30 Jan

Adoption of Healthcare Technology: A Unique Dilemma

By Katie Roche and Dr. Zara Fullerton Kinsella, Medical Science Liaison for HealthBeacon | Illustrations by Luke Higashikawa

Companies feed our endless appetite for healthcare technologies, but are patients really using them? Read Katie Roche and Dr. Zara Fullerton Kinsella’s thoughts, the first of four articles reflecting on the adoption of healthcare technologies. In this piece, they explore why the rapid adoption of technology seen in other industries has lagged behind in healthcare, despite clear requirements for innovative solutions.

Introduction – Adoption of Healthcare Technology: A Unique Dilemma

At this time of the year, consumers are scrambling to obtain the latest technology. Companies feed this endless appetite for new technology by continuously promoting new versions of products year upon year. As the industry continues to capitalize on this frenzy and our lives become increasingly dependent on digital therapeutics, the extent of our choices increases exponentially. In 2008, there were 500 apps available on the Apple App Store.1 In 2018, consumers downloaded 194 billion apps and spent $101 billion in app stores.1 At the beginning of 2019, consumers had a choice of 2.2 million iOS apps and 2.6 million Android apps.1 The healthcare industry is no exception.

Technology and the Healthcare Industry

Recent years have seen an explosion in healthcare-related technologies; connected devices, wearable sensors, patches, apps and software. This sector is expected to reach $280 billion by 20212 and global healthcare spending is predicted to reach $10 trillion by 2022. 2 Patients and healthcare practitioners alike believe that technology has the potential to transform the way in which healthcare is delivered. Despite a rapid explosion in healthcare apps, developing technology for the healthcare industry involves countless additional barriers and considerations. Many healthcare providers are struggling in an under-resourced system and one would be forgiven for thinking that they would embrace every technology that promises to improve efficiency in the diagnosis and management of patients. However, there has been real resistance to processes that have been easily and rapidly adopted in other sectors. Why can’t these processes translate to healthcare?

What is Adoption?

Adoption can be described as the process of accepting, integrating and using a technology. Society has come to demand instant results and technology must continuously find innovative ways to ensure that participants remain engaged in a crowded marketplace after the initial excitement has passed. Many technologies struggle to provide the continuous utility that is required to ensure that initial uptake translates to long-term use. Technology needs to be easy to use, intuitive and aesthetic, solve a problem and in a manner that is decidedly better than a low-fi alternative solution.

Healthcare Technology Adoption Drivers and Barriers

How Can Digital Solutions Integrate into the Healthcare System?

New technologies must identify and address the needs of the end-user and all relevant stakeholders. For busy patients, carers, healthcare practitioners and insurers there must be some incentive in terms of increased quality of care, resource-saving or convenience. The technology must be financially accessible with a simple onboarding process and the ability to adapt to a wide and varied patient population. The device must be passive, require minimal use or capitalise on existing routines. Data generated by the technology must be easily understood and actionable to support patients in taking an active role in their health. As hospital systems move towards electronic health records, the data must be easily and effectively implemented into existing workflows to enable information sharing across all platforms on a real-time basis.

Data Protection in the Context of GDPR

Following the introduction of GDPR, there are significant financial penalties associated with mismanaged personal data. Patients need to trust the security of their data particularly when it relates to highly sensitive information. Data breaches can have a long term impact on the public’s trust, both at the level of an individual organisation but also in an entire industry as a whole. Companies who prioritize data security and integrity will gain consumer confidence as this becomes an increasing priority for many individuals.

Is Establishing a Credible Clinical Research Portfolio Worth it?

To survive in an industry full of highly qualified professionals and experts, healthcare technologies must withstand a continuous level of rigorous scientific and legal scrutiny. With such a significant volume of new devices arriving to market on a daily basis, it can be close to impossible to differentiate the truly beneficial technologies. Many companies have managed to present compelling and accurate clinical evidence and have reaped the financial rewards as demonstrated by some lucrative acquisitions and IPO valuations in recent years. Establishing a credible portfolio of clinical evidence presents a challenge for many emerging companies that may not have the financial resources required to clinically prove the value of their technologies.

High Risk and What Reward?

The disruptive innovation seen in the tech industries whereby a product is placed on the market almost prematurely is not acceptable when it comes to healthcare.  In a highly regulated, risk-averse, litigious industry such as healthcare, disruptive technologies may be met with a level of skepticism. Practitioners may be hesitant to recommend technologies that do not have a wide volume of clinical research and a well-structured data management platform.

How Can These Technologies Maintain Engagement?

After creating scientifically-backed, economically viable and legally compliant technology, there is still the issue of continued engagement of users. Many technologies are utilising gamification to maintain user interest over a prolonged period of time. Other devices use smartphone notifications such as text messages to engage users, but this also comes with the risk of notification fatigue and information overload. Increased interaction with technology may result in increased engagement, but for some patients, this may merely act as a reminder of their illness and have the opposite effect.

What Can We Learn About Long Term Adoption of Technology Within Healthcare?

As with other industries, following the enthusiasm, the hype and race to contribute to the growing body of tech, we anticipate the decline; the redundancy and oversupply, notification fatigue, user boredom and finally, abandonment.  This is a conversation that must be had. How do we create and refine tech that is actually helpful, engages patients long term, reduces healthcare costs, and results in improved patient outcomes? Can we learn from other industries and apply these insights to this space?

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About:

This article was written By Katie Roche and Dr. Zara Fullerton Kinsella, HealthBeacon. Katie and Zara have a keen interest in digital health, particularly in the potential for disruptive technologies to enable individualised models of care, within the context of limited healthcare resources.

Katie Roche has a degree in Neuroscience and has recently started a degree in Medicine at the University of Melbourne, Australia. Katie recently completed a medical internship at HealthBeacon’s Dubin office.

Katie Roche

Dr. Zara Fullerton Kinsella has a degree in Business and Economics from Trinity College Dublin and a Medical Degree from University College Cork. She is the Medical Science Liaison at HealthBeacon.

Dr. Zara Fullerton Kinsella

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References

  1. The State of Mobile in 2019, App Annie. Available at https://www.appannie.com/en/go/state-of-mobile-2019/
  2. Deloitte 2019 Global HealthCare Outlook, Shaping the Future. Available at https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/global/Images/infographics/lifesciences-healthcare/gx-lshc-hc-outlook-2019-infographic.pdf