I spent last week at the 2016 HIMSS Las Vegas Conference and Exhibition manning our stand, watching keynotes, attending education sessions, navigating crowded exhibit halls, crashing cocktail parties and, along with the 41,000 other attendee, dodging the obligatory Elvis impersonators.
What became clear very quickly was that we are now in an industry that is maturing rapidly. One of the biggest indicators of this was that – apart from our own announcement of teaming up with MyDirectives to help consumers create, manage and share their emergency, critical and advance care plans, that is – there were going to be no seismic `game-changer` announcements.
Rather, in mHealth, progress was seen in sessions that featured health systems talking earnestly about what they’re actually doing, not what they’re going to do in the near future. Among the hundreds, of press releases issued during the show, the focus was on integration – partnerships that build on existing programs and enhancements to products already in use. And, to that extent, Medelinked was right on trend.
An indication of things to come
But, and what is probably even more indicative of things to come, in the same week Aetna merged its health app-maker subsidiary iTriage with its cost transparency business Wellmatch to form one team. This, despite the fact that the iTriage app, which helps consumers connect with the right care provider via a symptom navigator has been downloaded more than 15 million times, was associated with lay-offs from the Triage team and potentially in associated businesses too.
Darwin and the one-hit wonders
I think this is significant for a number of reasons. The function of mHeath and digital health per se is to help improve social, physical and mental well-being whist reducing disease or infirmity, so producing better outcomes whilst and lowering costs. But, as the sector matures, it will go through Darwinian cycles of consolidation as some businesses look to deliver this by gaining strategic advantage through acquisition and cost savings whilst some go under through lack of funding or market success.
I‘m sure, too, we will see more of this kind of activity in the coming year, particularly because the rapidly growing mHealth and connected health marketplace has produced its fair share of what the music industry might describe as `one hit wonders` and some which may be wonders but have yet to achieve the hit of significant market traction.
Supporting the complete patient journey
Such products have been produced in the context of the patient journey which is composed of distinct stages: Wellbeing; Monitoring; Prevention; Diagnosis; Patient-Professional Relationship (includes consultation, referral and billing) Treatment and Research. Point solutions in all these areas and more have poured onto the market to address ever smaller niches of patient or practitioner needs.
But, like in the early part of the last century when the auto industry worldwide spawned thousands of car marques prior to there being the transportation infrastructure – suitable roads, service stations etc – and before emerging standards – fuel types, steering wheel location etc – could allow consumer to make proper use of them and fundamentally change their lives, it’s common, unifying infrastructure that is missing.
Delivering the supporting infrastructure
Against this background, I found HIMSS16 reassuring. Medelinked is outstanding because, as an open platform, it supports the complete patient journey and allows companies and services such as iHealth, Medichecks, Symptom Checker, Talk to a Doctor and Samsung S Health to be part of a complete support mechanism rather than an isolated solution to a particular issue.
And, in doing so, it enables the management of other current and future products and services that increase the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare delivery in the context of the pressures that health delivery systems face currently.
If Medelinked partners such as Apple and Fitbit are the Ford and GM of the mHealth world, Medelinked is the Federal-Aid Highway Act delivering the infrastructure that creates a complete product – adding market value, meaning and direction to innovations from these and other companies no matter how the world of mHealth develops.
Written by Ian Gallifant