The Building Mountain of Wearables Data
From counting steps to remote monitoring, how we deal with the building mountain of wearable data will determine the future of consumer acceptance.
Wearable electronic health and fitness devices are in strong demand with 26 percent of U.S. households owning one as of 2018, according to the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). They projected over 12.5 million smartwatches would be sold that same year and in the last quarter of 2021, 533.6 million wearables were shipped worldwide. Today, people can choose from several different devices such as fitness trackers, smart rings, and smart watches.
These devices can help people make positive changes in lifestyles and improve overall health and wellness. The process of setting daily goals and capturing those successes in apps, provides incentive and motivation for improvement. The opportunity to focus on wellness and setting personal goals to help achieve daily wins changes habits and improves wellness over time.
Yet, even with the growing demand for wearables, there are barriers that prevent certain demographics from accessing wearable technology—leaving many without the opportunity to leverage this data to improve their health. We must also look at the lasting role wearables had during the COVID-19 pandemic and the best use of the deluge of data that comes with these devices.
Health Equity and Wearables
The National Institute of Health conducted a study of a thousand people who were historically underrepresented in biomedical research. This included certain racial and ethnic minority groups and those with limited access to medical care.
Many of the participants in the study had an interest in using wearable digital health devices but were not sure how they worked. The study noted the cultural nuances of the term “tracker” concerned some participants over their locations being “tracked.”
Economic disparities also impact the use of wearable devices. Around 31 percent of Americans living in households earning $75,000 or more a year say they wear a smart watch or fitness tracker on a regular basis, compared with only 12 percent of those whose annual household income falls below $30,000.
Providing access to wearable devices to underserved communities would create opportunities for enhanced wellness and disease prevention.
Shifting the Nature of Care Delivery in a Pandemic
Wearables, alongside medical-grade wearable devices, had an important role during the pandemic. They provided remote home monitoring and tracked the health of those who were not sick enough to be hospitalized yet needed to be monitored for changes indicating they were experiencing a worsening health condition.
The wearable devices measuring temperature, oxygen-saturation level, respiratory rates, cough and lung-sound monitoring were key for remote monitoring and assisted clinical teams in managing patients’ health at home during COVID-19.
Wearables provided help for stress management and mindfulness during times of isolation and quarantine by coaching consumers in activities designed to calm the mind, including meditation and deep breathing.
This all advanced remote monitoring acceptance and resulted in innovative care models for receiving healthcare from home that are now paving the future of healthcare.
While integrating the data from wearables into the EHR may not have been achievable in all situations, the vision and value of data integration from wearable devices has now become a focus for the healthcare industry.
Data Integration is Key
Substantial amounts of data are created daily in the healthcare industry, with a single patient generating almost 80 megabytes of imaging and EMR data each year. With the growth of telehealth, contact tracing, wearable medical devices and research, that number has surely jumped.
Organizations have begun to realize the value of the data being created and they continue to look at gaining efficiencies, with data integration being one of the most focused efforts. How are organizations managing this data and protecting sensitive healthcare data?
When considering the data generated by wearables, one must consider how the data becomes available and useable to generate actionable insights. Device manufacturers follow their own proprietary format that makes integration of devices into EHRs challenging.
New devices must have the ability to integrate seamlessly with external data sources, other devices and applications. As the wearable industry continues to mature, data accuracy and integration with other applications and EHRs will improve provider acceptance and utilization in patient care.
Data Security and HIPAA
Today, consumer wearable companies are not required to follow HIPAA requirements for governing how patient data is secured and shared among medical systems. For medical devices, strong regulatory oversight guarantees the data’s quality and validity.
Data from smartwatches and health and fitness trackers does not usually have the same oversight. As the wearable device market continue to grow, data security will become an important topic for thought leadership.
Focusing on the Future
As more consumers develop an interest in wearables to improve health or prevent disease progression, questions surrounding the protection of their healthcare data and the validity of the results become more important. How can my doctor see the data from my smartwatch, protect and secure my data and use it to help improve the care delivery process?
As new wearable devices hit the market, device integration will figure prominently into consumer acceptance. Integration with external data sources, devices, and applications will be the rule instead of the exception.
For example, many diabetes management solutions fail to address the full scope of disease management. Emids worked with our client to develop a diabetes coaching tool that is a cloud-based solution that collects data from a variety of connected devices to give patients and caregivers a holistic look at factors that affect disease outcomes.
At Emids, we drive innovative client engagement opportunities with data intelligence, healthcare analytics and device integration tools designed to enhance the patient-provider relationship – keeping the consumer at the center of care.
The Opportunity and Necessity of Inclusive Health Product Design
Now is the Time for Inclusive Design
The COVID-19 pandemic has redefined how healthcare services are delivered. There is a shift from in-person consultations and paper documentation to virtual consultations and electronic documentation.
