interface is anything to go by, the experience should be so intuitive and easy that you don't need a manual or a tutorial to be able to use it. When healthcare providers design a portal with connected health solutions—the workflow should be such that care organisations don't need training projects, or to educate patients. It should simply work. In the same way that location-based services help commuters avoid traffic jams before they hit them, health services should anticipate the next step in the admission process, the care pathway or the prescription process before the patient even thinks about it, and prompt them with information and relevant directions.

What do you say? Let me know your thoughts!

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