One advantage of being consultants, rather than working for a single company or institution, is that we get to look at markets quite broadly. This enables us to notice trends and waves of activity ahead of the pack. Given Continuum’s focus on healthcare over the past few years, we’ve witnessed a move away from the clear separation that’s traditionally existed between what’s medical and what’s consumer health. Particularly, we’ve seen a shift in care ownership from provider to patient, largely due to the emergence and increasing prevalence of digital tools. This shift has blurred the line between medical and consumer, piquing our designer Spidey-sense to create order and gain intuition into what it all means.
So last Thursday, we called upon subject matter experts from both sides of the line to engage SoCal’s digital health community in a discussion of this topic, at a networking event we called BLUR: Consumer + Medical Digital Health Convergence.
Bookended by cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, the main event featured a panel of executives from across the consumer/ medical spectrum:
These three have impressive careers in healthcare, and especially as they are all patients and providers, we were excited to hear what they had to say. The discussion, moderated by Mike Dunkley, SVP of Continuum Advanced Systems, was a lively one. For those who were not able to participate in person, we have pulled out these key takeaways:
1. The emotional is often omitted from health technologies.
There are lots of sensors out there, and the Cloud is old news. Data on its own isn’t motivating or enjoyable for a patient, said Dr. Rhew. (And neither is it for providers or care partners, in our opinion.) There is a huge opportunity to bridge the gap between the data these devices are gathering, and what it’s telling us about ourselves. This is where design can play an instrumental role. Part of what is missing in many devices is the emotional component that is inherent in learning about our health. How can metrics be improved to help keep patients engaged over time? How can the experience of using these technologies strengthen the most important factors of maintaining health: motivation, improvement, achievement? How can this constant collection of data be more human?
2. Tradition creates a barrier to adoption of innovation.
Why has digital health technology had such slow adoption? According to Dr. Ommen, it’s because the way healthcare is delivered is heavily steeped in tradition. For example, a significant number of doctor visits are a result of the old “See me in 3 months” routine, when the patient could instead digitally communicate to the doctor that everything is ok and avoid the in-person visit. As Dr. Ommen pointed out, this would save the doctor’s time for patients who need life-saving procedures, and the reimbursement from those procedures would more than cover the cost of digital communication that isn’t yet covered. However, he cautioned: new technologies that fit into providers’ existing workflows are most likely to be trusted and adopted.
- Partnerships generate growth and expansion while maintaining core competencies.
All the companies represented on our panel are partnering with other organizations in some way. Dr. Diamond explained how Misfit has partnered with consumer brands such as Victoria’s Secret and Speedo. These partnerships have allowed Misfit to incorporate its Shine devices into places where their users already are. Yet, Misfit has also partnered with Oscar Health and Kaiser Permanente, hinting that they are shifting toward the medical world as well.
Meanwhile, Dr. Rhew explained that a similar shift has been happening at Samsung, pointing to its partnership with Medtronic Diabetes. This collaboration enables Samsung to be part of devices and systems they otherwise could not, as they lack the core expertise to design and develop such technologies, much less move through the clinical studies and regulatory approvals required to bring them to market.