As a result, patients, clients and healthcare providers including many with a range of disabilities are having an increased number of interactions with digital products.
These products need to be designed with inclusivity in mind if healthcare companies want their products to offer delightful experiences for all customers. Doing so could translate to higher customer satisfaction and increased retention.
Lack of Inclusive Healthcare Design is an Untapped Opportunity
According to the United Nations, more than $147 million is lost by U.K. companies listed on the Financial Times Stock Exchange because these companies do not meet basic accessibility standards. That is a huge untapped opportunity. Most companies will lose out on opportunities to reach a wider market target if they don’t consider inclusive design.
As an essential service, ensuring basic accessibility standards in healthcare is both an opportunity and a necessity. Everyone needs access to healthcare services or products, and technology has become a key tool in bridging the inequality gap across diverse populations.
More than a billion people are living with some form of disability based on a World Health Organization (WHO) estimate. Yet, people with disabilities need healthcare services and products as much as everyone. Considering inclusive design in healthcare products and services ensures that your offerings meet everyone’s needs for the broadest spectrum of the populations you serve.
The Meaning of Inclusive Design in Healthcare
So, what exactly does it mean to consider inclusivity when designing digital healthcare products? The Inclusive Design Research Centre at OCAD University in Toronto defines inclusive design as, “considering a full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, age, culture, gender and other forms of human differences.”
Applying that definition to the healthcare space, inclusivity simply means a holistic consideration of all forms of human differences and then accounting for these differences in how healthcare services are rendered, physically or digitally.
Inclusive Design Benefits Everyone in the Healthcare Space
Inclusive design should be considered for all healthcare products because it benefits everyone. Often, the need for accessible products is overlooked for healthcare providers. Consider the case of a healthcare provider, Lisa Lim, a provisional persona.
Lisa has been practicing gynaecology for 35 years and works in a teaching hospital, educating medical students and residents. She has been experiencing progressive limited vision as she gets older and sometimes uses a screen reader or a magnifier to ease eye stress from reading many medical documents, and content displayed in small font size in electronic health record (EHR) systems.
However, she can only do so if these platforms are designed to be compatible with screen readers. In addition, making EHR systems compatible with assistive technology such as speech-to-text can help clinicians dictate patients’ visit notes.
Another common example of inclusive design in healthcare is simplifying medical terminologies on healthcare platforms to offer a better understanding to patients and clients, especially non-native speakers of the primary language used on the site.
Create a Culture of Inclusive Design in Your Organization
Designing for inclusivity is a process and not a project. Healthcare companies should start educating their product owners, designers, researchers and developers on accessibility considerations from the requirements-gathering phase to the final phase of product development.
Organizations must be deliberate about designing inclusive products. This will require company leadership commitment to provide the needed resources to support their teams.
These resources range from developing accessibility strategies, training, and engaging with a company like Emids to provide dedicated accessibility experts to work with your teams in building inclusive healthcare products and services.
Separately, Emids prides itself on a diversity, equity and inclusion policy that aims to strengthen our organization. The company finds value in our respective differences, recognizing that these differences not only bring diverse perspectives to the table where we tackle healthcare-related challenges, but also support the organization’s growth.
Understanding the Language of Healthcare Data
The Healthcare Data Language Crisis
Healthcare organizations have been capturing, collecting, transforming, accessing, analyzing, securing, and storing large amounts of data for many years, and yet there is still doubt in trusting and/or understanding their data and how to utilize it. For many healthcare organizations, data is still a vast, field of information and definitions, with no common understanding and unrealized potential.
And this is why it’s necessary for healthcare organizations, and for those working on digital healthcare projects, to assure that everyone understands the language of data. Lack of common understanding regarding data terms used extensively in day-to-day business conversations results in delays, confusion, and chaos.
All healthcare models spanning payer, provider and life sciences will need to understand that success and growth is dependent on everyone in the organization understanding the language of data.
In this post, we’ll first look at what data literacy means and why it’s important for the culture of healthcare organizations working in the digital space. We’ll then define for you some of the most used data-related terms.
Let’s Define Data Literacy
Data literacy is the ability to read, understand, create, and communicate data as information. Gartner defines data literacy as, “the ability to read, write and communicate data in context, including an understanding of data sources and constructs, analytical methods and techniques applied and the ability to describe the use case, application, and resulting value.”
Meanwhile, data literacy describes the ability to read, work with, analyze, and argue with data, according to Raul Bhargava and Catherine D’ignazio from MIT and Emerson College.
Successful organizations must be literate in data, specifically how they communicate the information and operationalize the meaning of their data. To get to the deeper meaning of their data, data understanding and literacy is essential.
