Feb 17th 2015

Health Road – Physician to Patient alignment in Digital Health


Blog by Vishnu Saxena – VP & Business Head – Diaspark Healthcare

Not long ago “IT to Business alignment” was IT industry’s darling phrase and one of the top agenda items among CIOs’ to do list. It might be still there but we don’t often hear it much. As the businesses from across different industries grew fast over the last 10 years, managing their expectations became the biggest challenge.

Businesses placed more and newer kinds of demands on their IT (such as M&A, Compliances etc.) and IT was not able to deliver on those demands. The gap grew fast between both and the discussion started on how IT can deliver true business outcomes and meet the ever changing needs of the business and thus – IT to Business alignment was born. To achieve it, frameworks such as ITIL – how IT should be serviced and COBIT – How IT should be governed in an organization, started to do the rounds and became de facto guidelines to achieve those Business to IT alignment objectives.

I remember my HP days while advocating ITIL/ITSM across APJ countries. Gradually, using these processes and governance frameworks, IT started to align with Business proactively and with arrival of SaaS and Cloud, this topic diminished slowly.

Seems like Physician to Patient alignment in Digital Health is at the same junction where IT to business alignment was a few years ago. Digital Heath is moving very fast – new innovations are happening everyday across all areas of Patient care – be it TeleHealth, mHealth, Patient Engagement, Population Health, Remote Monitoring. Digital Health is swiftly changing the way traditional care is delivered and also transforming Patients’ behavior and experiences alike. Patients like it and are embracing it with both arms because they will do anything which makes them play an active role in their care. It is normal. Therefore, if Digital Health provides them convenience, greater accessibility to physicians, personal health information, education etc. etc., there is no reason patients will not rush to it. The interesting part is – they are demanding the same from their physicians.

A recent research report from TechnologyAdvice indicates that physicians are lagging in adopting Digital Health while patients are demanding more from them. There is disconnect and expectation gap is growing. While there were ITIL and COBIT to help IT to align with business, but in Digital Health, there is no such framework that will enable physicians to align and embrace Digital Health faster.

While some physicians are tech savvy, they adopt Digital health technologies but not all. Still many see Digital Health as a distractor to their job. Some of them complain that new health applications and technologies provide little clinical value or do nothing to improve patient care, collect and deliver irrelevant data and generally are useless. Though, I don’t think physicians are at fault. One of the challenge physicians have is where and how to start. The choices across Digital Health technologies are simply too many and they are growing every day. Physicians are lost on what to choose and what not and this is partial reason for their less appetite towards Digital Health.

Morristown Medical center in New Jersey recently established a Digital Health shop next to the lobby to expose Digital Health innovations (devices, app etc.) to physicians and patients right there while driving awareness and motivation. This is a great example and I believe more hospitals should do it. It is not a question of which physician will adopt Digital Health but when. The other aspect which has potential to change physician’s behavior towards digital health adoption is the involvement and participation of more and more physicians in the development of health technologies. Physicians led Digital Health innovations and startups have the highest peer influences.

It takes mindset, efforts, money and simply it is a huge cultural shift for physicians to adopt Digital Health. A good motivational factor for Physicians is that health outcomes are positive for using Digital Health. At a Patient Engagement summit last week, there has been a great deal of discussions on how, why and where to start engaging patients and how not to do the PE. I think it is time now to start talking about Physician Engagement in Digital Health as well.

Please join the conversation @vishnu_saxena
(Thoughts are my own)

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