An overview of digital health ecosystem

A health ecosystem is comprised of services and products aimed at the achievement of positive outcomes for the customers or patients in terms of better quality of life or to recover from any disease conditions. Services and products are offered by an ecosystem of partners which complement each other in offering a customer experience as complete as possible.

Its underlying concept is that the customer – or the patient, depending on the case – can find whatever he/she needs ‘under the same roof’, without juggling through different providers.  

It is important to set the rules of an ecosystem, starting from defining which actor drives it. Indeed, there are many candidates to assume this role. Recently, some of the Insurance Companies have started to work in conjunction with pharmaceutical companies and technology providers to design new digital health ecosystems.

According to a Roland Berger research on the future of health, customers prefer Big Techs (e.g. Google, Facebook) or digital health startups to drive their prevention and wellbeing behaviors. Healthcare providers, however, are the preferred partner when it comes to recovering from a disease.

Big Techs and digital health startups are already creating consumer health ecosystems since they can harness the huge amount of behavioral data at their disposal. However, it is not so easy to create a ‘specific disease ecosystems’ since they require flawless design and implementation, tied to the principle of personalized care. 

If the services comprising an ecosystem are purchased and provided digitally (i.e. using a digital platform), we can call it a digital health ecosystem. Indeed, there are different ways to organize an ecosystem, it depends on the specific industry and on many other factors. One way consists of using a digital platform that acts as a digital backbone, providing interconnectivity among health providers and patients.

According to the HIMSS digital health framework, there are four dimensions to consider when evaluating the maturity of a digital health ecosystem:

  • infrastructure and data interoperability – consisting of the seamless flow of data among users and clinicians to ensure data is easily accessible;
  • governance and workforce – ensures the policy and regulatory environment of health systems’ privacy, security, stewardship and accountability;
  • predictive analytics capability- the transformation of data into knowledge and real-world insights that inform decisions;
  • person-enabled care – how the system helps users track progresses and outcomes toward defined personalized goals by continuously engaging them.

A health ecosystem may involve various players: medical providers, pharmacies, caregivers, health practitioners, insurance companies, technology providers, patient associations or patient leaders, etc.

There are several services that can be potentially included in an ecosystem. Based on my research findings, the digital services that may be part of a digital health ecosystem fall into four categories:

  • PREVENTION: services aimed at preventing lifestyle-related diseases. The customer is regularly encouraged to fix bad habits through health education contents, health risk measurements or health data tracking systems. These services also include physical check-ups in order to detect health problems early.
  • CARE & FOLLOW UP: services ensuring care, remote monitoring and an active patient engagement. The goal is to restore good health.
  • PROTECTION: services aimed at protecting the client against financial difficulties caused by an illness. They are typically referred to insurance / consulting services.
  • OTHER SPECIFIC SERVICES: services enabling the access and consumption of care or additional supporting services.

There are companies that are already offering single services, but we can also find sophisticated solutions such as digital platforms that integrate some of the above-mentioned categories.

Further, some of them such as One Drop, are oriented to support patients along their patient journey to fix a certain disease, whereas others are focused on constantly engaging users in order to address their behaviors (consumer health type).

Sources and references


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