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Health 2.0 Conference: Driving innovation and improving healthcare experiences for all

In July, Rex Chekal flew to Las Vegas for the Health 2.0 conference, where he joined leaders from pharma, healthcare, medical devices, and biotech to dig into questions about what innovation looks like across the healthcare ecosystem today.

Rex’s background is in design. In his role as Principal Product Designer at TXI, he works with clients to create user-friendly and empathetic digital therapeutics that cater to the needs of both patients and healthcare practitioners. If healthcare innovations don’t do that, as Rex has frequently argued, they won’t make anyone’s life better.

His comments sparked some interesting conversations at the conference. If you weren’t able to make it, read on for highlights.

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The promise of digital therapeutics: greater access & more personalized care

There's a good reason analysts are predicting that the global digital therapeutics market will reach $32.5 billion by 2030: these exciting solutions make it possible for medical professionals to focus more time and energy on patient care.

That’s an incredible promise given the current (and persistent) labor shortages plaguing much of the healthcare industry.

So how do digital therapeutics make it possible? As Rex discussed onstage, they use technology like machine learning and artificial intelligence to automate processes that would have otherwise been manual––and exceptionally time-consuming. Think: transcribing and uploading clinical notes, handing billing, filing insurance claims, etc.

Digital therapeutics can also help make healthcare more accessible to under-resourced communities via telemedicine and mobile healthcare applications. (In fact, that was a big driver in our co-development of CeCe, a chatbot that helps treat overactive bladder: as many as one-third of women have OAB symptoms, and many live more than four hours from a bladder specialist!)

CeCe, a chatbot that helps treat overactive bladder

The implications for healthcare are significant:

  • Fewer errors: Automating tasks greatly reduces the chance of introducing human error, which translates to better health outcomes for everyone.

  • More personalized care: Machine learning algorithms in diagnostics and treatment plans can lead to more evidence-based care, better interventions for each patient’s unique health conditions, and (again) better health outcomes.

  • Greater access to care: When treatment is available via smartphone, those in rural areas, those with mobility issues, and those with limited access to transportation can access care much more easily. Today, about 15 percent of the world’s population has no access to essential healthcare services.

  • Less burnout among healthcare professionals: When providers don’t have to spend hours each night on paperwork, they can save their energy for impactful, patient-focused work. Over time, this can decrease provider burnout and preserve the healthcare workforce.

The promise of digital therapeutics is tremendous. So how do we build digital health products that deliver? In his panel discussion, Rex emphasized the importance of embracing human-centered design.

Living up to digital health’s promise: the importance of human-centered design

An estimated 5.4 billion people own smartphones worldwide, making these devices an incredibly powerful tool for administering digital therapeutics. For those therapeutics to meaningfully improve health, though, they have to be tailored for the medium and designed to work for users in various circumstances. They have to be user-friendly with intuitive interfaces.

Using the principles of human-centered design when developing digital therapeutics ensures these things happen.

Consider, for example, older adults. By 2050, 15 percent of the world’s population will be over 65. People in this age group tend to need the most medical care, often have complex medical needs, and may have mobility and / or transportation limitations that make traveling to see providers challenging.

In other words, it’s a group that can greatly benefit from digital therapeutics.

But for those therapeutics to work, they have to be designed for users’ needs and their level of technological literacy. People designing digital health solutions, then, must start their work by engaging with these users. This user-first approach improves patient engagement and adherence to treatment plans and reduces healthcare costs associated with non-compliance and readmissions.

How regulators are making way for digital health

Rex’s panel also focused on policy and regulation in digital therapeutics. The panelists were excited about the ways regulation is catching up to the field’s rapid growth. One notable development is the FDA Modernization Act 2.0, which paves the way for computer-assisted and artificial intelligence data on new drugs to be accepted in place of data from animal testing.

This represents a regulatory paradigm shift, enabling more efficient and valid data generation for the safety and efficacy profiles of medical products and digital therapeutics.

It could also lead to more affordable drugs and therapeutics. Today, the average cost of developing a new drug is about $2.6 billion. Incorporating AI-driven data during regulatory processes could both reduce the cost and expedite approval, making life-saving treatments available sooner and to more people.

As digital therapeutics evolve, policymakers must balance the work of encouraging innovation and that of ensuring patient safety. Implementing robust data privacy laws and ethical guidelines is essential to protect patient data while leveraging the vast potential of digital health technologies.

Digital therapeutics today: already enhancing patient care

While the panelists spoke about the promise of digital therapeutics, they also discussed the real-world impact digital health products are already having.

Brian Feng, MD, Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of Evidence Care Doctor, provided a unique perspective as an emergency room physician. He stressed that digital therapeutics play a crucial role in empowering healthcare professionals with the latest evidence-based data to improve patient care. By integrating digital solutions into their workflows, he said, doctors and nurses can deliver better care, improving patient outcomes and financial results.

Indeed, a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research came to a similar conclusion: When digital therapeutics are used in chronic disease management…

  • Hospital admissions are reduced by 44 percent; and

  • ER visits are reduced by 37 percent.

In other words: digital health interventions led to better patient outcomes and significant cost savings for healthcare systems.

That digital therapeutics work so well for chronic illnesses in particular is especially encouraging, as chronic diseases account for about 75 percent of healthcare spending in the US.

How will AI and automation shape digital therapeutics?

The panelists had a lot to say about AI and automation. Rex raised concerns about the transference of trust from healthcare professionals to AI-powered systems. He emphasized that one of the key challenges of incorporating AI and automation into digital health solutions is balancing the capabilities of these technologies with the ethical guidelines of healthcare work.

On the technical side, AI solutions will have to address challenges like data interoperability and user experience.

Getting all of that right will be a pressing concern as AI solutions proliferate: according to a report by Accenture, using AI in US healthcare (to enhance patient engagement and support, provide real-time information and guidance, etc.) could create $150 billion in annual savings by 2026.

Read more about AI and the enterprise

Digital health will usher in a brighter future

As the healthcare industry continues to evolve, embracing digital therapeutics, human-centered design, and advancements in AI and automation will lead to improved patient outcomes, reduced disparities, and a more inclusive healthcare system.

By staying at the forefront of these innovative technologies, healthcare professionals, providers, researchers, and technologists can shape a brighter and more efficient future for healthcare.

By embracing human-centered design and ensuring robust policy and regulations, the healthcare industry can harness the full potential of digital therapeutics to create a more equitable and patient-centric future.

For more information on the insights from this article or to speak with Rex Chekal, contact us.

Published by Rex Chekal in Digital Health

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