The digital health mirage

KEY TAKEAWAY: When companies have a vested interest in “digital health” they are going to release “select” data to try and get more business, but pharma marketers have to ask “why?” and look for real insights to leverage digital health.

Over the last two years I have spent a lot of time eating M&M’s behind one way glass, listening to people talk about their expectations for “digital health”.  It’s clear that their expectation are much different from startups and other companies that release numbers without insights hoping to get pharma to open up their wallets.  It’s not going to happen.

According to research released by a digital health vendor “64% of patients say they use a digital device to manage their health”.  What they are not saying is that the vast majority of these devices are not fitness apps used by people to track everything from steps to calories not actual health applications.

They then go on to say that “71% of people believe it would be helpful to have their doctors access this information as part of their medical history”.  Again, what they fail to mention is that doctors have low confidence in digital health to accurately record health stats from patients. When I was going to a cardiologist for a stress test I had an app that recorded my EKG.  When I showed it to the doctor, he dismissed it as being “untested” and potentially “inaccurate” There isn’t a doctor in the US who is going to make a diagnosis based on data from a digital health app.

So what do patients really want in digital health?

1ne: 97% believe that it’s important for any doctor, any health institution to have full access to their medical records so that HCP’s can share information.

2wo: Patients want to be able to schedule, cancel and reschedule appointments via online portals and email.

3hree: Patients want to review test results and reports online without having to go back into their doctor’s office.  However, they want to be able to understand what is normal and what needs attention in test results.

When it comes to HCP’s they want:

1ne: Clinical proof that digital health devices record patient data accurately.

2wo: Proof that digital health interventions provide better patient outcomes.

3hree: An understanding of how patients are using the digital health initiatives.

Now there are times when patients want to be able to email their doctor instead of going into the office, such as when patients have the flu and need an Rx, but the challenge here is that HCP’s need to be confident that patients are reporting ALL their symptoms and that it’s not something worse which could lead to complications or legal issues.

Try and take the hype of digital health with a grain of sale and never stop asking “why?” and look for insights for what the data is really telling us.

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