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Health firms may want to take a hard look at the evidence of actual impact before adopting solutions from leading US digital health companies, as few have demonstrated they’re capable of improving outcomes for high-burden chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes, per a new study cited by Healthcare Dive.

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The analysis found that the 20 most well-funded private US digital health companies have published few studies measuring their products’ impact on outcomes, cost, or access to care — and studies that were conducted looked primarily at healthy subjects.

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A lack of evidence supporting digital health’s impact on chronic diseases should prompt providers to reassess new tech investments.

  • Patients with chronic diseases account for the overwhelming majority of healthcare utilization. If the solutions offered by the leading digital health vendors don’t have a proven impact on high-burden diseases, they’re unlikely to help providers cut into the 90% of the US’ $3.3 trillion in annual healthcare spending, per the CDC. And a lack of evidence supporting digital health’s impact on medical outcomes may be attributable to leading companies targeting their products on general consumer wellness — like fitness and lifestyle interventions — rather than tackling the treatment of chronic diseases.
  • Health firms will be hard pressed to see a positive return on investment (ROI) from new tech if it doesn’t improve chronic disease outcomes. Scaling new tech is an expensive endeavor: In addition to the up-front costs of implementing new tech, providers and payers may also have to invest in staff training and patient education. Investing in tech from top digital health vendors likely isn’t worth it unless there’s prior evidence the solution can move the needle on healthcare costs, outcomes, or access.
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Health firms that want to capitalize on the rapid pace of digital health innovation without risking investments in tech that hasn’t been validated could benefit from building or partnering with innovation centers. Digital health hubs enable healthcare organizations to validate the effectiveness of new tech in-house and focus innovation in areas that satisfy an organizational need.

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These centers emerged as a popular investment last year: Health systems Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Lancaster General Health, Mount Sinai, and payer Humana all launched digital health incubators in 2018.

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