Digital Health Ecosystem- Bringing the pieces together


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I have written in the past about the thousands of apps for health that exist. Many won’t make it in the long run as the runway to get into healthcare systems is long, and funding cycles don’t always have the staying power or demonstrate the growth trajectories that venture capitalists want to see to continue to invest in the products.

Apps are not enough though- it is essential to consider the whole ecosystem of how and where these apps might be deployed, what data is necessary for a user to see, what would a care team want to look at and how do you know the apps meet a standard. The American Psychiatric Association has an app evaluation model for clinicians to consider when recommending digital mental health apps to patients. They include the following dimensions:

1. Safety/Privacy
2. Evidence (i.e., effectiveness)
3. Ease of Use
4. Interoperability

They provide helpful information on whether to recommend an app or not. More guidance will emerge for these digital therapeutic solutions as they become standard healthcare offerings.

Implementation- Where the rubber meets the road

A recent New England Journal of Medicine Catalyst article illustrates the challenge of implementing these digital solutions in today’s fragmented healthcare systems. The apps can be effective but if the method of deployment is sub-optimal they are not likely to be used, or engagement will be low which may be unfairly judged as a failure. The article goes into detail about how complicated this ecosystem is but how necessary it will be to convene stakeholders and support interoperability for digital health if it is to solve for some of the issues traditional fragmented care systems experience today. It is worth your time to read it.

We are at an inflection point in digital health, big data, digital therapeutics and providing more sophisticated ways to close care gaps and solve for some thorny health care problems. Building the vital ecosystems will take time and given the global burden of disease are essential for the health of nations.
Thanks for reading – Trina
(Opinions are my own)


American Psychiatric Association App Evaluation Model

New England Journal Of Medicine Catalyst

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