Data Literacy is the Way Forward
“By 2023, data literacy will become an explicit and necessary driver of business value, demonstrated by its formal inclusion in over 80 percent of data and analytics strategies and change management programs.”
One leading data executive recently defined the need for data literacy as the need to have data as a second language throughout your organization. While data dictionaries, business glossaries, and documented definitions are the foundational beginning, data literacy represents more than that. It comes from a place of understanding, that is, not just understanding ‘data speak,’ but being able to converse with one another about the lifecycle of data in the data ecosystem.
Simply put, data literacy is a culture change with roots in better understanding of one another. Perhaps most importantly, data literacy is also the cornerstone to data-driven decision-making throughout your organization. Want a digital transformation? Then you need to start by making sure people can understand data, what that is—and know how to speak to it.
Defining the language of data within your organization is necessary for several reasons. It allows for more trust, better conversations, and less confusion around data.
Also, large volumes of data are now available, if employees cannot access, use, and interpret it the data value is not realized. Plus, poor data literacy impedes an organization’s digital transformation growth.
Meanwhile, understanding data definitions helps to communicate clear expectations and enables quicker deliverables with minimum iterations. It allows organizations to have a common understanding of a word or subject—you’re on the same page when discussing or reading business cases with others in your organization.
To connect on a personal level with customers, it is important to develop a specific linguistic style and talk the same language across the organization.
Let’s Define the Data
It begins with defining the right terms within your organization and at Emids we recommend you define the following terms within your organization. Take a look at the table below.
Discreet entities that are described objectively without interpretation.
Data that are interpreted, organized, or structured.
Information that is synthesized so that relationships are identified and formalized.
The examination of data or content to answer the question “What happened?” It is typically characterized by traditional business intelligence (BI) and data visualization.
A form of advanced analytics that examines data to answer the question “Why did it happen?” You can achieve it with the help of techniques such as data mining, statistics, and machine learning.
A form of advanced analytics that examines data to answer the question “What is likely to happen?” You can achieve it with the help of techniques such as machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Refers to new ways of doing business (new business models) coupled with emerging technologies (Big Data, Cloud, RPA, IoT, Mobility, AI/ML/NLP, Blockchain, etc.), creating new consumer experiences, values, revenue & business results.
Digital – Consulting
Enablement Strategy, Consumer Experience Design, Architecture Design, Business Transformation.
The process of using digital technologies to create new—or modify existing —business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements. It deals with reimagining of business in the digital age. (Ref: Salesforce)
It’s the technology for discovering and investigating data quality issues, such as duplication, lack of consistency, and lack of accuracy and completeness.
The process of moving a company’s digital assets, services, databases, IT resources, and applications either partially, or wholly, into the cloud. Cloud migration is also about moving from one cloud to another.
A software component installed on the customer system to mediate between Agile Manager and on-premises applications located behind firewalls, such as ALM, enabling two-way communication between the two.
The discipline of applying advanced analytics techniques to extract valuable information from data for business decision-making and strategic planning. It brings together fields such as data mining, statistics, mathematics, machine learning, data visualization, and software programming.
A person who creates or generates models that leverage predictive or prescriptive analytics, but whose primary job function is outside of the field of statistics and analytics.
A data distribution is a function or a listing which shows all the possible values (or intervals) of the data. It also (and this is important) tells you how often each value occurs.
The place at which independent and often unrelated systems meet and act on or communicate with each other.
An interface engine/integration engine is a software program that processes data between numerous Healthcare IT systems.
Data mapping is the process of matching fields from one database to another. It’s the first step to facilitate data migration, data integration, and other data management tasks. (Ref: Talend)
Consists of the practices, architectural techniques, and tools for achieving consistent access to and delivery of data across the spectrum of data subject areas and data structure types in the enterprise, to meet the data consumption requirements of all applications and business processes.
A framework and a set of practices to help all stakeholders across an organization identify and meet their information needs.
The ability to read, write and communicate data in context. It includes an understanding of data sources, analytical techniques, business applications, and resulting value.
Refers to values, behavior, and norms shared by most individuals within an organization regarding data-related issues. Broadly, it refers to the ability of an organization to use data for informed decision-making.
Why Legacy System Integration is Necessary for Health Apps
Digital Health Funding is Driving Transformation
If you look around, almost all industries have significantly digitized their customer touch points, but healthcare has been slow in catching up. Until the pandemic that is. The pandemic opened the eyes of many large health systems, health plans and even the investor community to recognize the need to continue engaging patients and deliver care at their home as hospital footfalls reduced dramatically.
There are lots of start-ups and innovators seeing a genuine opportunity to transform healthcare. Executives are showing commitment to multi-year transformation programs and Digital health funding for 2022 is on track to again cross $20 billion after a record 2021. We will continue to see more new players entering the market.
