With the start of 2020 we are in a new decade. Connection via technology has never been as important and as widely adopted throughout every industry possible around the world at an exponential speed and producing optimal results.
Here is where a new model of healthcare delivery, connected health, has proven to be successful in defying the usual challenges of access to patients, providers, or organisations with products or services.
Connected health is a relatively new term. It can be defined it as, “a socio-technical model or healthcare management and delivery by using technology to provide healthcare services remotely. Connected health, also known as technology enabled care (TEC) aims to maximise healthcare resources and provide increased, flexible opportunities for consumers to engage with clinicians and better self-manage their care. It uses readily available consumer technologies to deliver patient care outside of the hospital or doctor’s office. Connected health encompasses programmes in telehealth, remote care (such as home care) and disease and lifestyle management, often leverages existing technologies such as connected devices using cellular networks and is associated with efforts to improve chronic care.”
With the aforementioned knowledge, there are a myriad of opportunities to enhance quality of healthcare delivery, turn-around time and lower costs. The patients or consumers now have decision making power in terms of services and products at the touch of their fingertips or voices available to them. With the added factor, healthcare standards will have to rise and there will be more diversification in healthcare offerings.
Some important opportunities to explore in Connected Health include – Connected strategies, sustainability, and design thinking.
The first opportunity, “What we call connected strategies, customers get a dramatically improved experience, and companies boost operational efficiencies and lower costs,” say Siggelkow and Terwiesch in Harvard Business Review’s The Age of Continuous Connection, May-June 2019.
In a mutually beneficial relationship, connected strategies have been created in other large industries such as entertainment (DisneyWorld), textbook company (McGraw Hill Education) and shoemaker (Nike). With an open mind and vision, one can see how these strategies can be transferred to the healthcare industry. These industries seized the opportunity to increase and transfer their business to offer other products and services but most importantly “connecting” with their customers and maintaining that engagement throughout their experiences. One can think of it from a technological perspective; the Facebook way of creating and following you through a timeline.
The authors in the Harvard Business review article mentioned above examine DisneyWorld, McGraw-Hill Education and Nike. DisneyWorld successfully engaged with customers through wristbands that were connected through radio-frequency-identification (RFID) technology. The technology created a customised experience – from locating guests anywhere in the park, Disney character personally greeting guests with customised greetings as they passed by, leading customers to shorter lines on rides and creating personalised photograph books without ever having to pose.
With McGraw Education, a seller of textbooks, there are “customised learning experiences” offered to student readers that uses technologies that track progress and feed data to teacher and the Company. When a student struggles with an assignment, a teacher will find out right away and McGraw-Hill will direct the student to a chapter or video offering explanations.
While Nike, the athletic shoemaker, is on trend with connected strategies and created a wellness programme through activated computer chips embedded in shoes that allow connection with customers daily. The information that the chip collects analyses workouts and creates a social network that provides advice and support. This offered the opportunity for the company to “transfer itself from a maker of athletic gear into a purveyor of health, fitness and coaching services,” says Harvard Business Review.
It is motivating to see examples of connected strategies that are working for companies above. Although, with the large amount of data gathering some companies have been overwhelmed and struggled to cope. This is where leaders, “have to think clearly and systematically about what to do next,” says Harvard Business Review. The connection to consumer has to be long-term.
Here is where two organisations, The Health Bank (THB) founded 2016 and Medisante in Dubai have joined forces. Partnership is one proven path to sustainability. THB offers its patients a weight loss programme and “Medisante leverages the best of global IoT and Cloud technologies to automatically send the device-reading of home patients to the designated health coach,” a news report highlighted.
The partnership with THB and Medisante has led to address future potential issues in connectivity to their patients. With good partnership comes good deployment of technology. The way the system works for sustainable use for a patient is by making it as simple for them by having the service be met by “multiple medical devices” and “direct-to-cloud connectivity makes the data transmission to the clinical system of THB secure and hassle free for both the patient and the health coach.” The seamless connectivity works by, “having embedded global IoT sim cards within all our medical devices, such as the body composition scale used by The Health Bank.” This hassle-free efficiency creates trust and future use by present and future patients wishing to use the service.
An additional example of the two winning elements of partnership and technology for sustainability is of the global giant Amazon. Not only is the company dominating in various industries such as shipping, groceries, etc., last year it announced that it was forming its own healthcare company. It explained how it was providing healthcare to its employees through a connected healthcare model of virtual health, the Amazon Care App. By offering their services and products to their own employees, Amazon will leverage the tried and tested model. It will become sustainable on its own by fixing problems and will be able to offer the masses what they will consume.
The Amazon Care App works with its current employees based in Seattle, U.S. It is marketed as “healthcare built around you”, with “no more waiting rooms,” according to a news report titled Here’s How Amazon Employee’s Get Healthcare Through a New App- A Glimpse at the Future of Medicine. Services offered range from minor colds to sexual health services, like contraception. A welcome kit is offered to employees and they are given the option to use two types of communication. A messenger with a nurse or video with a medical provider; but if it’s assessed that an employee needs to be seen in person, a practitioner will be dispatched and a map in the app shows their location and estimated time. This is very similar to the successful transportation/rideshare industry model.
The partnership with a third-party medical group, Oasis Medical, and the technology used for its own is superb. The sustainability model is viewed by analysts as, “if Amazon Care succeeds among employees, the company could someday sell it to millions of people who already rely on Amazon for their groceries, entertainment and more.”
The third opportunity is, “Design thinking to support software developers in clearly identifying healthcare requirements”, says a report. As early as five years ago, researchers were worried about collecting sufficient data. Currently, the focus is addressing the over-abundance of data collected and designing how to best use it for optimal results. In the examples of Connected Strategies, other industries have figured out how to design the technology to pick up data and transmit it for optimal use such as the case of embedded computer chips in Nike shoes.
In 2013, researchers were recommending to “optimise the process of sensing data from end users in the home and community such that monitoring protocols are built around the person and designed with respect to their needs to provide for accurate and reliable harvesting of target data. We then need to gather and mine large datasets,” says Caulfield and Donnelly, What is Connected Health and Why Will it Change Your Practice, Quarterly Journal of Medicine, May 2013.
As we enter 2020, we now know that we do not have to harvest data. That step is surpassed via patient to product service via the high level of connectedness that does not necessarily have to use Wi-Fi (sim cards) and if using Wi-Fi, connecting to the soon widespread of 5G technology. With that design thinking and those options, data is collected directly by a patient and directed to their immediate need to resolve their problem or need.
At the rate solutions and optimisation are being harnessed by the three opportunities using Connected Health as a winning model, one can look forward on a global scale to what companies are developing and succeeding in the coming years.References available upon request.