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Building Consumer Trust in the Digital Healthcare Era

By :
6 minutes, 54 seconds read

Since the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic, consumers have prioritized health above other needs. Healthcare organizations offering Digital Health solutions, need to find the right fit for both clinicians and patients. Consumer trust gaps between customers and adoption of digital health tools are fairly large due to privacy and security issues, poor first digital health experience, and lack of trust for tech companies. Following the launch of National Digital Health Mission, a LocalCircles survey found that around 60% of people want Digital Health Ids but are hesitant to share personal details beyond health and medical records. DigiLocker consent management framework will be followed to frame a proper consent management for people to ensure privacy of data.

How can Consumer Trust in Digital Healthcare be Built?

As the pandemic is strengthening the digital health space, now is a great time to strengthen the consumer trust in digital healthcare industry. Below are few ways that can be adopted:

1. Cross-industry Partnership:

With nowhere else to go customers have taken up the digital offerings to keep themselves safe. COVID-19 has served as a catalyst for people who are still hesitant to adopt digital health tools. This has led to cross-industry partnership among many companies to strengthen consumer trust in digital healthcare industry:

1. Medtronic collaborated with Manipal Hospital, Bangalore for ERAS deal, under the Value-Based Healthcare (VBHC) initiative in India. Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) increases the recovery rate of patients, thus reducing in-hospital stay and decreasing complication rate.  

2. LTTS partnered with Agappe Diagnostic, an in-vitro diagnostics company and launched an automated blood cell counter that would lower the diagnostic cost. LTTS has also partnered with GITA and DST (Department of Science and Technology) to form robotic endo-training kits. 

2. Privacy & Data Security

Only 45% of healthcare consumers trust tech companies in sharing personal data, according to a recent Accenture survey. As the healthcare data privacy and security bill is yet to come into effect in India, protecting consumer data has become very  important.  Healthtech startups like Practo and Healthifyme have recognized the importance of consumer trust in digital healthcare industry to ensure confidentiality: 

  1. Practo is the only Indian healthtech company which is ISO 27000 certified. It has regular  internal and external audits. As the company serves foreign countries as well, Practo’s servers comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (hipaa). They also have 256 bit encryption code to encrypt data files. 
  2. Wildflower Healthcare used Data Theorem App Secure, a mobile application security solution that provides security coverage. Data theorem performs static and dynamic analysis of iOS and android apps to detect flaws, security vulnerabilities and insecure open source libraries. It helped Wildflower identify and close 73 security issues and remove 11 harmful third-party libraries.

As the mobile health app sector is growing rapidly, there are certain measures that can be taken to ensure privacy of data:

  1. Two-factor authentication– a two-factor authentication increases app’s security by asking the user for two-step authentication. For example, a combination of either username/password and SMS, or username/password and email verification code can be implemented for apps. 
  2. SSL technology- SSL technology can be used to encrypt the data being transmitted between the app and server. 
  3. Audit Trail for EMR- regular audit trail enables tracking of all attempts to access patient data. Certain factors to keep in mind while auditing are the type and date of data accessed, and source from where the data was accessed.

3. Building trust through medical professionals-

Healthcare providers need to be well acquainted with digital health tools before recommending them to their patients. According to an Accenture survey, only 11% of people indicated that their regular healthcare provider has recommended digital tools to manage their health. 

Physicians are adopting digital health tools to provide televisits or virtual visits, a trend that has progressively increased in recent years. The growing trend can be attributed to improvements in Point of care or workflow enhancements, Clinical decision support, Patient engagement, Remote monitoring, and management for improved care and Remote monitoring for efficiency. Before recommending digital health tools, doctors should consider whether they can provide healthcare remotely and if certain technology is seamlessly integrable to their everyday practise. In the case of mHealth such as apps that help patients with diabetes and control blood glucose levels, assist those with back pain in performing exercises, and one-on-one therapeutic sessions, physicians are starting to offer a combination of well-being oriented tools in tandem with their professional advice. To gain physicians’ confidence in such tools, applications should be developed together with or by the medical professionals and based on scientific evidence which at present constitute only a tiny percentage of all “health apps”. 

