The Promise of Digital Health

The National Academy of Medicine published a first-rate roadmap for digital innovation that stood out for its well articulated overview of the state of healthcare transformation as well as its author list filled with dozens of leading industry voices.

“The Promise of Digital Health: Then, Now, and the Future” wasn’t short on word count or insights, and delivered plenty of each on the potential for innovation in areas such as ensuring care continuity and partnering with individuals to support self-management.

The article begins by making the case that despite important gains over the last two decades, the promise of digital health remains illusory. User interfaces of inpatient care systems are often clumsy, health data is still difficult to aggregate in a meaningful way, and there’s plenty of work to be done to incorporate SDoH factors into care plans.

  • Although there are thousands of individual applications that could have been used to explore digital health’s path toward making improvements, the authors provided a useful visualization of twelve application arenas creating the biggest impact.

Foundational infrastructure requirements were a key discussion point to help bridge the gap between digital health’s future promise and its current implementation. Of particular interest for focused efforts were individual engagement, equity and ethics, interoperability, AI/ML, and workforce.

  • This graphic presented the essential infrastructure requirements for progress, and the authors stressed that each area must be carefully addressed to establish a complete framework for durable improvements.

The paper concluded on an optimistic note with tactical actions for achieving the promise of digital health. At the top of the list was a call to create a panel to develop recommendations for engaging individual healthcare consumers that follows the adage “nothing about me without me” to ensure equity and transparency as a first principle.

  • Other line items included “rational, right-sized, risk-based regulation,” sustainable reimbursements from the CMS to ensure equitable access to new digital tools, and a full implementation of data standards from the ONC.

The Takeaway

Like most blueprints for changing healthcare, the reality is more difficult than the brochure, but the benefits far outweigh the challenges. Digital health promises to improve medical diagnoses, treatments, plus everything in between, and thought leadership papers like this one are a good step toward making that future a reality.

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-- The Digital Health Wire team