To balance population health and personalized care, Philips innovation lead prescribes an ecosystem approach

How patient-facing digital health can learn from the failures of EHRs.
By Jonah Comstock
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Philips Global Innovation Leader Kirk Elder doesn’t like to wear watches.

“If you were to approach me with a digital health experience or a chronic care program that requires a watch, I probably wouldn’t be very compliant in that program,” Elder said at an event in Tel Aviv earlier this month. “It’s just a quirk. And I admit it’s weird, but all of us have quirks. And the story here is that everyone’s unique and individual and it’s going to require a lot of different technologies to bring the right experience to the right users.”

Population health management involves smartly segmenting patients based on things like age, conditions and demographic information. But population health systems aren’t equipped to handle quirks like Elder’s. So at Philips, one challenge is to create personalized care experiences at scale.

“As providers and payers scale their population health management efforts, they’re running into deeper and broader communities,” Elder said. “They need to get deeper in the healthcare of the patient, but they need to get broader in the number of patients that they reach out to. And that creates problems but also tremendous opportunities.”

If doctors are looking for an example of a failure to personalize experiences, Elder said, they need look no further than their EHRs.

“In the US, we have had such a backlash against usability issues with EHRs. And it’s because of a monolithic approach. They brought one application to all users regardless of who they were,” he said.

Now, the industry has the opportunity to not make the same mistake as they design patient-facing digital health tools.

“As we move away from just implementing software for the physician and we need more and more digital health for patients, we’re going to need an ecosystem approach that allows us to deliver many, many smaller applications to the patients,” Elder said. “We’re going to need to really understand the patient well to do that.”

The key to delivering both scalable, population-based care and personalized care, and to working with all the different stakeholders involved in modern healthcare, is ecosystem-based tools like open APIs, he said.

That way, one company like Philips won’t need to build tools for every highly specific patient, or even the tools that help connect those patients to the right care. Instead, a whole network of startups and innovators can build those tools.

“If you look at all the great companies that have embraced consumerism and engaging millions and billions of people — if you look at Facebook, [they have] tons of APIs, rolled out and adopted by billions of users, all highly personalized. That’s an ecosystem,” Elder said. “If you look at the gaming systems that are out there like the Xbox Live system, [there are] hundreds of game developers, but every gamer has one avatar. And every game hooks into that context. Or look at Amazon. A highly personalized experience that’s changed how you consume retail. Healthcare can change that way as well.”


Editor's note: This story was reported in Tel Aviv, Israel on a trip paid for by the Israeli Export Institute, an organization funded in part by the Israeli government, which covered airfare and lodging for reporters. MobiHealthNews Editor in Chief Jonah Comstock also participated as an onstage speaker at MEDinIsrael 2019. As always, MobiHealthNews maintains its editorial independence and made no promises to the Israeli Export Institute about the content or quantity of coverage.

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