Interoperability is Key to Adoption
For those of us who have been in healthcare IT for more than two decades, we’ve seen interoperability as one of the thorniest problems for years—especially around how we move patient data securely from one healthcare setting to another without any information loss.
Interoperability is now an even bigger focus area as only an open-data ecosystem fosters the kind of innovation healthcare needs. Well-funded healthcare startups and innovators are realizing that, despite their superior products, they can face resistance from healthcare execs who want to avoid creating more information and process silos.
New players must demonstrate how they can easily integrate with existing workflows. And unfortunately, healthcare integrations continue to be complicated. There’s a lack of strict rules —most standards like HL7, FHIR and others are like guidelines where every health system tweaks them and forces de novo integration patterns. The variety of data access and integration methods can take away significant bandwidth from small players who want to focus on the core product development. Also, these new players must be careful to not pass heavy integration costs to their customers even before they proved their value.
Without that integration, startups and new players will have very little chance of getting adopted. Health systems are facing physician burnout due to inefficient systems adding significant work in their daily routine. They have finally adopted electronic health records (EHRs) after years of regulatory push. Bringing more apps into the mix where end-users must log in outside their normal workflow to look up information will hinder—not help—industry stakeholders.
Lack of Data Integration is not an Option
A lack of integration with legacy healthcare systems is like trying to swim and not get wet. It’s not possible. If you want to be a serious player, you need to take the plunge. You need to be comfortable with healthcare data standards, the ugliness of integrating non-standard healthcare data, and handling different kinds of formats.
That is why we see a set of digital health players crafting a clear strategy on data integration. Some do not see data integration as core and choose to work with partners who are experts at handling integration and do it efficiently. That way these new players can conserve bandwidth for true product innovation and differentiate themselves.
EHRs Should be Central to Your Integration Strategy
Major EHRs continue to expand their road map on digital capabilities in aspects of patient engagement, care delivery and other admin functions. The biggest argument for health systems to go with an EHR first approach is the seamless integration of the EHR modules with the core workflows. While staying with the EHR reduces risks for health IT execs, what we observe is that the most progressive health systems go for best-in-class digital tools and integrate with their EHR.
This is all the more reason that digital health players should not solely focus on their product and get blindsided by the importance of integration. Many apps are registering themselves in the EHR app galleries and advertising their integration with the workflows.
Key Insights on Innovating the Healthcare System Together
The Nashville Healthcare Council (the Council) is where healthcare leaders come together to deepen their knowledge on the challenges and opportunities facing the U.S. healthcare system.
I was privileged to be one of the 33 healthcare fellows selected for the class of 2022. For the last five months we have explored an array of topics via engaging speakers, simulations and in-person experiences. This has been a life changing experience and has given us all a renewed sense of purpose for creating a better healthcare system.
In this post I’ll share some of the key insights I gained, as well as what U.S. healthcare leaders are thinking about and prioritizing in our industry.
Viewing the U.S. Healthcare System From a Global Perspective
The curriculum at the Council this year explored the complexity of the healthcare system through the lens of increasing healthcare costs, silos, lagging policies and a lack of health equity.
I found it fascinating to take a broader view of the U.S. healthcare system and hear perspectives from clinicians, economists and policy makers. Many described our system as a healthcare marketplace and perceive it as a “sick care” system where healthcare is not considered a universal right.
The Need for Collaboration & Innovation as Healthcare Leaders
We shifted the focus of the program towards reframing challenges as opportunities to find solutions. With this shift, I walked away with a new mindset and a better appreciation for the collaboration required between different innovator styles—from radical to adaptive—for true innovation to happen.
The emphasis on collaboration inspired me to work with a classmate on organizing a panel discussion with Emids Founder & CEO, Saurabh Sinha, and Neil de Crescenzo, President and CEO of Change Healthcare, where I previously worked. This panel explored the power of data, as well as the current limitations of meaningful clinical data, which will continue to drive more innovation and policy changes in the US Healthcare system.
Designing the U.S. healthcare market with the patient in mind
One panel discussion from the Council fellowship altered my way of thinking about how to solve the silos and complexities in healthcare. Simply put: if we design a healthcare system with patients and their families (the consumer) in mind, rather than a system that tries (and often fails) to meet the needs of the disparate stakeholders such as payers, providers, and pharma companies, the consumer-oriented system would actually better serve the needs of all, and in the process spurring and driving innovation across the landscape.
Looking Within to Create Dramatic Change as a Leader
My final takeaway was about my evolution as a leader—that to change the healthcare system from within, I must first look at what I can do within my own organization and career.