To ensure people received quality healthcare during lockdown, Practo joined hands with thousands of experienced doctors to provide free online telemedicine solutions. More than 2500 patients received remote healthcare through sharing of images, discussions through texts, voice and video calls. Such an initiative has been able to raise consumer trust in digital healthcare industry, especially in telemedicine .  

4. Demand for Value-added services –

Due to COVID-19, the growing customer demands has led to the fast growth of the healthtech industry. People have experienced noticeable change in their health as health apps have helped to keep track of health issues and permit doctors to help people self-manage their health. Monitoring of steps, calories intake, medication doses have made it easier for remote checkup. The pandemic has brought a great opportunity for healthtech companies to meet the rising demands that can lead to the strengthening of trust. Moreover, 57% of consumers are open to receiving remote virtual care at home. Wearable devices and mobile health apps have witnessed a surge in use as they have facilitated healthcare by providing at-home virtual care:

  1. Cure.fit- professional health trainers provide daily guidance in yoga and DIY exercise.The app enables customers to keep a daily check on their health by serving as a healthy food delivery app and by comparing health status with competitors.
  2. 1 mg- it is an online medical store and healthcare app. Through the app, customers can book appointments, avail discounts while purchasing medicine,receive health tips and search doctors nearby.
  3. GoQii-  it is a wearable device that has an OLED display and 360 motion sensor that measure activity and sleep quality. It is a fitness tracker that nudges customers to have a healthier lifestyle.   

5. Personalization of healthcare delivery –

As pandemic has changed the way customers access care, dynamic demands are gradually making the healthtech industry flexible to provide customized care any time. Flexibility confirms the growing consumer trust in digital healthcare industry as their ever-changing demands are being met constantly. 

Healthtech companies have brought innovations to provide door-step services as follows:

  1. Hinge Health- it is a patient-driven digital hospital that launched a digital clinic for back and joint pain. It provides one-one-one sessions with therapists, personalized health coaching and a sensor technology that acts as a real-time health tracker. 
  2. Hello Heart- it is a hypertension smartphone solution provider that gives personalized peer-reviewed explanations for the results, without having to talk to anyone over the phone. It helps people to monitor sugar levels, blood pressure using AI technology, and provides health tips in smartphones.    

Conclusion

When it comes to healthcare delivery, there are many digital processes operating beyond what the customer sees. A layer of transparency must be built into processes that directly contends with a user’s sensitive health data. Organizations that monitor & report on digital trust with real-time accountability will be the new normal for value creation in the digital era, where personal information has become an economic commodity by itself. As digital health consumers become more informed, managing data use and protecting privacy will be an important barometer of how healthcare enterprises are trusted by their wider stakeholders.

To know about how HealthTech will bring hospitals to a customer’s doorstep, join us to attend our webinar on Digital Health Beyond COVID-19Register here!

Further Readings:

  1. Reimagining Medical Diagnosis with Chatbots
  2. HealthTech 101: How are Healthcare Technologies Reinventing Patient Care
  3. What will be the state of the healthcare industry post pandemic?
  4. Healthcare Chatbots: Innovative, Efficient, and Low-cost Care
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Virtual health: Delivering care through technology

8 minutes, 52 seconds read

Virtual Care, Telehealth, Telemedicine, etc. are terms used very synonymously. Indeed they are interrelated, however, Virtual Care is a broader term in which healthcare providers use digital tools to communicate and deliver care to their patients. Telehealth and Telemedicine are a part of Virtual Care where doctors deliver care to their patients, remotely via phone, video, or instant messaging. Virtual health includes care delivery beyond video consultation where hospitals provide services using technology such as wearables for remote monitoring, instruments for post-op care and second opinions, e-pharma services, and medical information, etc. 

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic gave an impetus to Virtual Care, but even in the Pre-COVID time, the Healthcare sector was slowly gearing up for this next wave in care delivery. What COVID-19 did was, help patients get acclimatized to the digital health tools and services. 

What does Virtual Health help with?

