The patient-centric health approach is an inevitable evolution in the healthcare industry that is happening faster than expected. Recent changes in regulations, coupled with new technological advancements and the speedy adoption by caregivers and patients of these new technologies, have created an infinite amount of opportunities for disrupting and ultimately improving the healthcare industry.
Below are three categories of digital health startups that rightfully put patients at the center of their business and build products and services that serve unmet patient needs:
1) Telemedicine Services: Telemedicine is modernizing healthcare. Companies such as Doctor on Demand, which connects patients to physicians via mobile or web video chat, and First Opinion, which matches patients with doctors for unlimited medical text messaging, deliver healthcare services to broader groups. These companies are democratizing medicine by eliminating limitations of distance to a doctor’s office, difficulty of scheduling an appointment, and high costs of doctor visits. Telemedicine companies enable 24/7 access to doctors for primary health issues. That is a powerful disruption to the healthcare industry!
These telemedicine companies each offer slightly different services and are priced differently. Doctor on Demand offers video calls with doctors and charges $40 per session. This price is on par with most insurance co-pays and cheaper than most urgent care as stated by Adam Jackson, the Co-Founder and CEO of Doctor on Demand. First Opinion’s texting service is free for all unless you desire a response from a doctor under 5 minutes, in which case you can upgrade and subscribe to the premium version for $9 per month.
“There are 1.2 billion ambulatory care visits every year, and the vast majority of people are walking in for something like colds or urinary tract infections that are very amenable to an initial consult over video,” says Adam Jackson. If telemedicine companies could decrease these visits by 10-30%, there would be significant cost saving for the healthcare system and much time saving for patients.
2) Digital Therapeutic Solutions: Whereas telemedicine companies want to offer quick access to doctors for basic health questions, digital therapeutic companies aim to bring medicine to your home to address more chronic health issues (e.g. diabetes, depression, back pain) and permanent behavioral changes. Digital therapeutic companies utilize mobile and web technologies to bring clinically proven programs to patients more conveniently and cost effectively. Most of these companies also have a coaching system in place to help patients stick to their programs.
As Sean Duffy, the CEO and Co-Founder of Omada Health, finds that for any digital therapeutic to be clinically meaningful, the provider needs to clear two significant hurdles. One, the provider needs to genuinely engage and inspire the patient, both initially and over time. Two, the provider must unequivocally demonstrate efficacy of its programs to the medical community by rooting itself in the best science and by producing clinically-significant outcomes.
Omada, which raised $23 million Led by Andreessen Horowitz, is a pioneer in digital therapeutic solutions, offering a 16-week web-based program combined with coaching for pre-diabetes individuals. Another company in this category is ThriveOn, which offers 8 to 12 week personalized programs that are based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to users with mental health issues. Other companies such as Reflection Health have reimagined physical therapy by offering customized programs and interactive online tools to make physical rehabilitation engaging, effective, and affordable.
3) Patient Engagement Portals: Engaging and educating patients beyond a doctor visit or post-surgery has become an important topic in the healthcare system. The goal is to offer tools and technologies that facilitate communication with patients beyond the hospital environment, educate them about their health situation, empower them to stick to their medications and diet, and help them monitor their recovery.
Due to the Affordable Care Act, the 30-day readmission rate has become a significantly more important figure for health centers and hospital executives to monitor and manage. Prior to this, hospitals were paid piecemeal for every admission and procedure during patients’ stays. Now hospitals are penalized when patients return within 30 days for the same problem or because of a complication from their previous stay.
As a result, many health providers have started using technology to address patients’ needs after an operation or after an office visit with their physician. Startups that are offering patient engagement tools and technologies include: HealthLoop, Self Health Network, and Wellframe.
The companies in the three categories above will be changing the relationship between patients and their physicians, care teams, and hospitals forever. I’m curious to hear your insight and opinion about the points above and your experience using any of these services. Please share your view below.