Partners move suggests digital health is less IT, more care delivery now

By Jonah Comstock
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Dr. Joseph Kvedar Dr. Joseph Kvedar

Partners HealthCare's Center for Connected Health is in the midst of a transition from being a technology group that supports care offerings to being an integrated connected care group within the hospital, according to a year-end blog post by (now Vice President of Connected Health) Dr. Joseph Kvedar. Kvedar sees the move as reflective as a larger trend in the connected care industry as it moves from investigative work to practical applications, something also evidenced by CCH's partnership with pharmaceutical company Daiichi Sankyo, which launched in October.

At the start of 2014, Gregg Meyer became Chief Clinical Officer at Partners, Kvedar explained, and made the decision to bring the Center for Connected Health out from Partners' IT group and into his jurisdiction. Partners also just created the position of VP of Connected Care, an executive level position, for Kvedar (his previous title was director of the Center for Connected Health). 

"For 19 years we were part of the IT apparatus at Partners," Kvedar wrote. "We thrived under that leadership, but the perception within our system and of the rest of the world was that we offered a set of IT tools. I had said some years ago that as connected health matured, our leadership would adopt the vision that connected health is really about changing the way that care is delivered. Technology plays a supporting, not a leading role."

Kvedar sees the consumer push by Apple and Samsung as evidence that connected health is entering the mainstream. He also said 2014 was the year of "the first concrete evidence that the pharmaceutical industry is serious about incorporating connected health into therapeutic offerings," citing Partners' agreement with Daiichi Sankyo. The two companies announced in October they would work together to create a mobile app for atrial fibrillation patients taking oral anticoagulants from Daiichi Sankyo. The app will have the goal of improving medication adherence and compliance and improving patient-provider communication and feedback loops.

That partnership also speaks to what Kvedar sees as the next frontier in connected care -- not just better sensors and connectivity, but better motivation, engagement, and behavioral health, particularly when addressing the chronically ill.

"It’s clear connected health has turned a corner, making the transition from ‘curiosity’ and ‘future’ to everyday use," Kvedar wrote. "Provider organizations large and small are spending energy on how to integrate sensors, mobile devices and virtual visits into their care delivery.  Some are doing so because they are entering into value-based payment relationships, or are more motivated to think differently after seeing their Medicare readmissions penalties. Some are simply realizing they have to be part of the 21st century, responding consumers and patients asking for more virtual care."