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The Dawn of the Digital Consumer Healthcare Platform

Christopher Clark

Director Healthcare & Life Sciences, EPAM
  • Healthcare

There is a common growth factor shared among the most pervasive multi-sided digital consumer platforms (DCPs): a focus on the digital fulfillment of open access consumer market demands. Amazon, Google, Netflix and other DCP innovators have focused on digital consumer needs for frictionless, robust, omnichannel experiences. With these mass market interactions, DCPs have shaped American habits and expectations. Salesforce research recently reported that the majority of U.S. consumers now expect ‘connected’ digital experiences via real-time voice, video, text, web, mobile and email. In healthcare, these integrated communication capabilities of digital platforms are often referred to as “connected care.”

Why haven’t DCPs and the digital capabilities of connected care emerged in the healthcare industry? The simple answer is regulation. Regulation has long hindered digital healthcare and has long delayed the emergence of dominant DCPs in this space. Healthcare regulations have specifically restricted the digital delivery of care, access to accurate and comprehensive healthcare records, and the very process of the development of digital health solutions. 

The challenges of COVID-19 provided Americans with a clear proof point for the value of digital technologies in delivering care, adding momentum to the regulatory enablement of these technologies.  With ambulatory care office visits stymied during the pandemic, telemedicine utilization experienced over 6,000% volume increase compared to pre-pandemic volumes. In June 2020, in response to the pandemic, the U.S. government formed a small, but purposed, Task Force on Telehealth Policy, which includes the newly formed Alliance for Connected Care (ACC). The ACC exists to advocate for connected care for all Americans, which is defined as “real-time, electronic communication between a patient and a provider, including telehealth, remote patient monitoring, and secure email communication between clinicians and their patients.” The ACC’s backers include top DCP businesses like Amazon and Walmart, as well as traditional healthcare systems like Ascension Health.

Even before COVID-19, savvy American legislators were already acting decisively to improve the regulatory environment for digital innovation in healthcare. At the federal level, legislators passed the 21st Century Cures Act—which both enabled the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS ) to ban information blocking between healthcare market players and also directed the FDA to remove their jurisdiction over mobile medical applications and digital healthcare platforms to only those solutions risking patient safety. At the state level, connected care objectives achieved widespread deregulation even in the years leading up to the pandemic. Connected care capabilities had already been enabled in most U.S. states by 2019, according to the American Telemedicine Association’s 2019 State of the States Report: Coverage and Reimbursement:

real-time, electronic communication between patients and providers

asynchronous communication, such as the ability to exchange secure email and access and amend health records with connected care data

the use of remote patient monitoring devices and data

Connected care initiatives fight for key digital capabilities that may be delivered by leading DCPs as they emerge in healthcare. In fact, the learning curve for DCPs in healthcare will be shortened dramatically. Innovators will look to decades of American innovation that have formed the best digital platforms, business models and partnership models to quickly develop the right solutions for healthcare consumers.  A few of these digital solutions have already appeared in the industry as open innovation business models that dramatically accelerate the speed at which these technologies can fulfill the complex localized requirements of healthcare. Open innovation business models will provide a superior digital healthcare consumer platform wherein partners are incentivized to develop and deliver customized DCP capabilities that will remain their own intellectual property. These partnerships will likely be, at times, driven and consumed by existing U.S. healthcare networks. The coming wave of digital innovation in healthcare can drive value in many new ways both to patients and traditional healthcare entities. With consumer and regulatory sentiment shifting towards deregulation, the time for connected care is here and mainstream DCP offerings for healthcare are on the horizon. 

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