During the third quarter of 2018, the digital health space has seen a slew of deals with healthcare providers in the US, UK and elsewhere around the world. While telemedicine has continued to be a trend within the provider space, health systems are starting to turn their attention to some of the latest cutting-edge technology, such as voice.
But as these technologies advance, some physicians are pushing for more physician involvement, as well as standards in evaluating the technology.
For example, the American Medical Association, which has often stressed a “proceed with cation” type of approach, has kicked off several initiatives to include providers in the development of the technology. Inspired by a previous AMA survey about digital health uses, the organization announced two new initiatives: the Physician Innovation Network, a social network-like matchmaking tool that launched at last year’s Connected Health Conference, and the Digital Health Implementation Playbook.
The Innovation Network is made up of more than 2,600 physicians, and more than 1,300 entrepreneurs currently make up the 4,000 users of the AMA Physician Innovation Network platform, which is designed to help entrepreneurs and physicians connect in myriad ways.
While the Digital Health Implementation Playbook was first announced in September, it was officially launched in Mid-October, and spells out the steps for developing a digital health technology and best practices.
But despite the lack of guidelines for most of the quarter, this hasn’t stopped providers from implementing the tools. Here is a round up of how providers have ben implementing digital health in Q3.
As consumer technology begins to move into the healthcare space, providers are taking notice.
In July Cleveland Clinic announced that its patients can now access their personal health data on their iPhones with the Health Records feature.
That, together with Cleveland Clinic's version of the Epic MyChart app, offers patients more comprehensive mobile access to their own health data and a way to manage appointments, message their physicians and more, officials said.
Many hospitals are focusing on patient empowerment tools. Dignity Health and the University of California San Francisco Health announced they are teaming up to create a new navigational platform for patients. The organizations are working to create a platform that will help walk patients through all different care settings including primary, acute and specialist care.
When it comes to patient navigation tools, the private sector is getting onboard as well. Walgreens Boots Alliance launched a new digital platform, available through its mobile app and website, called Find Care Now. The service is designed to be a curated way to connect customers to a range of healthcare providers that Walgreens has partnered with, including telemedicine companies, digital-enabled house call companies and more traditional providers.
Walgreen’s rival CVS also inked a deal with Teladoc, giving its MiniClinics a new 24-7 Telehealth offering through an app for consumer’s smartphones. The service is intended for patients aged two years or older seeking care for a minor illness, minor injury, skin condition or “other wellness needs.”
Meanwhile Boston Children’s Hospital has turned its attention to chatbots. In August it announced a partnership with online AI-powered healthcare bot Buoy. Buoy will create a white-labeled version of its product for Boston Children’s website, use data from that version to improve its product’s pediatric expertise, and even get help from doctors at the Boston health center to evaluate its algorithms.
Boston Children’s has also been involved with voice technology for sometime. At the Voice of Healthcare Summit at Harvard Medical School in Boston, representatives of the hospital discussed their experiences with the technology.
But Children’s isn’t the only provider using voice technology — in fact it is becoming increasingly popular in the provider space. Many are using it for transcription purposes. Two research reports suggest that hospitals will deploy more medical transcription tools from companies including Acusis, Nuance, MModal, iMedX, Precyse, Scribe Healthcare, Superior Global Solutions, Transcend Services and TransTech Medical Solution, among others.
Research firm Technavio published a report last month projecting that hospitals globally will spend more than 72 billion by 2020, representing 6 percent compound annual growth rate. An analysis Radiant Insights published earlier this year added that key factors driving hospitals adopting transcription tools are reliability, portability and cost-effectiveness.
As digital health becomes more ingrained in the care delivery system, medical students are starting to get tips on how to use the technology as well. Provider-focused telemedicine vendor SnapMD’s Virtual Care Management system will be used to teach students at the University of San Diego (USD) Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science about telehealth, it was announced this quarter. In a class called “Telehealth and Emerging Technology,” students will learn the ins and outs of virtual visits.
In August Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and NHS Foundation Trust announced that they will be teaming up to roll out HoloLens mixed reality headsets to support its operational theater, according to a recent release from Microsoft.
Alongside the technology company and Black Marble, a software design and consultancy firm, the hospital will be developing an app for the technology to help surgeons better access information about their patients during an ongoing procedure.
In addition to augmented reality, the NHS also appears to be interested in virtual reality. The Hull Women and Children's Hospital project allows future parents to virtually see the experience of a woman using a birthing pool and "join" an operating theater where a patient is undergoing a caesarean section.
“The [virtual reality] headsets mean people feel like they are in the room, seeing the facilities all around them and watching how midwives interact with mothers and partners during labour,” Janet Cairns, head of midwifery at Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, said.
But the NHS is also also turning to digital tools to solve simpler problems. Looking to make booking a trip to the doctor’s easier, the NHS announced that it will launch a new wide-ranging app in December that allows all patients to book appointments, consult their medical records, and more. Though many of the features are already available online, the new app will bring them together into one mobile access point.
Some partnerships in the UK are focused on helping the clinician. As part of a new deal between digital physical therapy platform Physitrack and UK-based physical therapy resource charity Physiopedia, users of the charity’s site will now get discounts on the former's service. Clinicians can use the platform to engage patients and also track patient data. The companies note that Physitrack is adding a continued education component that will also be available.
While the NHS may be keen to adopt new digital health advances, it might be some time before drones enter the picture. In July a report by Nesta, a global innovation foundation, conducted in collaboration with five UK cities suggested that no small number of regulatory and infrastructural obstacles stand in the way of medical drone deliveries in the country. While the technology could increase the testing speed and decrease costs for the NHS, the country would need to update its air traffic control systems, policies and regulations to realize a benefit.
Around the world
Telemedicine is making its way into Japanese hospitals. In July Royal Philips announced that it inked a deal with Showa University in Japan to launch the country’s first telemedicine intensive care program at Showa University Hospital and Showa Koto Toyosu Hospital. The new program is expected to help increase case volume and savings, while decreasing morality rates.
"The eICU represents the future of globalized critical care, transforming the delivery of care from the bedside," Hiroyuki Tsutsumi, CEO of Philips Japan, said in a statement. "Having a centralized remote patient support center provides the ability to consolidate and standardize care, reduce transfers while maximizing bed utilization and reassure bedside staff. This helps reduces costs while enhancing revenues, patient flow and capacity management across the system.”
Meanwhile WebMD has teamed up with Chinese tech giant Tencent in a deal that would introduce the health information platform to Asia. This means that WebMD’s services will be translated into Chinese and localized to suit the Chinese population.
“The agreement between WebMD and Tencent has the power to make a difference in the health of the Chinese people,” said Meng Zhang, general manager of the Tencent Healthcare Information Center. “Inaccurate and poor-quality health information has been a longstanding concern in China. Our collaboration with WebMD has the potential to address this issue.”
Through Tencent’s digital platform, users in China will also gain access to WebMD’s WeChat and QQ Browser.