Innovation Isn’t A Pipe Dream, How Health Care Organizations Can Adopt Digital Health Technologies


Startups announce new technologies to solve healthcare problems every week, but how much of these new technologies hit the public market and reach widespread adoption? Even more, how much technology gets adopted by key institutions that work directly with patients and deliver care? 6 out of 10 physicians reported that they did not use digital health technology for clinical purposes, including communication with patients and other providers and only 27% of physicians actively encourage their patients to use digital health applications, according to PriceWaterhouseCooper’s Top Health Industry Issues 2014 report.  While many health systems are beginning to explore different avenues for innovation, some even creating internal departments to address innovation, many are still slow to adopt. As many as 36% of healthcare service organizations report that their organization has no mobile technology or innovation strategy.

Digital health startups, compared to traditional technology startups, have the additional burden of breaking into an established health care system before their solution can really gain traction. Whether it’s a hospital network, health plan provider or direct consumers, all of these groups want to see a product or service that has been validated. With so much activity in the digital health space, potential customers, especially large health systems, want to mitigate risk by purchasing a solution that has shown evidence of the benefits they claim to deliver.

But how can one do that with limited resources? Pilots are the most traditional route for companies to not only demonstrate their products but also to connect with health care organizations. Conducted with a nod to the clinical environment, pilots simulate how a product will operate in a real time health care setting for both patients and providers. This provides proof of concept and credibility in the marketplace.

At the end of the pilot, companies will have data and metrics that health care organizations understand. This can also be used to further refine product offerings, segment customers and define the market. Stan Berkow, CEO of SenseHealth and winner of Pilot Health Tech NYC 2013, explained how his company’s pilot with Montefiore Medical Center in New York helped them develop a monitoring feature to detect any personal health information (PHI) providers may have entered into SMS communications with patients. “This came out of the legal concerns of our host but turned out to be a feature that adds real value to our product,” says Berkow. Pilots can also identify information needed to qualify for reimbursement within the health care system and guide the development of business models. Hospital systems, health insurance providers and other health care organizations gain a valuable test lab from participating in pilots, they are able to evaluate how a technology will work within its infrastructure without extensive integration or investment.

Innovation challenges also provide a unique route to commercialization. Health care organizations from government departments to charitable foundations for health plan providers host these competitions to encourage development of technologies in a particular area. The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) hosted the Patient Portal for New Yorkers 2013 Design Challenge to develop a secure online platform for New Yorkers to access their health records. Challenge winner, Mana Health, went on to win a $1M contract from the NYSDOH to build the full version. Mana Health was able to provide the services to NYeC at a significant discount because they had built a large portion of the portal for the challenge and due to the efficient development that the challenge required, they will be able to roll the platform out in 2014.

Organizations that host pilots and innovation challenges gain access to pipeline of emerging technologies without the burden of investment and research. Most importantly it creates a curated marketplace for health care organizations to shop and handpick solutions that solve their internal technology challenges. As health care organizations face the growing pressure to modernize, these programs offer a cost-effective mechanism to identify the best investments. Running a pilot through the innovation challenge model, as with Pilot Health Tech NYC, allows for companies to be vetted by experts in the health technology industry before any organization commits to funding a project. By creating a competitive environment the best startups with the greatest potential are identified, removing some of the risk that’s associated with piloting.

Health 2.0 has facilitated over 75 innovation challenges and code-a-thons in the digital health industry, supporting the adoption and sustainability of health technologies. Health 2.0 unique industry positioning and experience has given an unrivaled depth of knowledge in the health innovation space, with over 3,000 startups in our network. If you’re interested in learning more please check out our website or contact us at challenges@health2con.com.

 Jennifer David and Alicia Davis are Challenge Managers with the Health 2.0 Developer Challenge Program.

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