Editor’s Note: In a new report, summarized below, the American Medical Association (AMA) and Manatt Health explore the digital health disconnect and propose opportunities for health care stakeholders to address it. The report also highlights the AMA’s commitment to resolving the disconnect and empowering physicians in their journey to achieve the promise of digitally enabled care. The findings and opportunities featured in the report were gathered through a series of in-depth interviews and workshops with a wide range of physicians, patients, health plans, employers, health systems, investors, digital health companies and digital health experts. To download your free copy of the full report, click here.
Catalyzed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have entered an era of digitally enabled care—fully integrated in-person and virtual care models that hybridize care delivery based on clinical appropriateness and other factors, such as convenience and cost. This evolution toward digitally enabled care, explored within the AMA’s Return on Health report, is transforming how we think about accessing, providing, managing and paying for health care.
Building on rapidly accelerating levels of investment in the digital health space over the past decade, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the widespread adoption of digital health tools. Health care organizations are increasingly designing and implementing omnichannel digitally enabled care offerings and integrating new virtual care solutions. Physicians, many of whom had reservations about telehealth prior to the pandemic, have found the experience of delivering care virtually to be quite positive. Digital health companies have entered the market at a record pace.
Despite record levels of venture funding, new company creation and virtual care adoption, however, there are few clear signs that the digital transformation of health care is meaningfully improving access, outcomes, quality, care experience, clinician experience or health equity.
In an ideal world, in-person and digitally enabled care models would be integrated and harmonized to amplify the value of health care and deliver effective, whole-person care. Yet often, digital health products exist in silos and risk additional fragmentation, higher costs, and diminishing patient and provider experiences. The “digital health disconnect” is the chasm between the theoretical potential that digitally enabled care models promise and the reality of “parallel” care that predominates today.
Despite growing investment in digital health companies over the past decade, the digital health industry is still nascent, and its funding is a fraction of that for the broader health care industry. A significant share of digital health funding from 2012 to 2019 was directed to “first generation” digital health companies, which often designed and sold products focused on wellness, urgent care and low-acuity primary care to health plans and employers. We are now moving into the “second generation,” where companies are designing solutions that deliver or enable the delivery of more complex services and have a more diversified range of business models. It is still early in the digitally enabled care evolution, but this new era’s companies offer the potential to truly augment and enhance in-person care, as well as address issues of access, quality and equity. At the same time, if the models of care are not well connected, there is risk of negatively impacting continuity of care and the patient-physician relationship.
To fully realize the potential of digitally enabled care and appreciate the drivers of the digital health disconnect, we have sought to understand the range of stakeholder perspectives on how the digital health industry has evolved over the past ten years. Though stakeholder perspectives varied, nearly all agreed that to close the digital health disconnect, we must avoid perpetuating the failures of today’s health care system, including:
Addressing the digital health disconnect will take time, resources, policy redesign, and a commitment by all stakeholders to build care models and companies differently than we have in the past. This will be health care’s next great challenge and will progress iteratively given the incredible scale and complexity of the health care industry. Through our research, the AMA and Manatt have designed a blueprint to address the digital health disconnect and achieve optimized digitally enabled care. The blueprint is summarized below.
Achieving the promise of digitally enabled care requires health care stakeholders to move in partnership. Following are opportunities for stakeholders to contribute to the full realization of digitally enabled care.
Opportunities for physicians
Opportunities for health plans
Opportunities for employers
Opportunities for policymakers
Opportunities for health tech companies
Opportunities for venture capital and private equity funds
See more »
DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.
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