Digital health is, simultaneously, the wave of the future and one of the most important elements in healthcare right now. The amount of digital technology used by organizations in the healthcare space in 2019 was setting the stage for its future significance. Then 2020 arrived.

The global COVID-19 pandemic hit in full force early in 2020, changing almost every aspect of our lives.  It especially transformed the healthcare industry and the digital technology used within that industry. Use of digital tech was increasing by dribs and drabs, but the pandemic forced its use to the forefront, causing it to be adopted incredibly quickly by healthcare organizations and professionals around the globe.

As 2020 comes to an end and we, hopefully, have the pandemic finish line in sight, it is clear that one of the lasting effects will be the greater use of digital health technology. Exactly which digital health technology and brands will find long term success is still up in the air. Although we don’t have the exact answers, we can share some keys that may lead to more success for some and less for others. Here are four key factors for succeeding in digital health.

Saying “yes, and”

If you have ever seen actors improvise a scene or a sketch you have seen the concept of “yes, and” in action. This phrase is the cornerstone of improvisation. When you respond to someone with “no, but”, that shuts down a conversation. “Yes, and” keeps a conversation going and builds one thought after another as the conversation goes on. Whether on stage or on television, this results in incredibly interesting or hilarious conversations.

In the world of digital health, a similar concept is key to success: thinking about the word “and” vs. the word “or”. The word “or” shuts down possibilities. It limits what a digital healthcare product can do. It tells developers and users that a product has limited function and that one must choose between two options.

Saying “and” opens up a world of possibilities in digital health. It might mean that a product can deliver this and that result. It can work under this and that condition. It can be used in this and that healthcare niche. Saying “yes, and” like an improvisational actor can lead to your digital healthcare product going places and being more successful than you ever dreamed.

Agility  

One of the biggest reasons digital technology, much of which is mobile device or software-based, has had so much success in response to the pandemic is how flexible and agile it is. Connected mobile medical devices (CMMD) and Software as a Medical Device (SaMD) have put medical devices in the palm of medical professionals’ hands. This has made medicine much more portable, convenient, and efficient.

It has also made healthcare technology more agile. Agility in business means having the ability to make changes and adjustments quickly and to easily pivot in the right direction. Digital health technology allows for incredible agility thanks to a fast feedback loop.

A fast feedback loop means going from gathering feedback on how a product can be improved to actually achieving that improvement takes less time to accomplish. With medical device hardware, the feedback loop can take months or years. A new generation of the product may need to be manufactured for the feedback to take effect.

With digital health’s software-based technology, developers can quickly respond to feedback and send out an update to address the issue. Digital health technology’s fast feedback loop has been invaluable during this time of crisis and is one of the major reasons we are seeing a high level of adoption. Products with quicker feedback loops will be the ones that ultimately succeed over others.

Get healthcare professionals and patients to buy-in

Most digital health products are two-sided. One side is used by medical professionals; another side is used by patients. Which side is more important to achieving success with a digital healthcare product? According to Orthogonal, getting patients and healthcare professionals alike to engage is a huge factor in the success of any digital health solution.

No doctor or nurse wants to use something they don’t like and no organization is going to go all-in on something patients constantly complain about. If you force a digital solution on either party, no one will win.

To help get buy-in on both sides, you need to ask each side a simple question: “Does this solution make your life better?” Although you ask the question of both parties, each side will answer differently. The professional side will answer from the perspective of making their work lives easier and less stressful.  Patients will answer from a convenience and ease of use standpoint. 

When you have a digital product where both sides answer, “yes” to that question, then you have something great on your hands.

Get out of the lab 

The great (and scary) part of digital health technology being adopted at the current rate in 2020 is that it is no longer theoretical. Digital technology is live in hospitals, and doctor’s offices, and medical centers all over the world right now. Since it is being used in real life, it is critical that developers are engaged with the real-world data produced by this type of usage.

Taking real-world data and using it to make a digital health solution better, more effective, and more user-friendly is imperative for the success of that solution. It starts before the solution is even created. Real-world research and development should be conducted before starting any digital solution and should carry through every step in the product’s life cycle. This means all the way through the feedback loop after the product is released.

Although your digital health product may be used in A lab, it doesn’t mean it should be developed entirely in YOUR lab. In 2020, these digital solutions are solving real-world issues so collecting real-world data is a major key to success.

Conclusion

These four keys to succeeding in digital health come from studying digital solutions that have already been, and continue to be, successful. The more you can implement these principles in your own process of digital health development, the better your final product will be.

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