The Global Medical Device Connectivity Market has accounted for $5.7 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach $46.4 billion by 2024. This digital health market is a broad scope of clinical integration tools and includes categories such as mobile health (mHealth), health information technology (IT), wearable devices, telehealth and telemedicine, and personalized medicine. The use of technologies such as smart phones, social networks and internet applications is not only changing the way we communicate, but is also providing innovative ways for us to monitor our health and well-being and giving us greater access to information. However, in order for these technologies to succeed in the healthcare market, proper clinical integration must take place. Clinical integration is defined as the means to facilitate the coordination of patient care across conditions, providers, settings, and time in order to achieve care that is safe, timely, effective, efficient, equitable, and patient-focused.
Why is clinical integration important? Below is a simple overview why clinical integration is important. This is not a complete overview, but it is a starting point to clinical integration within the healthcare spectrum.
- Many office-based physicians practice alone, in small groups or in single-specialty groups. They may not have access to peer benchmarking and best practices, or tools that can enhance communication across settings and enable clinical integration (such as an electronic health records [EHRs]).
- Many hospitals cannot ensure true clinical integration because they have limited tools for positively influencing the behavior and decisions of the staff and partners involved in patient care.
- Patients, especially those with chronic conditions, receive care in hospitals, ambulatory settings, clinics and at home. These facilities may not have mechanisms in place to track patient care across different health care settings.
The goal of clinical integration is to improve care, and save healthcare organizations time and money. And for successful clinical integration to occur, hospital and physician alignment is a must, especially as the healthcare industry shifts to an environment where provider payment will be tied to results for quality, access and efficiency. While clinical integration is a continuous process of alignment across the care continuum, there’s no mechanism right now for improving delivery through technology and monitoring. It’s still very unclear how to put that into practice.
One example of a healthcare organization integrating digital health in to their health care delivery strategy is Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The hospital is helping to launch a study to determine whether mHealth data collected on smartphones and wearables can be used to help treat people with chronic pain. Partnering with the hospital is Evidation Health, which is contributing up to $1 million for the Digital Signals in Chronic Pain (the DISCover Project). This collaboration will recruit as many as 10,000 participants, including 6,000 with chronic pain. Evidation Health’s CEO, Deborah Kilpatrick explained in a press release that “the widespread use of wearables, sensors and digital health tools gives us an opportunity to quantify the real lives of patients who suffer from chronic pain – now a critically important public health condition in the US. We are running this large-scale pain study to gain powerful insights on how behavioral factors are associated with health outcomes of chronic pain patients.”
Healthcare providers deserve technology that lets them focus on what really matters: patient care. The demand for digital clinical workspaces will intensify as the natural productivity and mobility benefits become more integrated into health care delivery strategies. Clinical integration and the evolution of algorithms and models that analyze healthcare indicators and system-specific patterns enables organizations to more precisely identify at-risk and rising-risk patients within their population. These advancements in business and clinical intelligence solutions offer great promise by giving organizations the ability to predict, analyze and visualize population and patient-specific data in real-time; arming them with better insights to drive better results.
It is very important to remember that simply having insight and analytics about the health of a population is only half of the solution – analytics solutions must integrate with a care management system whereby patients can be seamlessly transitioned for evaluation, care planning and intervention.