I’ve learned that in any organization, the top sets the tone, the middle creates the mood, and the bottom creates the buzz. As CFO, DE&I Executive Sponsor, and leader of the Integration Office at Emids, I am committed to shaping a culture within our organization that values collaboration, inclusion and innovation, and that focuses our DE&I initiative on improving health equity. I believe there is tremendous opportunity to achieve all these goals at Emids while continuing to transform and scale.
Coming from a family of physicians and having worked in healthcare companies for much of my career, I am keenly aware through personal stories and experiences that every country’s healthcare system is complex and siloed, (not just the U.S.) This is in large part what has motivated me to work in the healthcare industry—to improve health outcomes and ultimately, the quality of living for all. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from and share my knowledge with the 33 thought leaders in the Nashville Healthcare Fellows class of 2022. I’m especially grateful for experiencing the re-imagined curriculum facilitated by Council Fellows Chair, Michael Burcham, the amazing slate of guest speakers, as well as for interactions with the program founder, Senator Bill Frist.
As a leader, I embrace the concept that healthy tension between stakeholders leads to better solutions. I believe that leaning into these healthy tensions can ultimately transform today’s siloed healthcare system into a more innovative healthcare system of tomorrow.
I look forward to partnering with the amazing Nashville Healthcare Fellows alumni with whom I’ve shared this life changing program—to make that happen.
Top 3 Healthcare Data Challenges from Industry Leaders
Thanks to the digital economy, data is now the new gold. In the healthcare and life sciences industries, data is improving the lives of patients and making it efficient for providers to deliver care in novel ways.
A deluge of data, however, comes with its own set of challenges. To get a better understanding of these challenges, we speak with several leaders in the healthcare and life sciences industries to see what issues they’re keeping an eye on.
Interoperability challenges, healthcare data fragmentation, and building trust around consumer data use are some of the themes that come up. Let’s take a deeper look.
As healthcare goes digital, interoperability issues pop up for organizations looking to update their tech stacks.
Interoperability—the smooth exchange of data among computer systems and software–is especially a challenge for payer organizations, says Minalkumar Patel, CEO and Founder at ABACUS Insights Inc. That’s because healthcare data isn’t always available where it’s most needed, Patel says.
“Interoperability is about whether an individual’s data can be at the right place for that person—that person could be me as a patient, could be me as a physician on behalf of a patient, a caregiver, to make whatever decision we need to make.”
CEO and Founder at ABACUS Insights Inc.
Patel adds that interoperability is about making the lives of individual patients better, and less about the exchange of data alone.
“At the end of the day as a physician, I don’t get up thinking about bits and bytes, and AWS and cloud. I think about, ‘how do we make an individual consumer patient member’s life better?’”
Abhijay Datta, Head of Data Engineering and Analytics at Emids, says healthcare has come a long way in terms of electric health records (EHR) adoption. But with a flood of health tech start-ups trying to make an impact on the patient and clinician experience, challenges around integration remain. “For these health tech innovators to succeed, the key is to integrate with their customer’s legacy systems and avoid creating another data and process silo,” he says.
“The big challenge I see for interoperability is how well the industry embraces the innovators through safe, meaningful, standards driven data sharing with them and take the full advantage of digital transformation as witnessed by other industries over the last decade,” he adds.
Healthcare Data Fragmentation
Former Chief Data Strategy Officer at Emids, Nilesh Patil, points out that healthcare data currently does not have a central location where it’s housed, and that is creating barriers for how data can be used. “We need a centralized health data bureau where a patient can share their data and where care providers can use that data,” he says.
Patil adds that payers and providers need to come together for this to happen, with the end goal of making it easier for patients to access their own data.
Bob Darin echoes a similar sentiment.
Darin is the Interim Chief Executive Officer at Blue Health Intelligence. A lack of rules of engagement across the healthcare industry is partly why healthcare data is fragmented, Darin says.
He wants the industry to get down to the semantics of how we define data. “We talk about data, but what exactly is data? Is it images? Is it the clinical encounter? Is it the demographic?” Darin asks. “When you don’t semantically define what it means, it gets really, really difficult because everybody’s defining it by their own rules,” he says.
Building Consumer and Patient Trust
Getting consumers to trust healthcare organizations with data is a key challenge many healthcare leaders think about. Carmen Lux, SVP of Global Delivery at Emids, says the healthcare industry has a way to go before it gains the trust of patients and consumers around data use.
“If we’re not willing to share our data because we don’t know what you’re going to do with it, how are we going to get patients to really help us connect all the data?”
SVP of Global Delivery at Emids
Lux points out it’s important for healthcare organizations to be transparent in how they use patient data. It fosters trust, she says.
Patil agrees. “To build trust with patients and consumers, we need to create a data federation where patients can access their data,” he says.
