Why healthcare needs a digital health hub – part 2

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Author: Nir Altman, Co-founder and CEO, Equiva

Citing various sources, the authors share this: “Historically, progress in medicine has been shaped primarily by the health workforce driving continuous improvements in health care. However, there is now recognition that greater access to health information has allowed the involvement of patients and their carers (both formal and informal) to be considered as part of a community of practice, which is also influencing ways of delivering health-care services.”

A health relationship management platform to power the hub

Based on our experiences with customers using our patient engagement technologies, we’ve seen the value that can be achieved in bringing patients and their carers (both formal and informal) together in a community of practice. It’s been humbling to see my colleagues at Equiva create our health relationship management platform (HRM) specifically to enhance collaboration among patients, their loved ones, and care team members. Using our HRM platform, healthcare organizations (HCOs) can move beyond traditional “patient experience delivery” and open new doors beyond today’s digital front door, in an environment that mobilizes purposeful intelligence-driven decision-making and action key stakeholders.

“Increasing access to digital technology could result in further patient and community empowerment and influence the balance between vertical (institutional) and horizontal (community) governance systems,” write these researchers. “This synergy between patient desires, digital technology and health-care expertise could provide innovative solutions and change the direction in which health care evolves.”

I believe that influencing the balance between vertical (institutional) and horizontal (community) governance systems makes good sense. These authors are spot on in identifying that the interrelationship of important key drivers, specifically patient desires, digital technology and healthcare expertise, could change healthcare’s evolution. I’d add “caregiver desires” or “caregiver influences” to this as well – and I extend kudos to this research team for incorporating a focus on caregivers in creating their digital health hub.

What about education and behavior change?

This team cites various sources to showcase the success of health and wellness applications in changing patients’ behavior when the principles and theories on which they are based are clearly understood. These principles involve the provision of information to users in a format that is easily understood and meaningful in the context of users’ goals. “The knowledge gained can be applied to solve users’ problems and the success of that application is assessed with immediate and specific feedback to the user,” the authors write. “Based on this feedback the users are able to make the necessary changes required to further their individual goals and the cycle repeats. The theory is related to fundamental approaches to education, where the process of learning can bring about behavioral change.”

I was intrigued by the authors’ statement that “most clinicians involved in faculty and student training are well aware of these concepts,” followed by this question: “Yet how often are these principles applied as part of clinical practice?”

Indeed, we know all too well the truth of their assertion that simply providing information and awareness is not the same as providing education. “To translate knowledge into successful health outcomes, a co-designed and integrated approach to patient education is needed, with a consistent and shared understanding among all care providers,” they state.

What’s required for this? I see a future with a digital health hub being used in both care facilities a and the home. It is powered by a a health relationship management (HRM) platform, the SaaS solution Equiva’s proudly refined based on millions of interactions with our technology. The HRM is purpose-built to facilitate hyper-targeted digital health engagement. It relies on underlying data analytics capabilities married up with education and behavioral science methodologies to define and drive recommended actions for health improvement and management among patients/consumers, their loved ones and members of the care team.

The power of aggregating point solutions and software delivery

The platform must also serve as a point solution aggregation and software delivery environment, coalescing a multitude of communication, education, care navigation, and wellness offerings and presenting them in an easy-to-understand and user-friendly interface aligned to population-specific needs. Again, this is an Equiva strong suit.

For their project, the Australian researchers focused on a hip fracture cohort. “While showing great promise in this challenging cohort of older patients, (this new model of care and the digital health hub) are still in a development phase. Further refinements will be informed by the iterative development process, gained from user feedback and analysis, before wider implementation and evaluation. Applying best-practice guidelines at the inception of a new system will ensure coherence between traditionally established care practice and emerging, digitally enabled models of care,” they say.

Indeed, we must not apply the “if we build it they will come” mentality. We’ve seen too many years of failed technology implementations/deployments. Planning, preparation and use of proven frameworks to effectively deploy this technology are paramount and absolutely necessary to bring the digital health hub concept to fruition in real-world settings.

Collating and interpreting useful health information

In visioning the future, the authors write this: “A personal digital health hub can specifically collate and interpret useful health information, facilitating the integration of data from different health services and other personalized digital data sources. This personalized hub is potentially a powerful tool, empowering patients to take greater control of their health goals. The major limiting factor, however, is that current applications are not connected to mainstream health services and are not linked to the professional networks of (clinicians.)  Models of care need to be further redesigned by deploying digital health solutions that allow delivery of high-quality and patient-centered information to strengthen and integrate care closer to the community setting. The use of existing health applications can streamline system-level referrals, build workforce management capacity and support patients in managing (care) at home.”

And in discussing data, they state this: “By increasing the security and patient trust in the quality and use of the data, a personal health hub can create opportunities to transform health care and place the patient at the center of the health-care network. With these innovations, we envisage role shifts among health-care workers, in which diagnostic and prescriptive roles give way to more supportive, collaborative, nurturing and motivational skills to empower patients. Collectively, these technological innovations are expected to drive major changes in the composition, scope of practice and training (based on required capabilities) of the workforce, allowing more efficient use of resources to deliver the right care, at the right time, in the right place, by the right person with the right resources.”

Ah, yes, the words we hear too often but haven’t yet seen fully in practice.

There’s no doubt that our industry is making major advances in leveraging technology to become more efficient in targeting “right-time, right-place” care. More work is needed, however, especially to advance health equity by identifying and addressing key social determinants of health (SDOH.) The “digital health hub” model holds great merit, in this regard, especially if core aspects of it can be deployed and adopted with little complexity and at a low cost — by both healthcare organizations and end users (patients/consumers, their loved ones, caregivers and clinicians.)

This is our vision at Equiva. 

As our mission states: “Humanity will be better served when every person is connected to the individuals, information, and experiences that support overall well-being. Patients, loved ones, and healthcare professionals deserve a more equitable, less fragmented system where transformative technology yields powerful intelligence that promotes targeted care and wellness. This is the future we seek for all, and we can’t think of a more exciting goal.”

We look forward to collaborating with you in moving toward this goal.

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