The World Health Organization defines Digital Health as “The field of knowledge and practice associated with the development and use of digital technologies to improve health”. Digital Health thus broadens the reach of eHealth by emphatically including the Health Consumer by means of smart devices and connectivity. In addition, the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Robotics also fall under Digital Health.
A fundamental precondition for a successful deployment is the ability to embed Digital Health in the primary process. This means a cost-effective and safe use in which value creation is being placed in the center, including Healthcare services, surveillance, health literature, education, knowledge and research.
eHealth is healthcare provider driven and develops performance and efficiency through the use of the Electronic patient and client record and clinical support. The development of eHealth is determined by the financial scope of the provider. The required greater financial space in combination with limited productivity increases makes it difficult for organizations to deploy and scale-up eHealth.
Digital Health focuses on demand (patient-centric) and is healthcare worker driven. Digital Health thus forms a broad umbrella that includes eHealth, mHealth, Health Consumer and Computing Science (e.g. Big Data, Genomics and AI).
The solutions form a digital channel between user and provider. Digital Health personalizes care and connects seamlessly to the care continuum based on data integration and improved care paths and outcomes.
Strategic use of Digital Health has the potential to transform healthcare systems that improve healthcare, economic and social outcomes.
Investments in Digital Health are made to unlock the value from Industrialization 4.0 available to healthcare and thus to use the opportunities and challenges of the 21st century. Digital Health such as Remote Patient Monitoring, Mobile Health and artificial intelligence show great potential. New digital channels are person-oriented and facilitate the consumer.
COVID-19 has shown that connection and collaboration are crucial. Many organizations have successfully scaled up Digital Health such as Remote Consultation, Patient monitoring and connectivity. Both existing and new solutions have been developed for this. Solutions that incorporate privacy and data protection in design demonstrate that rapid scaling is possible.
The full potential of Digital Health is achieved when initiatives are supported by a sustainable Digital Health Strategy that connects organisation, finance, people and technology.
Challenges such as staff shortages, a pressured operating result, higher administrative burdens and lagging productivity mean that many healthcare organizations are stuck. Absenteeism among employees in care and welfare in the fourth quarter of 2020 in the Netherlands amounted to 6.9%. In nursing, care and home care, absenteeism was even 8.5% (source: CBS).
At the same time, we must offer solutions to meet the rising demand for healthcare (3% per year until 2040) and staff shortages. Despite the strong growth of digital capital (16% per year), labor productivity in healthcare has hardly increased (0.1% per year). Investments in technology (product innovations) have made healthcare better, but not more efficient. This is because hardly any process innovations have taken place. In the Netherlands alone a productivity growth of 1% per year will reduce the required workforce by approximately 60,000 by 2040.
There are four factors that inhibit the development of Digital Health.
At the same time, Digital Health is also surrounded by Hype and wanting to be the first, as a result of which many initiatives do not come out of the pilot phase or the results achieved are insufficiently scientifically substantiated.
The fact that we are shifting healthcare systems from volume to value shows that quality, effectiveness and collaboration is an ongoing development.
A sustainable deployment of Digital Health requires continuous work on challenges such as interoperability, standards, incentives and expectations. Omnify uses a comprehensive set of requirements to encourage interoperability and the use of internationally recognized open standards. We are also working hard together with our partners to create favorable conditions such as incentives and funding.
Care organization can start developing the vision, strategy and roadmap. The development should preferably take place in a multidisciplinary team so that the solution closely matches the demand, mutual cooperation is improved and support is increased. Involve patients from the start. The use of Digital Health also requires different behaviour. Boards can make an enormous contribution to this by working on an open culture in which controlled experimentation and entrepreneurship are widely accepted.
In order to use Digital Health sustainably, the financial system must encourage the use of Digital Health provided it contributes to Quadruple Aim. This requires a strong business case from the healthcare organization. Healthcare organizations can take a big step forward by demonstrating scientifically to what extent the use of Digital Health results in Quadruple Aim.
To develop the roadmap for a sustainable health ecosystem, a joint end point is determined.
Current Digital Health pilots and projects are often limited to initial use cases, but are not about bridging the gap, integrating Digital Health and scaling up broadly in society.
Our clients indicate a need for a focused pragmatic approach to the current challenges. COVID-19 has shown that we can overcome existing barriers to collaboration and connection and has laid the foundation for the rapid introduction of digital health solutions such as remote consultation and monitoring.
A pragmatic approach to developing the roadmap requires the identification of the end point, a clear strategy and roadmap in which organizations and agencies dare to claim their role within the ecosystem and critical digital solutions form the basis of a targeted use of digital health.
Composing the Digital Health team
Use the results to develop a detailed Digital Health investment and revenue model and negotiate the funding model with healthcare payers and banks.