Q&A: Cost is the most significant barrier to digital health adoption

Seventy percent of consumers are likely to use digital health solutions in the future and at least three in four believe the solutions would help improve their wellbeing, according to a report by the Consumer Technology Association.

However, cost is the greatest barrier to adoption, and cost accompanied by a lack of user-friendliness is why consumers stop using digital health offerings altogether. 

Still, 63% of healthcare providers believe additional clinical evidence will encourage further adoption, while 57% state increased patient reimbursement will play a role. 

René Quashie, vice president of digital health at the Consumer Technology Association, spoke with MobiHealthNews about CTA’s latest report and what digital health stakeholders need to focus on moving forward. 

MobiHealthNews: Can you tell me why CTA wanted to do this research?

René Quashie: First of all, we wanted to figure out what digital health adoption has been in two distinct communities. One, the consumers. How are consumers using this technology? Do they trust this technology? Are they satisfied with the use of this technology? How are they using this technology to manage their health? So that’s one bucket. And then we also wanted to get a sense from healthcare providers, clinicians, as to how they’re using this technology, what advantages they see to using this kind of technology, and get a sense from them about what the impact of digital health and the increasing technological transformation of healthcare is going to mean for them and their practice.

MHN: What differences did CTA find between consumers, providers and health tech company stakeholders regarding adoption and the general feeling on digital health?

Quashie: Generally speaking, I think people are excited. And I think healthcare is behind other sectors. So if you think about other sectors, look at the way we bank, look at the way we enjoy entertainment and content, look at the way we shop, look at all the other things in our lives in which technology plays a huge role. And I think healthcare for the most part has been behind, particularly from a consumer angle. But I think with the increasing sophistication of all the digital health offerings, I think consumers have a tremendous appetite to use this. 

And I think healthcare providers are also seeing a lot of great advantages to using this kind of technology. And part of it is driven by just a lot of macro trends that we didn’t really get into in the report [i.e., workforce shortage issues, the aging population and poor U.S. health outcomes particularly when compared to spending] but I think provide a context for why a lot of this is important. 

MHN: What are some of the barriers to widespread adoption?

Quashie: There’s so many. I think first and foremost is coverage and payment by health insurance providers

I think our regulations, and I’m talking about regulations generally speaking, may be a little outdated, may need to be updated, may need to be rethought because they were promulgated and developed in an analog era. 

Trust is another one. And I’m not just talking about privacy, but privacy specifically, how is data used? Who’s going to see this data? What rights do I have to this data? Is the data going to be shared with my employer? Is the data gonna be shared with my primary care provider? And all those kinds of issues around data are incredibly important, and while HIPAA has some of the answers, there are a lot of organizations that are not covered by HIPAA. 

MHN: Can you tell me about some of the report’s key findings?

Quashie: I think we spoke about the first one, about consumers, their acceptance and desire for these digital health solutions. There’s broad adoption. Most people who use these digital health tools on the consumer side report very positive experiences and there are phenomenal opportunities for growth on the consumer end and, I think, same thing on the health practitioner end. I think almost 60% of healthcare providers that were surveyed feel digital health solutions help alleviate some of the burden on the U.S. healthcare system, although they see there’s tremendous room for improvement. At least we started on the path to using tools that can alleviate some of the burdens, right? And increasingly, healthcare providers are also recommending digital health solutions to their patients to help patients better manage their own health. 

MHN: What do you think health tech leaders need to focus on to ensure greater adoption of digital health?

Quashie: I think sometimes we assume that consumers are aware of what’s available in the market, and they’re not. So there’s a consumer education piece, but I also think there’s a healthcare provider education piece. Healthcare providers have to be informed about what’s available in the market, and what is the fit for their particular kind of patient.  

And then I think we need to work on the policy side. We need to ensure that policymakers understand what’s going on in the market, understand the innovations, how they’re developed, how they’re supposed to be used, and assuage concerns of policymakers from a privacy perspective and data leakage perspective and all those kinds of concerns a lot of policymakers have. So, I think those are the big three things that I think industry can do.  

Dr. Manish Kohli will offer more detail during his HIMSS23 session “Digital Bridges: Bringing Hope and Healing to Those Hurting Most.” It is scheduled for Thursday, April 20, at 1-2 p.m. CT at the South Building, Level 4, in room S406 A.



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