Digital Disruption In Health Care: Keep Pace, Evolve, Or Get Left Behind

Digital tech can allow personalised treatments through more accurate clinical decisions.

In 2019, 3.6 million Malaysians were suffering from diabetes, the highest rate of incidence in Asia and one of the highest in the world. Malaysia’s composition of population aged 65 years and above increased from 6.5 per cent to 6.7 per cent.

Factors such as the increasing prevalence of chronic diseases and ageing population pose more significant pressure on the government’s limited health care resources.

To avoid further burden on Malaysia’s health care budget, there is an urgent need to shift the focus of care towards preventive care, which has shown to have better outcomes and costs compared to curative care. There is also a need to transform comparatively inefficient processes.

These grant opportunities for the medical technology (MedTech) industry to capitalise and fill the gaps to provide better value to patients, physicians, and payers.

Disruption of a conservative ecosystem

The risk-averse and conservative nature of health care has always been an uphill battle for MedTech innovators. As the health care landscape continues to evolve, governments are more willing to embrace digital health space via the adoption of digital tools.

Digital health does not come without challenges. Enrolling users, maintaining privacy, keeping users engaged, improving specific clinical outcomes, and proving the effectiveness of the programme are particularly challenging.

Innovating in the field of MedTech requires a focus on a particular group of users and problem space, as well as persistent testing and iteration. Getting innovations evaluated in real-life proves difficult in a health care system with limited capacity or resources to adopt these innovations. This remains a constant struggle.

Hurdles in terms of regulatory and economic hitches in digitising and utilising patient-generated data still lie ahead for MedTech organisations that are aiming to be frontiers and to keep pace in this fast-moving market.

IQVIA reported a few case studies to demonstrate how digital technologies do indeed bring added value in a collaborative health care ecosystem that all involved parties would benefit.

Case 1

In its bid to encourage behavioural change, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) established the CDC Diabetes Prevention Recognition Program (DPRP) as part of the National Diabetes Prevention Program (National DPP).

The DPRP provides information to people at high risk of type 2 diabetes, health care providers, and payers about the location and performance of type 2 diabetes prevention programs across organisations via various delivery modes, such as in-person, online, and combination.

The DPRP accredits organisations that demonstrated their ability to effectively deliver a type 2 diabetes prevention lifestyle change programme to assure people that decisions on participation, patient referral, and health insurance benefits are based on accurate, reliable, and trustworthy information.

Organisations must also demonstrate the ability to reach vulnerable populations, including those living in far-reaching geographical or rural areas throughout the United States. Its objective was to examine clinical outcomes up to three years post-baseline and the correlation between program engagement and clinical outcomes in a digital DPP.

Participants who completed four or more lessons and nine or more lessons achieved significant weight loss and A1c reduction. Omada Health is among the first digital health organisations to receive reimbursement from the US federal government for its online diabetes prevention programme.

It targets roughly 86 million Americans with prediabetes. Government support is a milestone for chronic disease prevention. The recognition boosts confidence in digital therapeutic start-ups to bring established offline programmes online and increase accessibility for patients.

Case 2

Roche Diagnostics partnered with GE Healthcare to launch an innovative tool, NAVIFY Tumour Board 2.0, that allows more personalised treatment decisions in oncology care.

Radiologists can now upload patient records to the same dashboard as patient files from other disciplines, enabling tumour board to have a more comprehensive view of each patient in a single board.

It instills confidence in clinicians and allows the team to align in a timelier manner to decide on the most optimal diagnosis and treatment plan for each patient. NAVIFY Tumor Board was launched in several APAC countries in 2019.

It is currently available in Singapore, Australia, Taiwan South Korea, Japan, and New Zealand. This collaboration demonstrates how companies are already utilising digital tools to optimise hospital processes to improve patient care and outcomes.

Case 3

Smith & Nephew and Brainlab entered into a collaboration for the future development of technology for digital surgery across a broad range of clinical areas.

Through this partnership, Smith & Nephew can tap into a range of Brainlab technologies in cloud computing, tracking, augmented reality, robotics, AI, machine learning, image fusion, and anatomical segmentation.

The strategic partnership and innovative combination of competencies will inevitably result in a robust digital ecosystem from which groundbreaking clinical solutions can emerge.

Technology evolution and health care

Digital disruption has already transformed the way cabs are hailed and food is ordered, while online retail has also shifted. It is expected that health care will be revolutionised towards patient-centric care.

By leveraging novel digital technologies, continuous data collection of patient-generated data and analytics could lead to innovative ways of collecting scientific evidence.

It allows personalised treatments through more accurate clinical decisions and improves decision-making for value-based health care for reimbursement.

Difficulties in establishing a thriving ecosystem are common but often can be avoided. It needs more than the selection of the best technologies and partners. A shift in mindset and willingness to collaborate are imperative.

There is no question that digital health is here, and it’s here to stay. The only choice is to embrace change, adapt, or get left behind.

June Choon is a lecturer and researcher in Health Economics at the School of Pharmacy, Monash University Malaysia.

  • This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.

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