Patient-Centered Care: Creating a sustainable digital ecosystem

The concept that healthcare is all about the patient isn’t new. Indeed, we’ve been talking about this for a decade or more now, but as an industry we haven’t yet cracked it. Globally, healthcare organisations, vendors and analysts are joining the conversation, with pockets of breakthrough developments, but nothing at scale.

In Australia and New Zealand, a growing number of implementations of digital health strategies are directed at patient engagement. From integrated care solutions in New South Wales, to person-centered health plans in Victoria (that offer a collaboration portal), to an initiative in Western Australia aimed at person-centred, equitable access, Australasia is moving faster down the patient-centric path than most. New Zealand’s digital health strategies talk about achieving people-powered and closer-to-home services, such as national telehealth services and partnerships to manage long-term conditions.

These strategies are a good start, but what do they mean in practice for patient-centered health throughout the world? Where should healthcare organisations be investing, and how can true, scalable patient-centric care be realised?

From a strategy point of view, organisations should begin by assessing the market for digital health. Decision-makers need look no further than StartUp Health, which tracks 6,850 start-ups across 84 countries with 1,237 investors to determine the flow of money. The findings are telling: Of the $15 billion invested in digital health in 2018, $5.5 billion or 38 per cent was directed toward patient-centred care capabilities, such as wellness, patient empowerment and personalised health. By mid-2019, the amount of investment in patient-centered care start-ups had already reached $4.8 billion or 70 per cent of total digital start-up investments.

More investment in patient-centred health has led to a raft of innovative technologies and applications coming to market. For example, the CancerAid app assists patients by providing them with a place to store all their personalised cancer and diagnostic information. The app makes it easy for patients to connect with others, learn about available support and tap into the latest research. Another digital service, the medication adherence platform Perx Health, helps patients with chronic diseases better manage their health. Both CancerAid and Perx Health hail from Australia.

Singapore-based Biofourmis developed an artificial intelligence-based platform that analyses data from wearables and other patient data to determine the likelihood of an individual’s developing illnesses. This lets the patient act earlier on the information to reduce the likelihood of serious health repercussions.

Benefitting the patient

These are just some of the examples of emerging digital apps. All use internet of things (IoT) devices or sensors and have the support of clinicians. These apps also provide an online community to connect patients with one another and to advocacy groups. Importantly for the healthcare industry, all create data that can be leveraged to benefit the patient.

Perhaps the best-known example of a patient-centered care platform that is bringing together data to support individuals, patient communities and researchers is PatientsLikeMe. This well-known platform encourages patients to give their data free of charge in return for community connection, knowledge about their illness and, potentially, access to new clinical trials and treatments.

While these developments assist healthcare organisations, the challenge of getting a single view of the patient persists. Most of these start-ups provide a niche product or service that needs to be integrated into the broader ecosystem. On their own, they won’t deliver real benefits and will create increased complexity in the application landscape.

True innovation — where a patient’s health can be assessed from cradle to grave — depends on a digital platform that can create a link to all the different apps under development and tap into the data these apps generate. Feeding all this data into a collective data lake — one that is comprehensive, highly accessible and inexpensive — will help to advance the objective of patient-centered care.

So, what does this mean for your organisation? Perhaps the most attainable approach is a concept that Gartner talks about regarding the “two levels of digital maturity for consumer-centric healthcare… Level 1 maturity: Adoption of new digital services to drive transformation and optimization inside an individual organization; Level 2 maturity: Adoption of cross-ecosystem capabilities that connect enterprises to ensure consumer focus and centricity.”*

Many healthcare organisations focus only on their own maturity without considering the maturity of their ecosystem. Gartner recommends, “CIOs involved in implementing and managing EHRs, telemedicine and other care delivery IT enable a range of stakeholders to participate in an open platform architecture by prioritizing digital capabilities that support consumer-centric or citizen-centric care.”* I agree.

To increase the maturity of your ecosystem, you need to think about using a digital platform that will  work with different partners and leverage the vast amount of data from many sources that will be integral for patient-centred care. This platform will also allow your ecosystem partners to seamlessly participate in your value chain, contributing to the quality of health services delivered by your organisation for the benefit of patients.

*Gartner, Healthcare Provider CIO Strategies for Scaling Digital Care Delivery Refreshed 11 September 2019, Published 8 March 2018


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