Digital Health: Hospitals must keep pace or be exposed to risk, experts say

By Jessica Davis posted on Healthcare IT News on May 22, 2018

As the healthcare sector continues to shift into value-based care and consumers become more involved in the care process, telemedicine and big data will continue to hold a crucial role in advancing patient care.

Telemedicine has developed from a “shiny new toy” to “the standard of doing care,” said Lisa Schmitz Mazur, a partner at McDermott Will and Emery, who co-authored the book The Law of Digital Health with Bernadette Broccolo, also a partner at the law firm.

“Telemedicine is really becoming a significant game-changer,” said Mazur.

Not only will providers use the tool to deliver care -- like telemedicine and tele-psychiatry, but patients are also demanding it and expecting it, said Mazur. “Providers are fueling the expansion.”

Doctors, too, are excited about where those opportunities lie and exploring areas where telemedicine can make an impact, she added. Particularly in the area of behavioral health and chronic disease, telemedicine can provide a method to better manage those conditions.

“It’s changing the standard of care,” Broccolo said, in agreement.

Mazur added that real opportunities exist and hospitals that ignore the possibilities may ultimately expose themselves to risk by not meeting standards of care.

For Broccolo, big data is the other dimension in digital health. While already prominent with EHRs and health information exchanges, big data can be wholly beneficial in the cancer space to accelerate the use of precision medicine and molecular profiling to predict the onset of disease.

“The cancer-side of big data is going to expand quickly,” said Broccolo. “The new applications will make data even more valuable than it was before.”

Coding and new algorithms will help add depth to the data, as well as collaborations around the development of the information, she explained. But a lack of standards around the data are hindering its use.

“Those challenges are being exacerbated by the fact the data is coming from a lot more sources and it’s often unstructured -- as opposed to EHR data,” said Broccolo. “And in particular, the data coming in through consumers … something you’re not as sure of the integrity.”

But despite these challenges, there are disruptors and innovators bringing together leading players that are creating these structured stores of data, explained Broccolo. They’re applying the tech to create a pretty robust data set.

At the end of the day, what will make the biggest impact on the industry is any solution that is patient facing, said Mazur.

“The engagement,” said Mazur. “It’s getting the patient to use the solution as part of their daily life. It needs to be something they build into their daily routines. A lack of engagement, slower user levels limit effectiveness: meaning, reams don’t have the info they need to see if a product works. We need that data in order to get that solution to the next level -- or just perform what it needs to do.”

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