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The pandemic pushed our healthcare system to the brink. It cast a spotlight on pressing challenges facing healthcare systems – access, efficiency, effectiveness, and equity. Since 2020, new challenges have emerged: the healthcare staffing crisis, crippled supply chains, and evolution of the existing model of care delivery.

During this time, prolific investment into digital health solutions has jumpstarted unprecedented innovation, product development, and public acceptance, all necessities for leveraging the value of digital health. On the flip side, it also created a crowded marketplace of digital solutions, many untested with questionable quality and value.

The work of healthcare leaders, decision makers, and innovators has never been more difficult. They are navigating a new wave of crisis under enormous pressure to deliver innovative solutions with little guidance about ‘what good looks like’ or how to succeed.

And all of this in the shadow of tech behemoths diving into the healthcare delivery space looking to expand their enterprises.

Brighter Days Ahead?

At the Digital Medicine Society (DiMe), we have the privilege of partnering with the largest integrated health system in the US, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to implement digital innovation strategies that improve the lives of Veterans and the people who care for them. We are proud to release The Playbook: Digital Healthcare Edition to help decision makers harness the power of digital to improve systems of care and the lives of patients.

The Playbook showcases the best of digital innovation drawing on tangible success in practice at VHA. Every innovator should reference this free guide daily in their decision making to navigate these challenges with proven tools and strategies to help them choose the right technologies to improve patient outcomes.

And the best part? It’s free to use, share, and adapt, even commercially.

Digital Innovation Approaches, Insights, & Examples

The VHA has implemented digital health solutions to help advance innovation and transform its health system while supporting clinicians and improving patients’ lives. The Playbook outlines value, risks, regulatory status, and success stories for each solution. 

  1. AI/ML

AI/ML offer health systems an opportunity to accelerate, personalize, and lead efficient clinical delivery. These tools can optimize workforce management through automation and also support precision medicine for complex diseases, among many other benefits.

  1. Electronic Health Records

EHR tools offer significant value and can improve care coordination, help identify and reduce medical errors, and maximize patient engagement – however, they don’t align with the cognitive and workflow requirements of clinicians or patients. Health systems can employ digital health solutions that expand care delivery and address clinicians’ EHR needs when they focus on industry and vendor collaboration.

  1. AR/VR/MR

Virtual, augmented, and mixed reality can be leveraged to improve care delivery and medical education. Because of their immersive nature, they can create safe experiential learning environments and facilitate the application of real-world evidence, providing learners with both hard and soft skills through virtual interactions.

  1. Mobile Health Applications

Medical and public health practices supported by mobile devices are called “mHealth.” Research shows the value of mHealth apps to patients. However, they usually lack regulatory oversight and clinical evidence necessary to support the medical use of the information they produce. As more consumers use these apps, it’s essential to deploy an evidence-based approach to their clinical use. 

  1. Connected Sensor Technology

Connected sensor technology – fitness trackers, heart rate monitors, ingestibles, etc. – process data captured by mobile sensors using algorithms to generate measures of behavioral and physiological function. Sensor data from these products can support more patients by giving clinicians information to make decisions faster. However, there are still considerations around security, utilization, and sensor data integrations

  1. Digital Therapeutics

Digital therapeutics (DTx) are a new treatment modality driven by software to help manage or prevent a disease or disorder. Clinical evidence and real-world outcomes are required for all DTx products. Additionally, these products must provide evidence that is reviewed and cleared or certified by regulatory agencies to support their claims of risk, efficacy, and intended use.

  1. Virtual Care

Virtual care uses live and async approaches to care for patients beyond the clinic. Virtual-first care (V1C) is a new care model built around the patient instead of the clinic. V1C allows patients 24/7 access to a team, including primary care physicians, condition-specific specialists, and certified coaches.

  1. Patient Engagement and Social Media

More people are turning to social media for medical advice, but we’re seeing widespread misinformation with non-credible opinions. It has become increasingly important for providers and health systems to use engagement tools that give patients public health information.

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