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Digital Health Challenges

Digital Health Challenges

November 1, 2016

According to Paul Sonnier, “digital health is the convergence of the digital and genomic revolutions with health, healthcare, living, and society.”[1] The digital health market is estimated to reach $21.5 billion by 2018[2]. While this market is growing, there continues to be challenges in this field. TCI believes companies should be mindful of three main challenges regarding digital health before implementing these types of tools. These challenges include: patient and consumer challenges, provider implementation, and scaling up from pilot to commercial scale.

Patient and consumer challenges can be difficult to overcome especially due to the concerns and fears regarding privacy, data collection, and other security concerns. Patients are not sure who owns the data that is generated by them and who will be seeing this data. With recent security breaches at websites such as LinkedIn and Twitter, consumers are concerned that their personal health information will be compromised. Therefore, providers need to create an environment which helps patients feel more comfortable with digital health.  TCI recommends that there be transparency in explaining what is happening with the data collected in the digital health application. Providing some form of consumer and patient education on digital health will create a greater understanding for the patient and should help shape a situation which provides more accurate patient reported data.

In terms of providers, most appear interested in implementing digital health, but have several concerns before they would plan to utilize these tools. In a study released by the American Medical Association (AMA) in 2016[3], 1,300 physicians were surveyed regarding digital health and its implementation. Of the surveyed physicians, approximately 81 percent are concerned about data. This includes how much data they will be receiving and the additional workload associated with it. In order to get physicians interested in utilizing digital health tools, these tools should not overwhelm the physician or create extra workload. TCI has spoken with several physicians, who have stated that the essential requirement is having digital health tools be seamlessly integrated into the physician’s preexisting workflow (i.e. electronic health records (EHR)). In addition, automating the data collection and creating an intuitive platform for physicians to use, is a good way to get physicians onboard. By automating the data collection for physicians to review at a later and more convenient time, they can begin to focus on providing better patient outcomes and preventative wellness. Doing this could create an environment where a patient’s overall experience and outcomes improve because the physician can then interpret and utilize this additional data to make more informed decisions.

Going from pilot to commercial scale can also be a big challenge that digital health companies encounter. For instance, system design or functionality that was suitable for pilot scale may not be sustainable at a commercial scale over a long period of time. TCI is aware of several companies, which are narrowing their focus on creating open-source technology to ensure uniformity and usability across multiple systems. Additionally, with pilot scale, any issues with the data, the device, or other aspects of the system, are usually much more manageable as there are only a small number of patients and systems in use. Whereas, during commercial scale there can be similar issues, but now with hundreds to thousands of patients it often makes the issues difficult to manage and solve. One way to circumvent this problem is by partnering with a company that already has an existing platform with extensive experience in handling technical issues and errors. For example, recently Propeller Health has been partnering with several pharmaceutical companies to develop ‘smart devices’. These devices will then utilize Propeller’s preexisting platform technology, which can be tailored to each device and company for specific use while also employing Propellers technical experience.

The field of digital health has a multitude of moving parts and unexplored opportunities. TCI has the knowledge and expertise to provide clients with assistance and guidance to implement digital health. Please contact TCI for further discussion.

Amy Hicks
Drug Delivery/Pharmaceuticals
Email: ahicks@technology-catalysts.com
Phone: (703) 531-0275


[1] Paul Sonnier. (2016). Definition of Digital Health. Retrieved from http://storyofdigitalhealth.com/definition/
[2]Joseph Kvedar (2016). Keynote: A Doctor’s Prescription for connected Health Longevity. Connected Health Symposium
[3] American Medical Association. (2016). Survey Finds Physicians Enthusiastic About Digital Health Innovation. Retrieved from: https://www.ama-assn.org/survey-finds-physicians-enthusiastic-about-digital-health-innovation.