Meanwhile, Datta says many patients today appreciate that their medical records support clinical research and help improve the quality of healthcare. Creating trust with patients, however, involves making their lives easier, he says. “Studies show that patients’ trust in the system increases when they can personally feel the convenience. Since healthcare is a deeply personal relationship between patient and caregiver and the health system, it is imperative for the system to be able to clearly explain concerned patients where their data would be used, and give them the assurance that they are in control of their own data.”
Looking ahead, Darin says healthcare can learn from the consumer-packaged goods industry in how it has garnered trust among consumers. “They have done it by essentially giving customers discounts in return for their data, often through gift cards and loyalty cards,” he says.
Whether that can work in healthcare remains to be seen. But healthcare leaders agree that garnering trust among patients and healthcare consumers is a necessity in this data-driven age.
Healthcare’s Next Frontier: Care Powered by Augmented and Virtual Reality
Augmented and virtual reality (AR & VR) have potential to transform the way healthcare is delivered while simultaneously improving the consumer and provider experience.
Adoption of this technology has been high in industries like gaming, entertainment and retail—leading to a new age of interactive consumer experiences. Industries like healthcare, education and real estate are now tapping into the vast potential of this technology to transform consumer experience.
Healthcare organizations have significantly increased their investments in modern technology and are improving interoperability, making it the ideal time to take the leap and create AR & VR powered applications for patients and providers.
Let’s take a look at the marketing trends that are ushering in the adoption of this technology, and some of the recent advancements associated with it, as it relates to healthcare.
AR & VR Market Trends
The COVID-19 pandemic boosted adoption of this technology as the need for remote capabilities like collaboration in work environments, education, entertainment events, retail, finance and healthcare services significantly increased. Here are a few trends.
- $12 billion (US) was the spend on AR & VR headsets, software, and services in 2020. That’s 50% more than the spend on the same technology in 2019.
- The healthcare market for this technology, valued at $769.2 million in 2017, is expected to reach a staggering $5 billion by 2023.
- AR was the most popular immersive technology with 93.3 million users versus 58.9 million VR users in the U.S. in 2021.
- According to an industry report, by the end of 2023, AR users in the U.S. are expected to reach 110.1 million and VR users are expected to reach 65.9 million.
These trends are making healthcare industry leaders employ AR & VR technology to improve wellness and manage population health & diagnosis to enhance member experience.
The Challenges With AR & VR Technology
Despite promising potential, application of this technology in healthcare has been limited due to the regulatory landscape and siloed healthcare systems. Organizations have struggled with the availability of and access to vital infrastructure, compatibility issues with AR & VR software with other healthcare software, electronic medical records compatibility issues and privacy concerns.
Challenges in adoption are compounded due to a lack of essential hardware such as a universal headset, proprietary headset designs and lack of standards. Healthcare is a heavily regulated industry and that means strict security and compliance standards need to be adhered to by all stakeholders.
Why Continued Investment in AR and VR Technology Is Important for Healthcare Organizations
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly increased investments in virtual care and AR & VR technology in healthcare.
Industry leaders, both payers and providers are seeing the tangible benefits of this technology in enhancing remote patient monitoring, inpatient and outpatient medical procedures, care coordination and enhanced diagnosis.
The rollout of 5G technology will only make the case for investing in AR & VR capabilities stronger in the coming years. Organizations that strengthen their existing IT infrastructure to support this will be able to stay ahead of the curve and provide the best member, patient, and provider experience.
Meanwhile, the metaverse—which entails a virtual world—has been in the limelight recently and different use cases involving the metaverse are being explored across several industries like gaming, e-commerce, entertainment, and remote work.
The metaverse is said to have potential to revolutionize these industries. However, conversations around the application of the metaverse in healthcare are sparse.
The metaverse is a logical extension of the AR & VR capabilities which are beginning to see the light of day in the healthcare ecosystem.
The Future of Healthcare
The future of healthcare looks exciting. The latest technology offers us the potential to positively impact the industry. And AR & VR technology is playing a key role in this as it changes how consumers interact with the healthcare ecosystem.
Our recent rebranding initiative was a well-timed opportunity to set a renewed vision for our future by unlocking our true DNA. At such an inflection point, we took time to revisit our mission and values to ensure they aligned with our vision for the future.
We are truth seekers, advancing the future of health through impactful technology solutions. This mission best defines our reason for being. It’s an enduring statement that represents how our customers see us.
Our mission is what we work to achieve, but our values define how we achieve it. Together, mission and values form the culture of our organization – an implicit fabric that defines us and differentiates us as both an employer to our associates and a partner of choice for our customers.
Trusted guides – How we engage with our customers and each other
We remain trusted advisors in the healthcare and life sciences industries. As guides, we position our customers’ success at the center of any solution we provide.
