In healthcare, we find ourselves at a critical moment of inflection due to the pandemic. Many are heralding the dawn of a new era in healthcare as we witness the acute surge in the use of health technologies to overcome access barriers during COVID. Some argue “emerging health technologies” is a misnomer—that we are beyond the nascent label of “emerging” as health technologies have already moved from fringe to fundamental. In truth, this may be a matter of personal experience.
Wherever one may sit (individually or organizationally) on the spectrum of adoption, we must continually ask: How do we achieve the full potential of so-called emerging health technologies? Done effectively, health technologies can mitigate or eliminate barriers to access. Technology can mobilize patients to participate in their own care more fully by driving deeper and more meaningful engagement with their disease and its management. Technology can empower patients to feel more in control—serving as a precursor to positive mental wellness, which can have a tremendous effect on the patient’s experience with the disease.
But perhaps most importantly, technology can strengthen the therapeutic alliance between patient and physician; and a strong therapeutic alliance serves as a cornerstone for success. In fact, maximizing the potential for any new health technology is rooted in two key considerations: patient centricity and clinician alignment.
Keys to Successful Health Tech
First, keeping patient centricity at the core of health technology, whether it be development or deployment, ensures our industry is always asking the right questions, and enables us to root out killer assumptions that could doom the technology to the shelf. Patient centricity ensures one will avoid the infatuation with tech itself and that we deliver a valuable and impactful solution that is easy for patients to adopt and integrate into their daily lives.
The second critical consideration, and one that has received short shrift historically, is clinician alignment. Technology that is too arduous, cumbersome, or time-consuming to onboard and use is of no value—ease of adoption for physicians is imperative. As technologies such as digital medicines and digital therapeutics continue to evolve from singular tools to integrated multi-platform systems that bring patient and physician together, it is critical that both members of the therapeutic alliance participate fully. That participation hinges on simplifying the utility for physicians and investing energy and resources to bring them properly and effectively on board.
Some additional factors must also be addressed to maximize the value of health technologies for patients. Collectively, we must continue to break down the structural access barriers and pursue multi-stakeholder collaboration on effective reimbursement policy. We must continue to advocate for and advance a culture of justice around access, which is as much a social issue as a clinical or commercial issue.
Lastly, we must continue to inspire and nurture diversity in thought, ideas, and participants in the creative process. Doing so can only help to create solutions that will benefit both patient and physician, individually and in alliance, regardless of geography, disease, or the confines of social hierarchy.