There’s so much for makers of digital health products to plan for as part of their digital health strategy. At Datica, one of the main things we do is to strive to simplify the complex world of digital health, making it easier for developers of new products to succeed. It is this goal that drove us to produce the Digital Health Success Framework — a living document that provides a guide through the journey of developing a HIPAA compliant application for healthcare.
By saying this is a live document, what I mean is that we are continually adding to it and improving it to increase its relevancy. Our latest addition to the DHSF is a new section meant to help you gain a better understanding of the evidence needed as part of your digital health strategy.
This new chapter of the Digital Health Success Framework (DHSF) will take you through the steps needed to prove your application works — from your first month in business all the way to the twenty-second. Here’s what you’ll learn, month-by-month in the Evidence section.
Validating the idea
There are a lot of things broken in healthcare and few areas where you can say that care is optimized for patients, let alone providers. The challenge is that there are some strong industry debts, or ingrained impediments, that make some improvements in care unrealistic, especially on aggressive timelines.
Because of this, the first step in a digital health evidence strategy is to engage with an expert, typically a care provider, champion, or administrator. The outcome of this engagement should be either 1) feedback to adjust the idea and assumptions underlying the digital health product or 2) an expert opinion, ideally in the form of a quote that can be used publicly, in support of the digital health product.
Develop an evidence roadmap
Not all digital health product categories are created equal when it comes to evidence. The important thing to understand at this stage is how the different kinds of evidence apply to your product. If your product is integrated into care, like a digital therapeutic or a care management platform, then moving towards peer-reviewed evidence in support of the way your product improves outcomes, is necessary. If your product helps to fill empty slots in schedules, you likely won’t ever need to worry about peer-reviewed evidence but you will need to build a body of evidence from real customer data to support your claims of spots filled or recovering of lost revenue.
It’s at this point that you want to roughly map out your evidence roadmap, which is simply a timeline of when you expect, or hope, to have different levels of evidence. Like a product roadmap, it’s going to be goal-oriented in that you need to back into timelines based on your goal delivery dates for different kinds of evidence.
Create collateral on evidence for your product
It would be nice to have a NEJM or JAMA article in support of your product but that’s highly unlikely at this stage of your journey. The goal at this stage is to empower your customer-facing teams with clear and concise collateral containing data about the benefits of your product from real-world applications.
One additional thing to consider at this stage is customizing evidence collateral for your intended audiences. Maybe you only have one buyer but it’s likely there are other people involved in the buying process, especially if you’re selling to enterprises. Think about ways you can tailor the data, maybe even just the data you highlight, for different audiences.
Apply healthcare economics to your digital health solution
Healthcare economics is focused, at a high level, on the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare — everything from prevention and delivery to collections. Wikipedia has a good primer, though you could get a Ph.D. in healthcare economics because it’s that big of a subject.
The thing that’s hard about healthcare economics is that what seems like a perfectly logical reason to implement a digital health solution, namely because it would result in better care, less expensive overall costs, and clear ROI, doesn’t always make sense.
You’ll need to understand where and how economic benefits are realized. Many digital health solutions, especially those that target improving outcomes, benefit payors and not health care delivery organizations. This is changing with models that pay for value and not volume, things like readmission penalties and ACOs, but healthcare today largely still operates on volume and not value.
Add credibility and weight to your evidence
By this time, you should have traction and will be looking to add new customers and implementations for your digital health product. At this stage, you should be thinking about how to expand the collateral you have already created by adding credibility.
The best way is getting something published on your evidence. This doesn’t have to be in a peer-reviewed clinical journal but could be an online publication. Think of health management publications like Health Affairs. Or, it could simply be joint collateral with one of your customers.
Explore the Digital Health Success Framework.