Provider organization executive teams will face some important decisions over the next five years regarding tech investments. The issue is that there are so many tech products—and every organization (no matter how large) has a limited budget and limited bandwidth for change.
How many tech products are there? According to our OPEN MINDS HealthTechNavigator database (see HealthTechNavigator), there are at least 2,900 technology product offerings in the health and human service field and if you look at the trends in investment in digital health, more are on the way (see Five Technologies That Will Disrupt Healthcare By 2020).
One way to prioritize investments is to look at what investment decisions your customers are making—in this case, health plans. That was a major focus area in our recent national survey of U.S. health plans, recently published in Trends in Behavioral Health: A Population Health Manager’s Reference Guide on the U.S. Behavioral Health Financing and Delivery System. The key strategic takeaways from our 2019 survey: real-time telehealth services were the most widely adopted digital health tool among health plans at 78%. And, 49% of plans have adopted asynchronous telehealth services. Rounding out the list of digital tools adopted by health plans are eCBT and text-based therapies.
Telehealth—Telehealth in the form of real-time video/audio has been adopted by 78% of health plans, and telehealth in the form of asynchronous video/audio that includes store and forward technology has been adopted at 49% (see 4 Market Realities Hindering A Telehealth Future and Virtual Health As Strategy—Starting With Telehealth).
Electronic Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (eCBT)— eCBT have been adopted by 23% of health plans and 57% are planning to adopt this tech. Although the use of eCBT decreased among plans overall over the two-year period, Medicaid reported the most utilization, as 47% of Medicaid plans offer eCBT services. Commercial plan usage decreased over the two years. In 2017, 96% of commercial plans offered eCBT services; however, 25% of plans offer the service in 2019. Additionally, 15% of Medicare plans offer eCBT services, which increased from only 2% of plans in 2017 (see What Should Keep You Up At Night? and Virtual Care Comes To Complex Consumers).
Text-based therapy—Text-based therapy and tools, such as medication reminders, appointment reminders, and tracking symptoms have only been adopted by 5% of health plans, but 66% have added this to their future strategies.
Digital tools that are on the health plan “short list” but not yet adopted are wearables and consumer-directed apps. Seventy-six percent of health plans plan to adopt wearables as part of their official strategy, but none have officially adopted this tech yet. A wearable device is one that consumers wear to track vital signs or health and fitness related data, and FDA approved examples include embedded chips, e-tattoos, Fitbit, and an implant for sleep apnea (see Forget Wearables – The New Trend Is Invisibles). No health plans reported adopting consumer-directed apps yet either, but it is part of the strategic plan for 69% of health plans. Consumer-directed applications (or apps) are delivered on a hand-held or web-interface to help consumer manage their own health.
OPEN MINDS Senior Associate Deborah Adler, who led the survey initiative, had a few observations on health plan adoption of technology. She noted:
I think this current snapshot of health plan use of digital platforms paints an interesting picture of the evolving use of technology. I expect to see the adoption of text-based therapy and message-based therapy (platforms like Talkspace and Betterhelp) increase next year. And use of wearables have taken a step forward this year with initiatives like the recent adoption of Fitbit by Humana (see A Virtual Health Update). I do think the use of asynchronous telehealth technologies may be more common in physical medicine that in behavioral health. Right now, for example, most plans reimburse for store-and-forward reading of x-rays, but not for behavioral health diagnostic interviews. These nuances in health plans moving their delivery systems toward “virtual care” models are important for every provider organization’s strategy.
It appears that health plan adoption of consumer-facing technologies will continue, though the “winning” tech solutions aren’t yet clear. With the record amount of investment in health and human service technologies (see Managing Your Team To ‘Tech Savvy’), it is likely that there will continue to be new investments in this space, but it is not yet clear what direction the big tech firms (Amazon, Google, Facebook, etc.) will take their tech investments in the field, and widespread adoption of the technology in the traditional field is uneven (see Digital Health Still ‘The Exception’ But Get Your Plan Ready and Overcoming The Virtual Health Paradox).
Remember though, tech startups don’t just have better tech adoption, they are tech centric. The adoption numbers for these kinds of companies amount to “all in,” and they will use that advantage to the fullest. That could very likely mean a complete takeover of the market. There are many reasons for this—funding, culture, business processes, reimbursement, and more. So how to approach the challenge? The “simple” recipe is to rebuild your strategic plan with tech in mind, understand and leverage digital to both define and capture value for health plans, and master the appropriate scale to deliver the right amount of value (see Worried About The New Guys? Planning To Navigate Market Disruption and Watch Out For Your Left Flank).
Looking for more on digital adoption by health plans? Download the report Trends in Behavioral Health: A Population Health Manager’s Reference Guide on the U.S. Behavioral Health Financing and Delivery System. And for elite-level members, don’t miss even more on this topic. On September 9 our Innovative Treatment Programs For Value-Based Partnerships: An OPEN MINDS Executive Summit & Showcase will feature a presentation by Anne Langhurst, LCSW, Vice President, Account Management, Talkspace and Kathleen Mahieu, ME.D., MBA, Lead Business Consultant for Strategy & Innovation, Aetna Behavioral Health. They will discuss cutting-edge new clinical programs and strategic challenges to innovation for specialty provider organizations. (The summit is part of The 2019 OPEN MINDS Executive Leadership Retreat.)
For more great reading on the importance of digital tech to your future strategies, check out these resources in The OPEN MINDS Circle Library:
- Digital Transformations Demand Digital Dexterity
- The Three Trends That Are ‘Top Of Mind’ In 2019 For The OPEN MINDS Team
- Your Digital Tech Integration Checklist
- When New Contracts Mean New Technology: 4 Things To Remember
- ‘Productizing’ Services For Competitive Success
- Thinking About Partnering With A Tech Start-Up?
- Failure To Launch
- Moving Out Of Your Comfort Zone: The VBR Technology Continuum
- Are You Strategically Interoperable?
- Using Virtual Care To Improve Your Value Proposition: Best Practices In Integrating Technology Into Your Community-Based Program
And for even more, join me on October 30 at The 2019 OPEN MINDS Technology & Informatics Institute, where I will deliver the keynote, “Innovation, Integration & Virtual Care: How To Build A Digital Strategy To Compete With The New Market Disruptors.”