How Payers Can Solve the Health App Disconnect

The vast amount of data payers collect from members can transform the way healthcare is delivered. Leveraging technology already in use, payers have the opportunity to develop new ways to attract and retain members, while increasing the quality of care.

Imagine you stroll into a hardware store and say you want ideas for the best way to water your lawn. The salesman walks you to an aisle where there is a brightly colored “slip and slide”.

“Here’s what you need”, he says.

“But I need to water about 10K square feet of grass,” you say.

The sales guy responds, “The kids who designed this think it’s great.”

“But it doesn’t help me water my lawn”, you say. The sales guy just shrugs and walks away.

This is the current state of digital healthcare apps. There is a major disconnect between developers designing these apps and the people using them. But this also represents a tremendous opportunity to more broadly impact healthcare on a global scale by proactively addressing this disconnect.

Today, there are an estimated 40,000+ health apps available for smartphones with very few really making it into the mainstream and even fewer having any kind of lasting effect on patient wellbeing.

Why is this?

Payers can leverage new technologies to improve the lives of their members

Silicon Valley is overrun with 24 year old coders building apps for their friends. They’re creating stuff for FitBits or Jawbones, ways to monitor heart rate, sleep patterns and weight. But what’s missing is an app to monitor the blood sugar of an 80 year old woman in a poor neighborhood who doesn’t see particularly well and may not speak English fluently.

Unfortunately, the creators of apps, wearables and IT systems often don’t interact directly with patients and clinicians, which can lead to limited understanding of how their tools will be used and what they are needed for most.

To be fair, the blame doesn’t rest solely with the app developers. Doctors and care givers are not always able to clearly articulate the kinds of solutions and software they’d like to see developed, including the data to be collected and how often.

But in 2017, we see the perfect conditions emerging to address this disconnect. Given the wide-spread adoption of Electronic Medical Records (EMR) over the past ten years, and the profusion of smartphones, the stage is set for an exciting transformation.  A huge amount of data can now be captured and used to proactively monitor and manage health outcomes using mobile devices in a way never before possible.

There are three steps that companies — and payers— could take to exploit this new opportunity:

  1. Create cross-functional teams: include developers and IT stakeholders as well as doctors and clinicians to design a formal process for better collaboration.
  2. User interaction: gather ideas and feedback from those who will use the tools the most – patients and doctors – through interviews, surveys, questionnaires and observations.
  3. Redesign tech-driven processes: based on insight from doctor and patient needs, leverage newly developed technologies to create innovative solutions.

By supporting collaboration and establishing ongoing interaction between stakeholders on both sides of the process, payers can design and deliver healthcare apps and tools that will greatly benefit both providers and members.

And keep everyone healthy enough for a trip down the “slip and slide”.

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