Impact obsessed – How we evolve, improve and deliver value to all
Our work affects the lives of patients and that’s why we remain impact obsessed. To create a positive impact in healthcare, we harness our pragmatism for the greater good and help our customers achieve meaningful results.
Inclusive Innovators – How we push further, solve problems and work as one
Emids is built on inclusivity and a firm belief that co-creation leads to better results.
These values are the cornerstone of our organization.
Better for All
In the last five years, we’ve achieved consistent organic growth, driven by a strong commitment to customer success, the growth of our associates and our unrelenting dedication to improving lives.
Each one of us understands that embodying our values from the inside out is how we create transformative outcomes for patients, healthcare professionals and partners.
Knowing who we are and where we came from – understanding our true DNA – is what will ensure our purposeful impact on healthcare for generations to come.
How Healthcare Organizations Can Keep Consumers Engaged In The Digital Age
The pandemic has made healthcare virtual out of necessity. The success of healthcare companies lies in how they interact with digitally-savvy patients and consumers.
The pandemic has changed every facet of our lives and healthcare is no exception. While the healthcare industry was already tackling changes prior to the pandemic, the last two years have kicked into high gear the shift to digital.
Much of that shift stems from the changing needs of consumers and their evolving healthcare-related interactions. For many, those interactions are now a part of virtual health at home. Healthcare organizations that stay several steps ahead of the needs of consumers are seeing success.
Let’s look at what healthcare leaders are focusing on as they address today’s digital healthcare consumer.
A Value Proposition Catering To Consumers
Even as healthcare becomes more digital, the need for a strong value proposition doesn’t change, especially if healthcare companies want to engage consumers and patients in the virtual sphere.
Sami Inkinen is the co-founder and CEO of Virta Health, an organization with a lofty goal. Virta Health aims to reverse Type 2 diabetes for a hundred million people.
But as Inkinen notes, you can’t force a treatment plan on patients. “People have to opt in,” he says. “Just to give you one statistic, half the people, for example, living with Type 2 diabetes, when a provider says, ‘you have to be on insulin,’ half do not want to do that.”
A better approach to engaging patients, Inkinen says, is through a value proposition that is the right fit for your consumer.
“You have to make sure that what you’re actually offering is so powerful [of a value proposition] that most people raise their hands and say, ‘are you serious? So, you can reverse diabetes? How can I do that? And you’re telling me it’s free? My employer helpline pays it?”
CEO and Founder of Virta Health
Tom Waller agrees.
Waller is the SVP of Innovation at adidas and a keen observer of human behavior. He’s used those observations to improve the health, wellbeing, sports and fitness industries.
Waller says healthcare consumers are looking for ways to improve their health, but motivation alone isn’t enough. A value proposition that considers shifts in tiny human behavior goes a long way.
“It’s not quite as sexy, but it definitely works,” he says. He adds that healthcare organizations that use knowledge alone as their value prop are likely not going to entice consumers to engage. He sums it up with a sweet example. “We all know we shouldn’t eat too much cake, but we still do.”
Keeping up with shifting digital healthcare trends
The one constant in the age of digital healthcare is that the industry is constantly changing. That’s predicated on the evolving needs of healthcare consumers.
“In healthcare, we’re so focused on how care has been delivered, we miss that consumers have totally moved on from the way they live their lives,” says Drew Schiller, co-founder and CEO of Validic. Schiller adds that the pandemic has been a catalyst in that move.
Organizations that continuously anticipate changes in the needs of their patients and consumers are the ones leading the innovation and disruption we’re seeing today in healthcare, says Sarah Richardson, SVP and CIO Tivity Health.
Richardson says that digital health involves the use of many devices, but the interactions between these devices offers opportunity for delivering a smooth consumer experience.
“We are seeing a huge shift from that patient experience to a human experience [and] there has to be a way for it to be pretty seamless and invisible to the user.”
SVP and CIO at Tivity Health
Richardson says that digital health involves a continuous journey of making the consumer experience as benign as possible.
“You think about things like in-ear monitoring as well, so if you need a continuous monitoring of how well someone is doing, sure you can have it on your wrist, but you can put things into somebody’s ear so it’s even less invasive,” she says.
There’s also an opportunity to use voice command in digital health, Richardson says, and it has great potential for making digital health more accessible and convenient.
But the key is to make the digital healthcare consumer experience seamless and non-invasive in our day-to-day lives. “If it’s invisible, you’ll use it, or if it’s easy to use, you’ll do it,” Richardson says.
The shift to value-based healthcare
Providers are seeing the rise of value-based healthcare, which entails physicians and hospitals getting paid based on patient outcomes.
