Following the rapid digital transformation of healthcare, we are seeing the emergence of digital health ecosystems to meet the need to join up all of the dots and try to connect a plethora of unconnected systems, apps and devices. Examples of these networked platforms, providing a one-stop-shop for patients to access healthcare services and manage their own health, are starting to crop up more widely, each at different stages of development.
It seems clear however that the endgame must be that all healthcare service providers will be part of an ecosystem.
How far away that endgame is, is uncertain but competition is hotting up and the race is on.
The impetus for ecosystems – besides the need to integrate platforms and services – is patient convenience. Enabling patients to have a more seamless journey where they are at the centre and feel more in control.
One of the many benefits for providers and payors alike is building patient loyalty, leveraging data for personalised care pathways along with increasing efficiency and in turn driving down cost.
So, where do you best start? A popular route is to connect telemedicine to digital prescriptions. Two prime examples of large pharmacies adding telehealth are Zur Rose and its acquisition of Teleclinic, probably one of the most advanced ecosystems of its kind or Boots pharmacy in the UK launching its Health Hub to enable teleconsultations.
Another route is through commercial partnerships between digital front doors and telemedicine such as Quin and Ada health. Or take HealthHero which has adopted an international acquisition model to build an ecosystem connecting a digital front door with primary care and mental health services.
Whichever the starting point, once the foundations of an ecosystem are there, other services can be bolted on to grow to cover the whole patient pathway including, lifestyle, prevention, social services and disability.
In addition, you are seeing companies emerge that enable such ecosystems to function by way of software as a service platforms that integrate patient outreach, patient engagement, and workflow management for practices, such as Doctrin in Sweden. These ecosystems are all also enabled by big tech hosts like Google and Amazon, both of which are also beginning to offer their own solutions.
When it comes to digital, the question do I buy or do I build is often brought up. For Mehilainen and Diaverum, the solution was very much to build their own digital capabilities. Others prefer to buy in ready-made solutions, such as Asklepios which designated €500m to invest in digitalisation. An option might be to build your own front end, to control brand and control customer touch-points, but to buy in a lot of the back-end solutions. This might help with the biggest challenge that ecosystems face – interoperability.
Regulation is also a challenge, especially when trying to build international groups with telehealth and e-prescriptions. Governments have a job to do to enable growth and remove many of the existing roadblocks.
Security and data protection however, remains a big challenge, although the anecdotal evidence would suggest that patients have no major issues around the sharing of data between digital providers provided it’s for diagnosis and not about profits and sales, an issue that was seen when Google acquired FitBit.
Cybersecurity, seldom spoken about through fear of becoming a target as seen with Ramsay Santé and Eurofins, will be an area everyone has to pay very close attention. As these ecosystems grow, so too will the appetites of hackers.
HBI 2022, June 20-22 is a great place to benchmark and update your ecosystem strategy. We will cover all the topics mentioned above, including a dedicated session on Building Digital Health Ecosystems where you’ll hear exactly how Zur Rose, Apollo Hospitals and MARCOL Health approach ecosystem development alongside a whole host of digital discussions and examples – explore all our digital sessions here.