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DIGITAL HEALTH BRIEFING: Health insurers worry over consumer satisfaction — FDA approves first AI device for retinopathy — Telemedicine survey aims to standardize care


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HEALTH PLAN LEADERS ARE MOST CONCERNED ABOUT MEMBER SATISFACTION: As healthcare information and options become increasingly available to consumers, health insurance leaders are reassessing their annual goals to better align with their customers’ needs. For the first time, the number one goal for US health plan leaders is improving customer satisfaction, according to a new HealthEdge survey. The majority of survey participants highlighted the need to modernize technology to achieve the goal of improving customer satisfaction. 

Online health insurer Oscar Health is a prime example of how payers use modern technology and a customer-centric approach to drive growth and retention. Oscar leans on its virtual services that offer convenience and encourage user engagement. In 2017, around two-thirds of Oscar’s customers’ interactions were virtual. Oscar’s Concierge team was accessed by 46% of Oscar members, its telemedicine service was used by 25% of customers, and the Care Router service — a yellow pages for finding physicians and booking appointments — was accessed by 45% of its members. These services aim to provide affordable care in place of more expensive healthcare services like emergency room visits.

However, cost structures are preventing many payers from innovating, according to HealthEdge. Nearly two-thirds of payer executives cited cost as the biggest barrier in the way of a product overhaul. Regardless, health plan leaders could find that they begin to fall behind the competition, unless they begin to make moves now to modernize their offerings. Because of this, we believe M&A activity will continue to pick up steam in 2018, particularly among larger players, such as Aetna and Cigna. New health tech innovations from companies like Amazon, Alphabet, and Apple could help to incentivize and drive the adoption of modern tech solutions as they explore entry points into the lucrative healthcare market.

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FDA APPROVES FIRST AI-POWERED RETINOPATHY APP: The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) greenlit the marketing of IDx-DR, the first medical device that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to detect diabetic retinopathy — a leading cause of blindness among people with diabetes. Developed by AI-diagnostics company IDx, the service uses AI to analyze images of a patient’s retinas to determine whether they have a form of retinopathy that requires a specialist examination. Because the software doesn’t need a specialist to run, it can be used by primary care providers, which vastly improves the availability of care. In turn, this could help increase the likelihood of catching diabetic retinopathy early. The FDA reviewed IDx-DR under its De Novo pre-market review pathway for low- to moderate-risk devices, which speeds up the process of new device approval. As the first AI product for diabetic diagnostics, IDx-DR will pave the way for more automated devices to enter the healthcare market. However, this isn’t the first AI-powered product to receive FDA approval. In February, the FDA approved the marketing of CDS software that alerts physicians of potential stroke in their patients.

AI as a clinical decision support (CDS) tool is gaining traction in the US. The technology shows potential for improving operational workflow by automating time-consuming tasks like image screening. And because it can be offered through primary care providers, it lessens the need to send patients on to emergency care or specialists. In addition, enabling primary care providers to see patients, rather than sending them off to specialists straight away, could help lower healthcare costs for payers. 

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SURVEY PROVIDER AIMS TO STANDARDIZE TELEMEDICINE QUALITY OF CARE: As telemedicine adoption takes off among US providers, there's a growing need for a standardized test to determine the quality of care and patient satisfaction. To fill this need, leading US patient experience measurement and performance improvement firm Press Ganey developed two surveys that aim to measure a patient’s experience with virtual care, according to FierceHealthcare. Two surveys have been created — one measures fully virtual interactions, while the other measures partially virtual conference calls. The scientifically-validated questions address traditional things like the communication skills of the physician, but will also take into consideration how the telemedicine technology worked, whether it was effective, and how it impacted the patient experience. Creating a standardized test will also help physicians peer-review their scores, allowing expert opinion to counter consumer scores that don't necessarily reflect the physician's skill. As digital health offerings gain traction, there’s an opportunity for those that can back up the quality of their services to pull ahead of the competition. This will be particularly important as governments continue to ramp up regulations and incentives around telehealth solutions.

bii US telehealth adoption forecast

WEARABLES DATA ISN’T EXEMPT FROM DATA PRIVACY DISCUSSIONS: Data collected by wearables needs to be part of the ongoing data security discussion, according to leaders from Fitbit, UnitedHealth Group, and Empatica. Alongside security and privacy, health companies need to ensure transparency around how users’ data is being used and shared, Fitbit medical director John Moore said during a panel discussion at PULSE: The Atlantic Summit on Healthcare in Boston last week. The concerns discussed by industry leaders highlight the thin line that health organizations must tread. Continuous monitoring of users’ health has many benefits for a range of industries operating in health. For instance, it can help providers with remote patient monitoring, and give physicians a fuller picture of a patient’s lifestyle and behaviors. For insurers, wearables and health apps are spearheading preventative medicine, and could help lower costs associated with chronic illnesses. However, healthcare data is also being targeted by hackers. In early April, 150 million Under Armour-owned health app MyFitnessPal accounts were hacked, including usernames, passwords, and email addresses. If consumers become fearful of their data being accessed by nefarious players, it could mute the adoption and use of these tools. One way to combat this could involve regulation and policy that outline best practices for collecting consumer data, according to Empatica cofounder Rosalind Picard.


  • Pharmaceutical giant Bayer commissioned a study that will explore how patients perceive digital products in healthcare, MobiHealthNews reports. The two-part pilot study aims to determine the feasibility of using digital products in future clinical trials. The move comes as demand for non-drug therapies gains momentum, threatening the pharmaceutical space.
  • More than half of US consumers over the age of 40 would be comfortable with AI-assisted surgery, according to a new survey from SAS. That’s compared to just 40% of consumers under 40 who say the same. More so, consumers over 40 felt more comfortable with AI in health than they did with AI in banking or online retail. Overall, 47% of the 500 consumers surveyed say they’re okay with the idea of AI-assisted care.

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