Healthcare Tech

A new report highlights the divide between health tech used by patients and hospitals

Patients are embracing health tech. Why are health systems slow to do the same?
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Amelia Kinsinger

· 4 min read

More patients are turning to wearable technologies, like Apple Watches and Oura Rings, to monitor everything from their sleep cycles to heart health. But when those devices detect potential medical emergencies, they often don’t immediately connect patients with a healthcare provider. On top of that, those data points aren’t always integrated into a patient’s electronic health record or future patient care.

That disconnect underscores the challenges facing digital healthcare startups. And it’s why health systems should work with investors and tech entrepreneurs to develop and implement digital health and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, according to a new study from Weill Cornell Medicine and University of Miami researchers.

“When [patients] have a medical crisis—or they are suffering from chronic conditions—they seek care in hospital systems. You must have the most innovative [technologies], which are coming from early stage startups, operationalized in the systems,” Iredia Olaye, a researcher partnered with Weill Cornell and the CEO of innovation firm Covered By Group, told Healthcare Brew.

The study, which examined the challenges of integrating new technologies in clinical practice, identified four primary barriers: insufficient knowledge of health system technology procurement protocols, which can vary across facilities; strict regulations and clinical trial requirements; obstacles in the health system technology procurement process; and competitive disadvantages for smaller startups.

Researchers also found that venture capital financing for early-stage digital health startups affected business model selection; entrepreneurs are shifting away from selling directly to health care systems to direct-to-consumer and direct-to-employer models.

Olaye argued that selling directly to consumers and employers is “much simpler” for companies to hit venture metrics and scale quickly than selling to healthcare systems, for which approval can take anywhere from 12 to 24 months. It also gives companies “more control” over marketing.

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With venture capital investments in healthcare expected to cool in the coming months—and the ripple effects from Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse—there are opportunities for alternative investment vehicles, like foundations, to support these efforts, she added.

The study highlights the “critical need for investors, payers, health care organizations, regulatory boards, and technology stakeholders to collaborate and strategize on the best processes to improve digital healthcare technology integration into clinical practice.” That, Olaye said, could include a “co-creation model,” in which hospitals work directly with startups and investors on strategies to address their own digital health and AI gaps.

“Not only do we need to have the science to develop these technologies to solve medical problems,” she said. “But the science of commercialization: What exactly needs to happen for these technologies to be translated in a fast, efficient, and cost-effective way?”

For Diana Jacob, COO of New York City Health and Hospitals, integrating digital health technologies into bedside care will be key to the future of hospital care.

“The ability for our patients to communicate with us, to interact with us as healthcare providers to share their feedback and their needs in real time—the ability to really remote monitor—those are really important,” she told Healthcare Brew. “Simple things, like just being able to Zoom into a patient in their room without physically having to go in, and having cameras in every room: that seems so simple, right? But it’s not the structure that we have in conventional hospital settings today.”

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