The promise of a revolution in healthcare delivery by using digital health as its army requires more than superficial changes in how humanity seeks and utilizes healthcare services. For this reason, Digital Health is a disruption: in its ideal form, mortality and disability would start to decrease thanks to the interventions delivered to someone’s mobile phone or tablet all while costing less and improving efficiency.
But, the current reality is that factors that are curving digital health growth require deep systematic changes to encourage adoption, allow for scalability, and provide security. The future of healthcare, vis-à-vis global, community, and personal health depends on how well we address and resolve these barriers.
Some of these barriers are:
2. Interoperability and Cost
3. Data use
Digital Health market is growing at a fast pace: the projected growth of the global digital health marketplace to surpass USD 379 billion by 2024. This growth can be attributed to factors such as acceptance of digital innovation in governmental and societal groups, the exponential rise in different mobile platform use (mobile phones, tablets), and the digitization of healthcare delivery systems, coupled with pressure exerted on healthcare industries to cut costs
However, concerns regarding scalability, investment, end user adoptability, and data safety continue to curb this growth.
- What are some of the barriers to Adoption of Digital Health?
So, how do we go from where we are now to the growth predicted for 2024 if adoption can vary within world regions, countries, cities, and communities? Barriers that are sourced in adoption can range from individual to system mindsets, perceived relevance and effectiveness of the technology, the feasibility of scalability, and personal inferences/connotations of the technology and market.
a) Mindset: “What if it’s wrong and we make a mistake?”
Even though it should not be described this way, the business model of healthcare delivery has been intrinsically tied to volume. And, its mindset has been bogged down by valid, but hindering fears of risk and liability (not referring to malicious intent, but to the culture or dogma of what is involved in the process for new concepts to be adopted in the healthcare delivery space). No individual provider, or health system, wants to be responsible for a death or disability because they relied on a bad intervention.
b) Exposure: “How do you use this thing?!”
Sometimes, the thought of what to do with the vast amount of data that is available from analytics tools is enough to want to stay in a paper chart world; especially, if you lack specialized staffing or financial resources to handle data. But, even if you can buy digital health tools that provide analytics, we can’t collect data just for the sake of having it. Having basic knowledge of how digital products work is an important piece to help the adoption of such technology. Unfortunately, very few healthcare providers are being taught about digital health tools; how they are utilized and their benefits. The American Medical Association is an agreement that not enough education and training is being provided to medical students in the area of E.H.R. documentation and use. Also, there is a dichotomy between the availability of a tech-savvy workforce and companies that adapt to the generational changes in the workforce. Baby boomers work different than Gen Xers’, and both are significantly behind the adaptability of Millennials. Somehow, we must bridge the gap of differences between those who lead healthcare organizations with tools of the past and those that function with emerging technologies.
c) Effectiveness and Feasibility: “It seems complicated; it might not work for us”
Skepticism in healthcare can be a healthy tool. For some it’s a gut feeling, for others it’s a hunch that something isn’t right. But, when it comes to making critical, life or death decisions the knowledge acquired through years of education, training, and work allows a provider to make decision-based on what they know is best for the patient in that situation. Sometimes, this skepticism can transfer over to adopting new behaviors or knowledge. This lack of trust might be based on limited knowledge of how these digital interventions can improve the delivery of care or patient outcomes. Or, there might be a doubt that these tools can be adapted successfully to the current space that is delivering the care. Whether its limited education, lack of exposure to digital health tools, or skepticism that these interventions would work at all, these barriers must be addressed in a collaborative way. Regardless of what generation you belong to, exploring ways of how new digital health technologies can be beneficial requires an open mind and maybe, some extra help from early adopters.
d) Human Touch
Finally, another relevant barrier around digital health adoption is the perceived impact on the face to face interactions between patients and their providers. For millennia, if one needed the care of any sort, there was the unavoidable requirement of a visual examination. While there is not an agenda to remove face to face interactions from the health care delivery or education spaces, there is an uncomfortable discussion emerging on whether it is still necessary for in-person provider visits. I say it is uncomfortable because not only is digital health proposing that its tools can outperform humans in certain tasks (AI, deep learning, analytics), but there is an inference that there is a possibility of reducing the workforce of certain specialties all the while preserving (more often improving) outcomes.
What are other barriers to digital health adoption that you feel were not mentioned? Did you ascribe to any the ones mentioned here? Would love to hear your thoughts and opinions (dissenting ones too, those are always enriching). Stay tuned for a discussion on barriers from the interoperability and cost perspective.
Brohan, M. (2018, February 12). Kaiser reports another big year of growth in digital healthcare. Retrieved June 9, 2018, from www.digitalcommerce360.com: https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/2018/02/12/kaiser-reports-another-big-year-of-growth-in-digital-healthcare/
Globe Newswire. (2018, April 3). Digital Health Market will register phenomenal growth of 26% to beat $379 bn by 2024: Global Market Insights, Inc. Retrieved June 7, 2018, from www.globenewswire.com: https://globenewswire.com/news-release/2018/04/03/1458864/0/en/Digital-Health-Market-will-register-phenomenal-growth-of-26-to-beat-379-bn-by-2024-Global-Market-Insights-Inc.html
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