Sign up now

Digital health in the fast lane

October 1, 2019 · 3 min read

It was a “life simulation game” which was played a lot like a board game. Players could work, study, build a career, buy stuff and basically… “play the game of life”. The objective of the game was to be the first player to achieve 100% success and this was achieved by reaching the top of four goals. The goals were wealth, happiness, education and career.

That’s right, health was not one of the goals. One could argue that happiness by assumption includes being healthy and they are certainly connected but they are definitely not one and the same thing.

Health did appear in some form during the game. For example on a random basis a player could happen to get sick and had to spend money to pay the medical bills. Sounds familiar, right?

Now let’s get back to Digital health and try to draw a parallel to the above mentioned life simulation game. Many digital health companies and especially those which have adopted the patient-centric approach act as if health is a life goal when, for many people, it’s not. Poor health is the obstacle that keeps them away from achieving their other life goals, but good health is pretty much expected. Sometimes it’s founders of digital health companies who don’t realize this and are eager to “disrupt healthcare” and change everyone’s life for the better, expecting that the main beneficiary, the patient, would eagerly adopt the provided technology and mechanisms. Sometimes it’s investors who expect big growth numbers because, well… “healthcare is broken and obviously fixing it should lead to those growth numbers”.

And people start to wonder, what is the cost of these expectations for fast growth in Digital health

Obsessed by numbers and growth, companies even start doing obviously stupid things. For example, one company in the telehealth space for many years had a “lives saved” counter on their website. There are so many reasons why companies in the health space shouldn’t do this.

Comparing real life to a computer game (from the nineties) is, mildly put, an oversimplification. Also, there are certain groups of people, for example people with chronic conditions, for whom some of the above statements are not quite right, but despite that, we could still make the point that digital health companies would do much better if they understand one simple principle. Patient centricity means putting the patient in the center and building solutions and services around that center and not putting a solution in the center of patients’ lives. Digital health companies are not life saviours. Patients can save their own lives, healthcare providers can save lives, the right medicine can save lives. Digital health companies are just facilitators.

Healee is no different than the other digital health companies. What we try to facilitate is the doctor – patient communication by giving the right instruments and workflows to both doctors and patients. While we talk a lot about telemedicine and telehealth when we try to communicate what we do, we often try to differentiate ourselves from the rest of the telehealth space and especially from the Direct-to-Consumer telehealth companies

For us, telehealth consultations shouldn’t be “siloed” and provided only by a certain group of doctors and certain providers. Every doctor should be given the right instruments to provide online consultations.

For us, there shouldn’t be a clear distinction between online and on-site consultations. It should be possible to start every on-site consultation online and later transition to on-site if necessary. Doctors and patients should also have the right tools to follow up in an online manner after every on-site consultation.

Why? Because a lot of time could be saved, both doctors’ and patients’. And more importantly, a more timely and efficient care could be provided, and ultimately this would lead to better health outcomes.

To escape from the frequent association of telemedicine with “live video calls with doctors”, because a live video call is just a fraction of the interaction that could happen between a doctor and a patient in the Healee platform, we started using the phrase “digitally enhanced patient care”.  Coining a new term is often the worst thing a company could do but that was our last resort to avoid the wrong telemedicine connotation. Moreover, this term matches much better the solution that we deliver to patients and doctors.

For many sectors, “common sense” is enough for a business stakeholder to consider and try a certain solution. In the healthcare space hearing “That sounds reasonable, I’ll try it and see whether it works for me” is rare. The healthcare providers often demand evidence prior to making any further steps and that’s pretty much expected having in mind what’s the stake – patients’ health.

Luckily enough for us, we’ve already validated the concept and we’ve gathered enough evidence to show that the digitally enhanced patient care that Healee facilitates improves patients’ lives and helps doctors be more productive and deliver better care to their patients.