Part 2: Why Digital Health Solutions (Or Why Not)?
Because most of the behaviors that influence health outcomes occur outside of the provider visit, it’s clear that people with chronic conditions need more support when they’re left to their own devices.
Health management setbacks can happen anytime and anywhere, depending on what people buy at the grocery store, where they go out to eat, who they interact with socially, how they sleep and move, whether or not they take their medications, and what they do when they have a health challenge.
Numerous studies show that adherence to recommended treatment protocols is remarkably poor. A 2017 study, for example, showed that 39.7% of patients with low back pain were classified as nonadherent in the first week and that 70% of patients were nonadherent by the end of a four-week treatment program.
When applied to people with chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, behavioral health, musculoskeletal pain, and obesity, digital health solutions have the potential to help people make the kind of choices that improve outcomes. Done correctly, digital health solutions can provide a low-cost, efficient way to reach an underserved population that places an outsized burden on the U.S. healthcare system.
Not All Digital Health Solutions Are Created Equal
Studies have shown that user engagement with digital health tracking solutions drops off very quickly, even when initial enthusiasm is high.
Michael C. Song, Ph.D., a device research and development senior manager for AstraZeneca’s MedImmune, reported in 2018 that “there are 325,000 health and fitness apps on the market, but … eighty-five percent have fewer than 5,000 downloads, and 50 percent of mHealth apps never break the 500-download mark. The final blow: Most mHealth apps see a usage drop-off rate of 64 percent after a single month.”
Just like short doctor visits, most digital health solutions miss the mark because they don’t facilitate sustainable behavior change. In truth, most mobile health apps are nothing more than electronic versions of tracking data with pen and paper.
Mobile health apps may provide valuable educational information and a system for monitoring blood pressure or glucose levels, but beyond their accessibility on a person’s smartphone they do little to keep users engaged, accountable, and motivated to succeed.
The missing piece of the puzzle is the use of data, artificial intelligence, and human intervention to increase engagement and adherence, based on the tenets of behavioral science. Effective ways of doing this include:
- Personalization that goes beyond the basic “nudge” across multiple domains, including timing, tone, content, channel, frequency, and intervention
- Proactive engagement with live, expert coaches who know how to meet user needs and can access real-time and historical data to guide patient relationships
- AI models that analyze data in a proactive way, in order to predict possible problems and take early action for maximum impact
Behavior Change Gets Results
By focusing on behavior change, next-generation digital health providers are leading the charge towards better outcomes. DarioHealth, for example, has more than a dozen clinical studies that highlight results like these:
reduction in eA1c reduction
reduction in hypoglycemia, a leading cause of falls in adults >65 years of age
reduction in high-cost diabetes complications
reduction in high-glucose readings
54% of users indicated severe pain level reduction over 13–18 months.
Digital health solutions that fail to focus on changing behaviors are unlikely to keep members engaged long enough to generate lasting results. The solutions that will win in the marketplace are those that engage members so that the right things to do become the easy thing to do.
In the third installment of this four-part blog series, we’ll outline an optimal digital health solution implementation plan. In addition to better health outcomes, health plans need to consider security, interoperability, risk alignment, and ROI.
Please note: this entire four-part blog series is available as an eBook you can download now.