The pandemic has brought the burning issues of the healthcare sector to center stage. Patient experience and access to healthcare services are key differentiators for people while choosing a healthcare provider. Let’s take a look at some of these issues addressed by technology in the healthcare sector-

The increasing number of patients

Apart from the pandemic, there’s already been a rise in the number of patients due to drastic changes in lifestyle and food habits, an increase in pollution levels, increase in new types of viruses, etc. This has caused undue stress on healthcare institutions and workers and has led to the deterioration of the quality of patient care. Virtual Health technology such as mHealth apps, EHR (Electronic Health Record), video conferencing, etc. has helped reduce the pressure on hospitals.

Difficulty in traveling for old patients

The pace of life is increasing at a rapid rate. It is getting insanely difficult for the elder population to navigate through the traffic and commute long distances for a check-up. Many times, they have to depend on their family members to take them to hospitals. Moreover, they are at risk of exposure to viruses in hospitals and clinics. Now that they have had the experience of virtual consultations, they prefer care delivery at home rather than going to hospitals.

Chronic Diseases treatment

The number of people above the age of 45 face health issues. Some patients are suffering from chronic diseases regardless of age. Regular monitoring of their vitals is very important. Moreover people now prefer Virtual healthcare services which are easily accessible and save a lot of time, effort, and money. Now that people have found these services effective, they will opt for online consults rather than frequent in-person visits. 

Post-op Care

The duration of post-operative care is quite long and tedious. If given a choice, people will lean towards wearables which will help keep doctors posted on the status of the treatment. Many times, the cost of post-op care is more than the actual treatment and sometimes is not covered under insurance. Virtual care-delivery services will help reduce the financial burden of people going through these treatments.

Follow-ups/Second opinion  

Some health conditions need multiple follow-ups and second opinions to figure out the right approach to treat the issue. It is much easier for patients to do follow-up consults virtually rather than going through the tedious process of appointment booking, commuting, and waiting for their turn. It helps reduce the queue outside the doctor’s office as well. Some health issues need a second opinion, sometimes both by patients and doctors. Virtual Healthcare technologies make it possible for them to take second opinions from doctors all over the world. With electronic records and image sharing, doctors can diagnose the problem better.

What does Virtual Health include?

Virtual Health can be broadly divided into below applications-

mHealth Applications

mHealth applications have widespread use. From symptom checkers to appointment booking, from fitness trackers to uploading medical records, from video conferencing features to chatbot integrations, mHealth apps are on a rise mainly because of easy accessibility for the tech-savvy customers. According to a study by NCBI, among the 22 selected mHealth apps operating in India, Practo, mfine, DocsApp, 1mg, Netmeds, Lybrate, MediBuddy, and Medlife were found to be the eight most popular ones with over a million downloads and on average four-plus user rating out of five. All the above apps are mainly being used for online consults. This just goes about showing that people prefer having homecare services instead of stepping out. 

E-Triage Tools

The rising number of patients with different stages of COVID symptoms was a task to deal with. E-triage software here enables hospitals to triage patients into different sections when there’s an overload of patients at a particular time. Now, in the case of home care, e-triage tools help patients to access the gravity of their health condition and notify the healthcare provider accordingly. Such tools help reduce A&E waiting time and improve NHS performance. Many companies are building healthcare software integrating the E-triage module within EHR, telemedicine, clinical decision making, billing, etc. In India, Persistent Systems’ cutting edge platform has a Nurse Triage system that enables nurses to see the queue of patients and triage via phone calls. Once the calls are done, a triage report is generated and sent to care providers. Many leading doctors feel that AI in image triage will see a boost in near future.

Remote Patient Monitoring 

There are multiple benefits such as reduced post-op expenditure, time wastage, less exposure to other diseases, etc. The global remote patient monitoring devices market is expected to expand at a CAGR of 7.1% during the forecast period (2019–2027) according to Coherent Market Insights. Some of the top players in this space are Biotronik, Boston Scientific Corporation, CAS Medical Systems, CONTEC MEDICAL, Dragerwerk, GE Healthcare, Guangdong Biolight Meditech, Medtronic, Mindray Medical, Nihon Kohden, Philips Healthcare, Spacelabs Healthcare, Abbott. Companies such as GE Healthcare and Philips Healthcare have done a great job with building remote patient monitoring systems within the hospital premises as well as homecare for COVID patients. The main goal was to reduce the exposure of healthcare workers to at-risk patients. 

