Tuesday, Oct 31, 2023

Healthcare Innovators Must Raise the Bar for Digital Health Excellence

Caroline PearsonExecutive Director, Peterson Center on Healthcare


As HLTH 2023 reminded healthcare innovators, the digital technology world has ushered in an era of progress and promise featuring healthcare technologies that have the potential to improve health, expand access, and increase efficiency. Whether through apps that aim to address mental health needs, wearables that monitor chronic conditions, or artificial intelligence that provides health advice to patients and clinicians, technology promises to revolutionize patient care.

Despite this era of innovation, the evidence supporting the clinical and fiscal promise of these technologies remains sparse. A flood of new digital health products have entered the market, leaving patients, providers, and investors overwhelmed with options and struggling to determine what works. One recent study found that 80% of digital health products had little or no published clinical evidence. The U.S. healthcare system needs independent, credible evaluations to help cut through the noise and identify the most promising digital health solutions.

The digital health sector faces a post-COVID reality where investment is limited, timeframes to reach profitability are shortened, and fewer deals are being made. Digital health purchasers—health plans, providers, and employers—are skeptical whether the technology tools being sold to them will deliver their promised benefits. Developers need clarity on how to generate compelling evidence that stands out from the competition. Patients deserve to know that digital tools they use are beneficial to their health. Investors need to know that products ensure a stable path to revenue. 

Digital health technology evaluation can ensure products deliver for patients, payers, and investors

Robust evaluations of technology’s clinical and economic efficacy will help purchasers determine whether digital health solutions live up to their potential to improve U.S. health system performance. The Peterson Health Technology Institute (PHTI), a new initiative of the Peterson Center on Healthcare, will provide independent evaluations to cut through the marketing hype and identify what works and what doesn’t. Its evaluations will look at specific classes of digital health technologies that treat a variety of conditions, focused on clinical areas with the greatest potential to deliver better outcomes at a lower cost. The first two evaluations will assess remote patient monitoring for diabetes management and virtual physical therapy tools.

Remote patient monitoring for diabetes and virtual musculoskeletal care are two conditions that affect millions of people and make up a significant portion of U.S. healthcare spending. Diabetes is the most expensive chronic condition and disproportionately affects people of color and lower-income communities. This has led digital health companies to launch tools that assist patients with self-management of their condition. An estimated half of all U.S. adults experience a musculoskeletal disorder, costing nearly $400 billion per year. Whether it be lower back, hip, or knee pain, virtual physical therapy has become a popular option to try and solve pains and improve mobility, while reducing surgical interventions.

The evaluations, set to be released in early 2024, will be conducted using PHTI’s custom assessment framework, which assesses the technology’s clinical benefits and economic impact, as well as effects on health equity, privacy, and security.

Digital health technology evaluation elevates the standards for what the healthcare system delivers to patients, while providing sound evidence to purchasers and investors that what they are investing in actually works. Innovators can be confident that the tools they are bringing to market are doing exactly what they set out to do.

PHTI incorporates stakeholder engagement into each step of the selection and assessment process, including from clinical experts, patients, providers, and PHTI’s Purchaser Advisory Council. PHTI is market engaged and policy aware, and it welcomes engagement with developers, investors, payers, providers, and patients. Companies that are included in evaluations are also able to submit additional non-public data that may inform reviews. PHTI’s approach takes a patient and consumer-focused approach, accounting for access and accessibility challenges that could affect health equity and user experience.

It is time to raise the bar for digital health purchasing by demanding stronger evidence about the value of technology and, in turn, driving broader uptake of digital solutions that can deliver on their promise of better healthcare outcomes and efficiency.

If you or your organization would like to engage with PHTI, please contact us at Info@PHTI.com.

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