Inkinen says that value-based healthcare is helping not only patients see improved health, but also helping providers by reducing cost. He offers the example of Type 2 diabetes, which is currently costing the U.S. healthcare system billions of dollars each year.
“These diabetes drugs that people are on to manage their disease can easily be $500, $600 or $700 a month, like insulin and SGLT-2s, and GLP-1s,” Inkinen says.
“These are ridiculously expensive branded drugs, and we typically get patients off of them in 30 to 45 days,” he adds.
“And as an immigrant, this is one thing that’s been slightly painful for me to learn, but if you don’t make people money in U.S. healthcare, good luck trying to commercialize. So, when you align the outcomes with the money, magic happens.”
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The Health at Home Transformation: Delivering Care in a Space of Trust
The last two years were marked by fear, isolation and economic challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. But it was through these challenges we developed a need to interact with each other remotely.
In the healthcare ecosystem, we’ve seen a shift in how consumers engaged with their care providers—often through the use of technology in the comfort and safety of their homes.
Payers realized the benefits of Health at Home and began paying for services historically only reimbursed for in-person visits with a provider.
Consumers now have a choice of virtual or in-person care. Fears of leaving the safety of your home are eliminated, scheduling is convenient, and changes in patient health status are being captured while still manageable, preventing the need for hospitalization.
Even the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) are now offering reimbursements for healthcare services being delivered remotely at home. This wasn’t conceivable prior to the pandemic.
As we grapple with COVID-19 becoming endemic, virtual access to healthcare and Health at Home remains a popular option for receiving care with technology playing a key role in making this a reality.
Home—a trusted space
While home care services are not unique to the pandemic, reimbursement models monetizing health at home became a reality during this time. Regulations suddenly supported a new model of care.
Our health needs were addressed within the four walls of our homes—a space of trust, convenience, and family support.
For the elderly, options for managing chronic care expanded into their homes, too. The concept of hospital at home was born out of the need to reduce potential exposure of vulnerable populations to COVID-19 while supplying the same level of quality care received in a hospital.
In addition to limiting potential exposures to the virus, an early study shows hospital-level care in the patient’s home resulted in fewer laboratory orders, less time lying down along with being readmitted less frequently within 30 days.
Technology—the driving force for health at home
The virtual care emergency department (ED)
Imagine waking up from your sleep with pain in your rib cage. You’re fearful something is wrong, yet afraid to drive to the ED. Do you call an ambulance? Ask a friend to drive you? What if you could simply use the telephone or computer and be visually connected with an ED doctor?
Imagine the video conference where you can describe what you are experiencing, what triggered it, medications you are currently taking and answer additional questions directly with the ED care professional.
Being told you would be safe to wait until morning to call your primary care provider allows you to avoid sitting in an overcrowded ED for hours.
It allows you to try to sleep until the morning. It keeps the ED open for those patients who truly require the emergent care. Scenarios like this are helping virtual care expand successfully into homes.
Our lives happen between visits to our physicians. Between visits, wearables can support our health status by relaying important information to physicians. Many start out the day by putting a smart watch on or attaching a wearable to our body.
Our biological data such as heart rate, blood pressure, sweat sensing or blood glucose levels are some of the more common metrics monitored via our wearables.
New research and development addressing wearable electroencephalography (EEG) monitors for people with seizure disorders, or wearables for assessing lung function is providing more opportunities to focus on health at home.
The data from wearables supplies valuable feedback to the clinical teams helping to keep consumers in their homes and out of EDs or hospitals.
Healthcare apps are also making health at home a reality. Healthcare apps can support patient-physician relationships during the time we are not sitting face to face with our doctor. Apps can track physical activity, vital signs like blood pressure of blood sugars, provide medical reminders, and communicate with physicians.
The costs of apps range from a few dollars in a one-time payment to a monthly subscription fee of over $10. A quick check with your health plan could provide reimbursement or a discounted rate.
Tracking carbs and macros provide insight for people managing weight and for people with diabetes.
For app developers, learning how to “onboard” new users is key to maintaining stickiness and growing successful apps. Combining the actions of several apps into an updated version where the consumer has a “one stop shop” experience to carry out several actions is driving change and new opportunities.
The consumer wins
Healthcare consumers now have choices in terms of how they receive care. Receiving care at home can reduce anxiety and fear. And that’s a win for the patient. After all, decreasing stress is key to a body battling an illness.
Improved outcomes, increased patient satisfaction, and lowered costs have been the battle cry for value-based care over the years. Are we closer to achieving this? Perhaps a change in venue for care might lead to innovation in the way care is delivered in the short term.
Expanding the options for health at home is trending up. Healthcare organizations are looking for the blueprints to build innovative programs that attract consumers who have had a taste of the future and are not willing to turn back.