Synchronous and Asynchronous Telehealth

Synchronous telehealth, in other words, Telemedicine is where there is a live conversation between the patient and the doctor. Asynchronous telehealth involves the exchange of recorded data e.g. images, video, medical reports, pathology reports between patients and doctors, at times between doctors as well. Similar to mHealth space, companies like Practo, 1mg, Lybrate, Medlife, and Portea Medical in India are some of the top players in telehealth and telemedicine. Lybrate’s USP lies in CMS (Clinical Management System) which helps doctors with tedious tasks of managing patients and providing better care. Meanwhile, Portea Medical’s home consults and pharma delivery have more relevance with the audience as it combines technology with a touch of personalization. 

Digital Therapeutics

Digital Therapeutics delivers evidence-based therapies with the help of software which can be used both as a preventive measure as well as treatment application. The effectiveness of the medication and lifestyle changes on patients are monitored by leveraging technology. In India, major non-communicable diseases that account for 62% of the total mortality rate are CVD, diabetes, respiratory conditions, and cancer. Prominent global players in this space include Noom (US), Livongo Health (US), Omada Health (US), WellDoc (US), Pear Therapeutics (US), Proteus Digital Health (US), Propeller Health (US), Akili Interactive Labs (US), Better Therapeutics (US), etc. Omada Health is the pioneer in the DTx (Digital Therapeutics) that focused primarily on diabetes and pre-diabetes but now is branching out in the mental health space as well. In India, Altran (a part of Capgemini) is into building personalized DTx applications for clients. Whereas a start-up called Wellthy Therapeutics has ready solutions catering to multiple diseases.

Future of Virtual Health

Undoubtedly, there has been a massive increase in the adoption of Virtual Health technologies as people have gotten accustomed to the ease of certain services at home. In the coming future, mHealth apps, remote patient monitoring, and Digital therapeutics see a surge in demand from the customers. According to a study by Markets and Markets, “The global digital therapeutics market is projected to reach USD 6.9 billion by 2025 from USD 2.1 billion in 2020, at a CAGR of 26.7% during the forecast period (2020–2025).” A study by Fortune Business Insights, “The global mHealth market size is projected to reach USD 293.29 billion by 2026, exhibiting a CAGR of 29.1% during the forecast period.” A Research and Markets report says, “The remote patient monitoring market is expected to reach US$31.326 billion by the end of 2023.” Apart from the above, development in digital infrastructure such as virtual health stations where doctors can provide consultations globally, mobile ICUs, MRIs, X-rays, ultrasound equipment, the establishment of rural virtual care units reaching the remote areas of the country are some of the trends which will gain momentum. The focus would always lie upon the personalization of the virtual care experience for patients driven by data exchange and interoperability. 

Indeed, there are certain challenges to the implementation of these technologies, lack of infrastructure, and digital literacy amongst elders and lower strata of society. Many healthcare institutions still have inhibitions while investing in digital technologies fearing rejection from the customers. It will be crucial for care providers to choose the right partner for implementing these technologies and create awareness amongst people to adopt them.  

In a Nutshell

The success of virtual care relies on how well the digital experience is designed for the patient. “By 2025, as many as 95 percent of all customer interactions will be through channels supported by artificial intelligence (AI) technology” – Microsoft. The use of algorithms and AI for personalizing these experiences will be the key. 

Find out more about unchartered territories in ‘Blue Ocean’ of Digital Health. Join our webinar hosted by Parag Sharma (CEO, Mantra Labs) as he shares his insights on untapped opportunities using digital self-care tools within behavioral healthcare & emotional wellness.

Save your spot! 

Further Readings:

  1. Reimagining Medical Diagnosis with Chatbots
  2. HealthTech 101: How are Healthcare Technologies Reinventing Patient Care
  3. What will be the state of the healthcare industry post pandemic?
  4. Healthcare Chatbots: Innovative, Efficient, and Low-cost Care
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