This is part 2 of our eight-part series on the future of digital health. Check out our full white paper here if you want to see our complete vision for healthcare in the 2020s.
“Public health” and “population health” have until now been siloed in healthcare, with one focused more on governmental surveillance and response and the other on “value-based care” at the provider level. Now, the novel coronavirus has emphasized the inherent linkage between the two.
While a move to a more population health-oriented system has been decades in the making (and is well-underway), mitigating the spread of a viral pandemic necessitated the development of even more tools and platforms that shift current strategic thinking in healthcare from testing and treating to prevention and protection. Even more importantly, the past several months have revealed to us that translating insight to tangible action remains difficult in healthcare. Even when we know the right thing to do, for reasons ranging from political to technological, it is often terribly difficult to take that insight and translate it into on-the-ground interventions.
This punctuational change will accelerate the invention of technologies that aid health systems, governments, payers, and self-insured companies in managing the populations that they steward. Such innovations could predict trends in illness, reduce cost and care variation, identify systematic opportunities to improve care, and allocate resources to the patients that need them most, before health problems get out of hand. Importantly, we hope to see automation in population health, rather than merely analysis — the next generation of population health is action-focused and proactive.
Moving from the reports and graphs that characterize so much of population health at present to real automation will be critical to “bend the curve” of spending and outcomes in our nation. Remote monitoring of patients and updates to the data in their medical records should trigger actions that lead to improved outcomes for them whether that’s a social worker visit, a text-based reminder (with a closed-loop accountability system), the automated scheduling of an appointment alongside a rideshare pickup scheduled to take someone to that same appointment, or a myriad of other actions. These pieces exist in various forms as point solutions, but opportunities remain to truly create platforms that bring the whole picture together.
In our current pandemic, to provide an additional example, linking automated COVID symptom-checking websites to testing locations is a good example of innovation that should have been ready-to-go before our epidemic. Taking the next few steps of automating the scheduling of follow-ups, check-ins, treatment, reporting, and so much more are continued and natural extensions of this public health automation.
Finally, this trend also translates to automation in the direct patient care setting. Natural language processing should readily facilitate prescriptions, orders, and follow-up details during a meeting, without the need for the cumbersome EHR entry and manual form selection that defines current medical practice (and takes up to 40% of the average clinician’s time). It is, at this point, a cliche to state that one of our greatest population health challenges is the health of our population of providers, who are suffering from systematic burnout due to the wasted energy spent on inefficient technology platforms.
Along every step of the way, the industry will identify opportunities — from wellness promotion, to prevention, to detection, to cure, to rehabilitation — where we can take burdens from already-overburdened staff and leverage automation to improve the care of our populations. We hope to see a move from measurement of problems to digital therapeutics that really solve patient problems and improve their health. While we will still need human review and intervention throughout, moving to a model of coordination where steps that do not require humans are automated, so individuals can focus on the most important parts of their job, are essential.
To this end, we at LionBird are looking for companies that think about the patient’s complete care journey and find ways to take cumbersome administrative steps off the plates of healthcare workforce members, as well as speed up times to the critical next steps for every part of care. If you can show us how you’re helping providers take action, and focus on the best use of their time, we want to hear from you. In addition, we are interested in firms that are finding ways to vertically integrate the full spectrum of population health needs into an alternative provider network, ideally with a business model that takes into account the other phenomena that we note in this piece.
If you found this interesting, check out the full white paper, Eight Drivers of Digital Health in the 2020s, a comprehensive look at how LionBird views the future of digital health.