As we head into 2020, digital innovations are booming. New devices and technology consistently push the boundaries of our imaginations. While this new year is budding with new opportunities, it is clear that not all of these innovations are being adopted and utilized. Why is this? How can we deepen our understanding of recent trends while also keeping an eye towards the future? This article examines a few surveys and legislation that reveal major shifts and drivers of change in the adoption of digital tools.

In 2016, the American Medical Association (AMA) conducted a digital health study on physicians’ motivations and requirements for adopting digital clinical tools. The study involved a 15 minute online survey with 1,300 practicing US physicians. The results showed that improving efficiency, patient safety and diagnostic ability are the main areas of interest in digital tools. In addition, reducing burnout and improving physician patient relationship were also weighted heavily.

While there are many advantages to digital technology, there are often challenges to adopting and integrating new tools. Exploring this, the study found that the main requirements for physician adoption were coverage for liability, data privacy assured by experts, linking to electronic medical record (EMR) and billing/reimbursement. Of those using digital tools, the results showed that the largest users typically are primary care physicians and physicians in complex and large practices.

This leads to the question of how often these technologies are actually adopted in the market. In the AMA’s study article linked below, they reference Geoffrey Moore’s 1991 book Crossing the Chasm. They note that “tech adoption tends to follow a normal curve. Many innovations start strong but stall at 15% penetration; they never cross to the mainstream market. Innovations with penetration > 15% have significant potential to become mainstream. Those ≤ 15% are still works in progress.” It will be noteworthy to look at what pushes an innovation past that 15% mark both in the present as well as in the new landscape of the future.

While the study above looks at physician and market adoption, let’s also take a look at consumer adoption. Analyzing the preferences of consumers, Rock Health, a venture fund dedicated to digital health, compared results from their 2015 and 2018 Digital Health Consumer Adoption Surveys. They found that the utilization of wearable technology is migrating towards the management of a diagnosis or specific health conditions (and trending away from fitness). However, they highlighted that the main reason for using a wearable is still to track physical activity. Looking specifically at telemedicine, they reported that the percentage of consumers using at least one telemedicine channel recently skyrocketed, jumping from 68% in 2017 to 75% in 2018. They particularly noted the six fold increase in live video telemedicine in three years. Rock Health cites the passage of the Chronic Care Act in February 2018 as a precursor to this growth. The act was part of a budget legislation and improves Medicare Advantage telemedicine coverage. In particular, it integrates new payment policies aimed at enhancing management of chronic disease, care coordination and quality outcomes. It also expressly expands telemedicine for people who have had a stroke.

As outlined above, these surveys and legislation clearly demonstrate the rapidly changing adoption of digital tools. It is fascinating to see how people’s needs are changing, watch how new tools meet these needs and consider future patterns. While the perspectives of physicians and consumers are nuanced and critical to understand, there are likely many other perspectives and factors that also influence adoption and unlock the keys to true integration. Although it is helpful to zero in on survey data and analyze it from multiple angles, we can also consider what is not being captured in this data. What are the perspectives and factors that are hard to define or quantify? These factors may be difficult to measure, but powerful. As new hypotheses emerge, how can we extract meaning behind these amorphous drivers and learn from them for the future?

Sources

  1. 2016). Digital Health Study – Physicians’ motivations and requirements for adopting digital clinical tools. American Medical Association. https://www.ama-assn.org/sites/ama-assn.org/files/corp/media-browser/specialty%20group/washington/ama-digital-health-report923.pdf
  2. Arndt, R. Z. (2018, February 9). Chronic Care Act breaks down barriers to telemedicine use. Modern HealthCare. https://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20180209/NEWS/180209899/chronic-care-act-breaks-down-barriers-to-telemedicine-use
  3. Day, S., Zweig, M. Beyond Wellness for the Healthy: Digital Health Adoption 2018. Rock Health. https://rockhealth.com/reports/beyond-wellness-for-the-healthy-digital-health-consumer-adoption-2018/
  4. Moore, G. (1991). Crossing the Chasm. Harper Business Essentials.
  5. 870 – Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act of 2017. 115th Congress (2017-2018). Congress.gov. Retrieved February 26, 2020 from https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/870
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Founded in 2018, the Center for Innovation in Digital HealthCare serves as catalyst to promote the entrepreneurial and research-minded digital health ecosystem at Massachusetts General Hospital. It provides operational and advisory support to internal innovators and outside industry seeking to collaborate on digital health initiatives.
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Founded in 2018, the Center for Innovation in Digital HealthCare serves as catalyst to promote the entrepreneurial and research-minded digital health ecosystem at Massachusetts General Hospital. It provides operational and advisory support to internal innovators and outside industry seeking to collaborate on digital health initiatives.
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