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How to drive product innovation in digital health, RTM and RPM

|Wooded area with a computer screen perched on top of a balcony

In my last piece, I explained how market forces are aligning such that RTM (remote therapeutic monitoring) and RPM (remote patient monitoring) solutions are poised to take off, laying the groundwork for a future of healthcare where it’s possible to deliver personalized health solutions at scale.

To get there, though, we first need lots of people to use RTM and RPM solutions so we can generate enough data to drive the kinds of insights that let us personalize healthcare. And to drive near-universal adoption rates, we have to create the kinds of experiences that people actually want to use.

TXI helps health and health tech companies create and launch solutions that provide a higher level of care. Read on for a sense of how to invest in RTM and RPM innovation in a way that consistently drives user adoption and improves patient outcomes.

Background: the digital health adoption problem

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the healthcare system to embrace digital health solutions faster than it otherwise would have. That’s the good news: McKinsey research estimates that embracing digital health solutions could save between $1.5 and $3 trillion in global healthcare spending by 2030.

The bad news is that the same report shows that patient satisfaction with telemedicine appointments – one of the most common digital health applications available today – has fallen from a pandemic high of 65 percent to 56 percent.

Importantly, it’s not just Zoom visits with doctors that are failing to meet people’s needs. Many health and healthtech companies struggle with adoption rates when they release digital products, including RTM and RPM solutions.

That’s a big problem: digital health products are only as powerful as their adoption rates. If patients aren’t actively using the devices and apps designed to track their symptoms or deliver therapeutics, they’re not going to see the benefits those devices and apps can deliver. And they won’t capture the data necessary to inform future treatment decisions – individually, or at the population level.

In other words, if we develop RTM and RPM solutions that people don’t want to use, we won’t get any closer to the future of universally personalized healthcare I laid out in my last post. This is where product innovation comes in.

How product innovation solves for adoption

So why don’t patients use digital health products?

There are a few reasons. Among the most important is that many solutions on the market today don’t work for both the patient and the clinician.

For example, maybe they don’t fit that well into the patient’s daily life. If patients are required to significantly change their daily habits to use a digital health product, there's a good chance adherence will drop when the novelty wears off.

Or maybe convenience isn’t the problem, but the patient doesn’t trust the provider’s ability to keep their data secure. Again, the result is low adoption rates.

Even when a product does fit well into the patient’s life and they do trust its data security, the clinician may not have a way to incorporate data from the product into their system. If this is the case, the clinician can’t track the patient’s progress or use data from the product to inform treatment decisions, which can act as a sort of dead end for digital health solutions.

Product innovation explicitly solves for this by focusing on desired outcomes from the beginning. In the case of RTM and RPM, one of those outcomes is user adoption.

To get to that desired outcome, we rely on user research to guide our development from the start. That means talking with actual doctors and patients who will be using what we build to learn what they need and want – and what they don’t – and then developing and testing from there.

Driving adoption in RTM and RPM solutions

The beautiful thing about bringing product innovation principles to RTM and RPM solutions is that we’re able to both develop a wealth of insight to draw from and begin anew with each engagement.

For example, we know from working with Renalis on a digital therapeutic to treat overactive bladder (OAB) that the emotional tone of digital communications can have a big impact on adoption. To design digital products that patients want to use, we have to first understand how they feel about their symptoms and treatment.

That knowledge informs the ways we conduct user research for other digital health products and ensures we’re careful in crafting the language included in those products.

But this doesn’t mean we rely on tried-and-true techniques, designs, or features when it comes to actually developing RTM and RPM solutions. In fact, product innovation principles push us to interrogate our assumptions at every step of the process.

That’s particularly important in a space where we’re hoping to bring digital-first solutions to populations that may have limited digital literacy or access.

To a certain extent, COVID has helped us solve for the former (I’ll address the latter shortly): since the start of the pandemic, much of life (including healthcare) was pushed online, which led to increased tech adoption among adults aged 50 and older – a group that traditionally has low tech engagement rates.

The bigger challenge is often figuring out how a solution maps back into a clinician’s practice and treatment tracking: how do we make it easy for clinicians to view the data these devices are gathering so they can track a patient’s progress? How do we get them to be believers in the solutions that work? How do we get them to prescribe the solutions?

In some ways, this is a chicken-and-egg problem: to inspire clinicians to prescribe digital health solutions, we must be able to demonstrate that they work. To demonstrate that they work, we must have enough patient data. To gather that data, patients must use these solutions, and to use them, a clinician must require them to.

Now back to the question of limited digital access: how do we deliver RTM and RPM solutions to people who don’t have reliable internet connections, for example?

To understand how we think about this, let’s return to the rapid shift to telehealth many of us made at the start of the pandemic. This is an excellent real-life illustration of a classic product innovation exercise called “escape thinking.” Essentially, the exercise asks you to consider a common scenario (e.g., going to the doctor’s office) and removing one essential element (e.g., the physical office). This real-life experiment forced us to rethink what a doctor’s visit might look like – and develop a (mostly) functional alternative.

In RTM and RPM, many health and healthtech companies face a similar challenge: how can we deliver remote therapeutics or enable the remote tracking of physiological status for patients who…

  • Aren’t technologically savvy?
  • Don’t have smartphones, tablets, or wearables?
  • Don’t have internet access?

There is no single answer, of course. But there are answers – and TXI’s approach to working differently ensures that we find those answers in the form of products that are easy and rewarding for patients to use and to drive adoption and ongoing compliance with the treatment protocol.

A focus on outcomes + a proven approach

It’s hard to overstate the potential for RTM and RPM solutions to change the trajectory of healthcare: as these solutions gain widespread adoption, we’ll be able to gather vast amounts of data that we can then leverage to better understand health and deliver care on an individual level, at scale.

The key to making that happen is to create RTM and RPM solutions that meet patients’ needs, inspire high levels of adoption and adherence, and connect with providers’ existing systems.

TXI’s approach prioritizes adoption from day one so that our clients are able to deliver a real, transformative impact on their users’ lives. If that’s what you’re trying to do at your organization, get in touch. We’d love to talk you through how we might make that a reality.

Published by TXI Healthcare in Product Innovation