Digital health updates are written by LoneArranger, an anonymous industry insider.
Thousands of startups in the digital health space offer a wide variety of features and functions, generally targeted at specific conditions and diseases or designed to address relatively narrow use cases. Relatively few of these are actually being prescribed by providers, and the most popular consumer apps do not typically ingest data from EMRs or other healthcare information systems.
They may have the capability to export data to these systems, but not necessarily in a way that yields any real value for providers or patients. Further, many are standalone tools or part of limited proprietary collections of loosely related applications that fail to offer the value proposition that would engage a large number of users.
This lack of critical mass has impeded broader adoption and limited the potential of digital health solutions to have a significant impact, at least in the near term. Other than the mobile versions of EMR portals like MyChart, few universally applicable solutions cut across large numbers of health systems and users. Even then, they may function differently depending on the sponsoring organization or local community policies. Just having a large number of mHealth apps in the major app stores does not constitute a critical mass for the purposes of delivering value that customers will actually pay for.
What is needed is a comprehensive, cohesive, and interconnected ecosystem that provides greater value for both providers and patients. The goal would be to create an environment that encourages innovation, but also provides a framework for connecting the myriad of applications into logical clusters and leveraging functionality and data that already exists in legacy health IT systems.
This may be the ultimate goal of the newly announced Amazon 1492 health research initiative. The 1492 group reportedly has been working on ways to streamline medical records management, to make the information more readily available to consumers and doctors. In addition, it reportedly has been considering a plan that could improve US healthcare for those with limited access to a doctor. The group is also exploring health applications for existing Amazon hardware, including Echo and Dash Wand. While there’s no evidence that the team is currently exploring connected health devices, it’s possible it could eventually do so.
Obviously Amazon has already built a comprehensive marketplace for selling and distributing a wide variety of goods and services, and global scale which puts it in a prime position to create a mass market once these new offerings are launched. It has existing relationships with many potential customers and through its portfolio of Cloud and other technology products and services has strong connections to enterprise customers, including many in the healthcare industry.
Amazon could use all of these capabilities to create a national framework for digital health delivery that could also provide local customization, working with leading health systems across the country. This would potentially enable patients to access a broad suite of connected apps and services that shared data across the ecosystem and also integrated with their existing patient records at various institutions where they existed. Data from all sources could be aggregated into a complete longitudinal record that could drive advanced analytics and artificial intelligence to enhance patient care and provide improved patient engagement and interaction with their providers to better manage their health.
This is one (but not necessarily the only) way that the true potential of digital health could be realized.