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Transform Care January 11, 2017

Can Digital Cure Healthcare?

Chief Strategy Officer, BCBS of Massachusetts
Key Takeaway
Collecting data on activities & preferences paired with remote monitoring allows deeper insights into motivational behaviors

The Promise of Digital Is “Better, Faster, Cheaper”

Industry after industry is being digitized, and in most cases digital represents Better, Faster, and Cheaper. And if any industry is in need of Better, Faster, Cheaper, it is healthcare. Indeed, many new players view healthcare as an attractive market, with as much as $1 trillion up for value rotation.

Digital can turn a hyper-local, asset-intensive, and physician-centric industry on its head by distributing care and providing virtual visits. Remote monitoring, predictive analytics and multi-modal outreach models enable care teams to regularly engage and monitor patients—especially the 5 percent of the population that represent 50 percent of healthcare costs. Over time, collecting data on people’s broader activities and preferences combined with remote monitoring can allow deeper insights into people’s motivational profile and behaviors, allowing engagement that is fully tailored to ‘people like me.’

The Digital Value Proposition

Consumer-tech and startup companies are beginning to shift the model and redefine the basis of competition—increased value at lower cost and a better experience. For example:

Imagine if…for chronic-disease management, consumer-tech companies offered real-time monitoring through data-insight devices (wireless scales, singing pill boxes) that began to turn healthcare from a reactive to a proactive and predictive discipline.

Imagine if…people were allowed to age independently in relative comfort, with digital devices connected to care teams, robots with empathy sensors, and community members? Marrying such engagement and motivation to care-management programs has made a material difference in lowering doctor and ER visits and improving quality of life. Most people say they would prefer to die at home, but few do, and the hospital costs incurred in the last year of life account for roughly 25 percent (a number that has remained stagnant for decades) of all traditional Medicare spending.

Imagine if…providers could intervene earlier to prevent major diseases or falls. Digital devices can signal sudden weight gain or loss, breathing difficulty, or failure to take pills. Team members can make home visits for those unable to travel to visit a doctor and that early intervention has been shown to reduce costs in multiple populations.

Proteus Discover, for example, offers sensor-enabled medicines, a small wearable sensor patch, and applications for patients and clinical care givers. Proteus Discover directly measures medication taking and physiology to support patient self-management, and helps physicians and care teams optimize therapy.

Imagine if…digital devices that collect data acted as a catalyst to better living and positive lifestyle management. Roughly half of healthcare spending is attributed to lifestyle and behavioral choices that affect weight, sleep, stress, and energy. When consumers collect data they can improve their quest for wellness.

Omada, for example, offers a health program to employers and insurers that identifies people most at risk for developing costly but largely preventable chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes or heart disease. Omada sends every enrolled participant a wireless digital scale, pedometer, and exercise bands. This combination of smart technology and empathetic health coaches delivers impressive weight loss results: According to Omada, engagement with their program at 12 months is 65 percent, compared with 6.6 percent at a leading commercial weight loss program; and participants’ weight loss after 1 year is about double (4.7 percent) that of people using in-person diabetes prevention programs (2.4 percent).

From Sick Care to Healthcare

Numerous upstarts are overcoming the traditional challenges of healthcare delivery in the hyper-local, physician-centric, hospital-centric healthcare world, combining digital devices and multidisciplinary teams to prevent disease or treat it early. These possibilities, occurring now in certain regions and at certain providers, have shown the ability to dramatically improve outcomes and experience, at lower cost. Digital is already showing it can make healthcare Better, Faster, Cheaper.

To read more of Oliver Wyman’s digital ideas and points of view, visit our Digital Bytes library.

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