Digital health is becoming more mainstream within health systems, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic and now staring down the impending labor shortage crisis. However, the adoption, implementation, and scale achieved by these technologies across use cases and types of health systems (and even geographic spread) are patchy at best. Some organizations are able to leverage digital health tools effectively and make it a mainstay of their organizational strategy, while others continue to dabble in it more from a limited pilot perspective. It is important to understand the factors that enable digital health tools to achieve scale within health systems.

At ViVE I hosted a panel discussion during the Future & Health session to address what it takes to adopt and scale digital health.  

The panel included:  

The panelists shared insights and experiences on the challenges health systems face in today’s landscape and how digital solutions can help overcome some of those.

Navigating Health Systems: Key Considerations for Digital Health Companies

1. Be mindful, care teams are at the core of care provisioning and experience

In today’s healthcare landscape, the traditional model of one clinician (be it a PCP or a specialist) serving a patient is becoming less common. While team-based care approaches were initially associated with value-based care settings, they are now becoming the norm across the industry as they offer greater scalability in care delivery. However, with the labor scarcity that health systems are facing, this model is under pressure.

To unlock health system adoption, it is crucial for a digital health company to emphasize how the digital solution can enable and support the health system’s care teams, and create ‘negative work’ – which is, take effort OUT for clinicians”

– Susa Monacelli, General Manager for Propeller Health

A great example of this is Mass General Brigham’s (MGB) collaboration with Lyra. This digital health company helps make behavioral health accessible. At first, there was a lot of resistance in the psychiatry department when evaluating possible digital partners that would assist with patient access to mental healthcare. However, those who were most resistant to implementing a digital solution at first ultimately became champions because Lyra was able to clearly articulate the advantages associated with an expanded provider network, including improved care performance.

2. Ground your value proposition in the problem you solve for the user AND the system

First and foremost, a digital solution needs to bring value to the end-users, whether that be patients or care providers. After all, if the solution doesn’t work for them, it won’t gain any traction. For patients, the solution needs to bring sustainable, repeatable benefits to ensure engagement, while for care providers, it’s essential to integrate the solution into their existing workflows to make a meaningful impact. You can imagine they don’t want to deal with a different solution for every problem that arises.

Secondly, a digital solution needs to bring value to the health system as a whole, in addition to solving problems for the end-users. This could involve, for instance, supporting the care team with a technology layer that brings in efficiency or augmenting their services with additional care options. It’s important to remember that there are likely multiple stakeholders within the health system who are impacted by the problem you’re trying to solve with your digital solution. So, it’s essential to address the concerns and needs of all key stakeholders involved.

For example, take MGB’s collaboration with Amplifier, whose solution makes training for clinicians faster. MGB implemented the solution by letting one department take the lead and run with it. That department saw the benefits of using Amplifier and started spreading the word within the organization, leading to a bottom-up supported adoption of the digital solution.

3. Approach Health System Partnerships collaboratively – rather than as point solutions

Digital health companies often face challenges when trying to establish partnerships with health systems due to the time-consuming and complex process involved.

However, it’s not just the digital health companies that face difficulties. At the health system level, different stakeholders are bound by the realities of a complex organization. Even when there is interest in collaborating with digital health companies, health systems usually lack a clear process for evaluating potential partners, resulting in fragmentation and confusion about what the needs are and who is in charge of making decisions.

You may be wondering, if even health systems lack clarity internally, how can a digital health company understand how to move the needle?

One idea the panel has put on the table is for digital health companies to work together to develop a process for engaging with health systems and provide a structured approach for health systems to assess where and how different digital health solutions could bring value. 

Ultimately, the goal should be to create a more streamlined and efficient process for selling digital health solutions into health systems. This will require collaboration and communication between all stakeholders involved, as well as a commitment to finding solutions that benefit everyone involved. With the right approach, it is possible to bridge the gap between digital health companies and health systems and create a more effective and sustainable healthcare ecosystem.

4. FFS and VBC – two sides of the same coin or two entirely different systems? 

Our current healthcare systems and vendors are trying to convert providers practicing in FFS environments into VBC practitioners. In fact, most providers in the country today see patients in both business models under the same roof, within the same day. This, according to Dr. Jubelt, is unsustainable. There may be a need to stand up entirely new practices that are set up to operate under value based arrangements from the get-go, including different infrastructure, dashboards, practitioners, compensation structures, etc. These net new entities would be able to benefit from the gains in doing VBC well, as well as not struggle with the realities of treating patients under different business models within the same core infrastructure.

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