Take-up of digital and connected medical tools is proving rather slow because the sheer number of devices on offer is confusing the issue for clinicians, health administrators and insurers.

[Health 2.0] Patients Must Help Overcome Stiff Sector Resistance to e-Health Take-up
At the Health 2.0 event which took place in London in mid-November, L’Atelier delegates were impressed by the large number of startups that came along to present their products, each one better designed, more interactive and with greater functionality than the next. However, if you put yourself in the shoes of a physician, you might not be surprised that there is a wide disconnect between the ever-increasing range of tools on offer and the currently almost zero take-up in terms of actual usage by the medical profession. The fact is that before we can dream about the benefits of tomorrow’s connected objects, or even envisage an interactive e-Health ecosystem, there are a few basic realities to take into account. According to a survey carried out by Health 2.0, slightly over 60% of doctors polled admit that they are not looking to encourage the integration of m-Health tools into their working methods. Of course these obstacles do not mean that e-Health is destined to fail; for one thing patients are pushing for progress in e-Health adoption. However, device and app providers will have to cope with the realities of current medical practice, plus the resistance to change that makes the healthcare sector still rather rigid.

Immature startups fail to make the business case

The Health 2.0 event highlighted the fact that the sheer quantity of digital tools available today in the healthcare sector is stiffening resistance to their adoption.  The flexibility that is characteristic of a startup approach is enabling e-Health innovations to emerge, but there is a lack of basic support for any one solution, which is making it difficult to interact with medical institutions – both hospitals and insurance companies. During a session entitled Financing Health 2.0: Who’s stepping up? Martin Kelly, a Partner at IBM Venture Capital Group, underlined: “Startups aren’t yet mature. We’re still at the take-off stage, and the success of well-being apps may have sent out a false signal. In reality those technology innovations which will fundamentally affect the way hospitals work are going to take much more time to catch on.” The sheer complexity of the range of connected objects is therefore doing these tools a disservice. The fact is that adoption of these tools can only take place gradually, integrating through everyday practice services which seem complex but are very useful. In reply to a question, Pascal Lardier, International Director of Health 2.0 France, emphasised that the business argument is paramount: “Connected objects, which call for large investments, can only be integrated through medical insurers, and that will only happen when there is real proof of resulting savings.” And it is precisely such documentation, scientific studies and cost analyses, which are needed to ensure take-up of these tools, that startups currently lack.

Patient drive required

In this situation, speakers at the Health 2.0 event pointed to the importance of patients expressing their wishes clearly. Today the majority of clinicians are not looking to integrate connected objects and medical apps into their working practices, simply because they have neither the time nor the required training to make the transition. Moreover, they have good reason to be concerned about possible increases in their workload, at least during the implementation phase, and the fact that they may not see any corresponding increase in revenue, but will face increased responsibility for risks stemming from procedures that are still inadequately documented. This suggests that the push for adoption of e-Health tools will have to come from the patients themselves. “Patients use digital tools in their everyday lives and are increasingly going to demand connected tools and devices from their doctors,” argued Pascal Lardier. So it would appear that there is a basic paradox at work: while few health practitioners doubt the value of digitisation in healthcare management, it may well nevertheless fall to patients to take on the responsibility of driving implementation.

By Quentin Capelle