By Andrea Fox
The American Medical Association’s had offered a blueprint as a call to action to address the divide between the unprecedented levels of digital health funding, partnerships, mergers and acquisitions – and their underwhelming impact, thus far, on healthcare quality improvement
WHY IT MATTERS
The report, Closing the digital health disconnect: Blueprint for optimizing digitally enabled care is composed of six foundational actions recommended by the AMA:
- Build for patients and clinicians.
- Design with an equity lens.
- Re-center care around the patient-physician relationship.
- Improve and adopt payment models that incentivize high-value care.
- Create technologies and policies that reduce fragmentation.
- Scale evidence-based models quickly.
More than $100 billion of venture funding has been invested in digital health companies since 2010, but that investment has not addressed healthcare’s greatest needs, according to the AMA report.
“Despite this decade of progress, the U.S. healthcare system has very little to show for it – in the past 10 years, we have made minimal progress in addressing ongoing healthcare challenges of access, quality, outcomes, affordability and equity, even with the introduction of promising new digital health tools. In short, digital health to date has not lived up to its fullest potential,” said AMA officials.
Achieving the promise of digitally enabled health requires healthcare stakeholders to adopt the six pillars and work in partnership.
The blueprint, developed with support from Manatt Health, also offers opportunities for all healthcare stakeholders to contribute to the optimization of digitally enabled care, and AMA cites examples from several organizations.
Thus, each group of shareholders – physicians, health plans, employers, policymakers, health tech companies and venture capital/equity funders – has its part to play. For health technology companies, that role includes seeking patient and provider input on the design of new digital health tools, centering designs in health equity and simplifying provider workflows.
Physicians are more than just end users in the blueprint. They can get involved in the AMA Physician Innovation Networking platform and actively participate in influencing developers to create human-centered solutions. They should also pursue partnerships to extend their capabilities in serving patients, AMA says.
Citing Concert Health, a digital behavioral health medical group that integrates remote behavioral health clinicians into existing primary care practices, AMA said that coordinated digital services improved access to behavioral healthcare for patients at small, rural and larger medical practices.
THE LARGER TREND
Past AMA surveys and studies suggest an openness on the part of physicians to integrating digital technologies to improve patient access and health outcomes, and offer praise for improvements to physician workflows.
A three-time survey of 1,300 physicians conducted from 2016-2022 that AMA released in September showed that the adoption of digital tools is accelerating.
Earlier in the year, however, respondents to a telehealth survey by the organization expressed that though they were eager to increase the use of telehealth in their practices, the digital divide was the biggest barrier.
As a result, “the AMA will advocate for equitable access for under-resourced patient populations and communities, including but not limited to, supporting increased funding and planning for telehealth infrastructure such as broadband and internet-connected devices.”
ON THE RECORD
“When equitably designed and thoughtfully integrated, digital health tools can effectively augment and enhance care,” said AMA president Dr. Jack Resneck Jr. in a statement.
“Yet often, digital health products exist in silos and risk additional fragmentation, higher costs and diminished care experiences,” he said. “Optimizing the full potential of digitally enabled care requires a collaborative effort and the blueprint offered by the AMA outlines opportunities for physicians and other stakeholders to move in partnership toward improving the health of the nation.”