2016 a year of progress in digital health

In digital health, a lot can change in a year. This time last year, CMS had just announced Medicare reimbursement for telemedicine services. At the start of 2016, we are facing the possible end to meaningful use.
10:38 AM

By Ryan Beckland

In digital health, a lot can change in a year. This time last year, CMS had just announced Medicare reimbursement for telemedicine services. At the start of 2016, we are facing the possible end to meaningful use. Whether this will be an entire phase out of meaningful use or a modification of requirements is yet to be known.

Though many providers had implemented Stage 1 of meaningful use, more than 60 percent of hospitals and about 90 percent of physicians have yet to attest to Stage 2. This gap in progress between Stage 1 and 2 is largely due to the lack of infrastructure to support the patient engagement and data exchange capabilities key to Stage 2. Building that infrastructure is key to making sustainable changes to care delivery and to achieving the full transition to value-based care. That is why technology will be the KEY driver of healthcare trends in 2016.

Technology is powering access to patients, access to care, and access to new insights. It offers connection points with patients via messaging, video or phone. It offers the infrastructure needed to remotely monitor patients with digital health and analytics platforms. It provides the at-home devices and wearables needed to identify and remedy health issues. But most importantly to value-based care, technology offers all healthcare stakeholders the ability to capture and integrate real-time patient data.

In 2015, we saw great strides made by providers, payers, and pharmaceutical companies to change the way we deliver, access, and think about healthcare. Let’s delve into a quick overview of the progress that has been made in each sector over the past year.

Progress for Pharma

In pharma, we saw the clearest growth and acceleration in leveraging technology and data to create more effective processes. Last year, we finally started to see pharmaceutical companies and contract research organizations adopt digital health technologies to improve clinical trials, drug delivery, and medication adherence.

For example, Sanofi launched the first fully remote, FDA-approved clinical trial for diabetes patients with Clinpal—a patient-centered clinical trial engagement platform. In addition, Boehringer Ingelheim, a top-20 pharma company internationally with over 13 billion dollars in annual revenue, joined forces with Medidata to integrate data analytics and risk-based monitoring capabilities into several stages of their drug development process.

Progress for Providers

Similarly, providers made progress with digital health initiatives in 2015:

  • The Mayo Clinic’s Center for Innovation launched OB Nest—a prenatal program combining remote monitoring, analytics, and asynchronous video visits to supplement in-person care offerings.


  • Beth Israel announced a connected health application that can send weight and blood pressure readings directly from at-home connected devices to the hospital.


  • Notably, at the end of 2015, sixty-six of the one hundred largest US hospitals were providing mobile applications for patients. However, it was also reported that only two percent of patients from those sixty-six hospitals were actively using these applications.


Clearly the patient engagement side is lacking, but progress is being made. Validic’s global digital health survey last year found that 41 percent of healthcare companies—mostly providers—were doing something with digital health as a means to conservatively transition to value-based care. Health systems are slowly advancing on digital health initiatives—but we are already seeing from our client discussions that there will be significantly more strides made in 2016.

Progress for Payers

Lastly, payers made notable advancements to their digital health objectives in 2015, but in general, their progress lagged behind that of providers and pharma. The payer market is slowly evolving to address better payment models and to focus on healthy living as a means to offset costs.

For example, HumanaVitality launched a mobile wellness program—offering remote monitoring, assessments and challenges as a way to prompt members to stay healthy and active. In addition, Highmark announced that—starting in 2015—it would cover web-based dermatologist visits.

This is a growing trend among payers—to reimburse for or provide remote services as part of health offerings. Payers recognize that there is a huge opportunity to improve services to their members with digital health initiatives. We will continue to see growth in this area, and I believe the payer market is where we will see the most growth in 2016 for digital health adoption.

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