What is the Future of Independent Living? Insights from Ada Health

by Parks Associates | May. 28, 2019

Prior to Parks Associates’ 23rd-annual CONNECTIONS: The Premier Connected Home Conference, Jeff Cutler, Chief Commercial Officer, Ada Health spoke with the firm’s analyst team to his thoughts on independent living in the smart home.

Jeff participated on the Special Session: Independent Living in the Smart Home panel on Wednesday, May 22, at 3:30 PM. Panelists who joined him on this session included:

Chris Gibbons, MD, Founder and CEO, The Greystone Group, Inc.
Chuck Hector, Chief Revenue Officer, Papa
Sean Kane, Client Engagement Manager, Mayo Clinic
Josh Locke, Director of Sales, Essence USA

Q: In developing smart home service offerings, how might service providers be thinking about partnership alignments that enable differentiation without the heavy investment of building everything from scratch?

A: The smart home industry is led by big tech giants like Amazon, Google, and Apple, yet there is an enormous opportunity for smaller service providers to take a piece of the ‘connected pie.’ Across the broader Internet of Things (IoT) landscape, we’ve seen innovation driven by partnerships, blending the expertise of a larger service provider with enabling technology providers. In order to create high user adoption, the goal must be to create a cohesive user experience, often targeting devices that the consumer is already familiar with and enabling smart technology to improve and complement the user experience. In parallel, consideration for interoperability among the platforms and devices is necessary for a seamless experience and long-term adoption.
In connected health applications, the goal is no different. In the last decade, we’ve seen the rise of personalization in healthcare and the expectation from consumers for on-demand health and care. We are now able to video chat with a physician for a virtual consultation rather than a traditional office visit, and with the advance of artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled platforms, both consumers and physicians can benefit from clinical decision support tools capable of synthesizing massive amounts of medical knowledge into actionable insights.
The success of these connected health offerings relies heavily on input from physicians and careful consideration for the patient and physician relationship, working to complement and streamline that interaction. We now see hospitals and health systems that have dedicated digital health and innovation teams, charged with bringing in new technologies to improve the patient experience.
In the US most of these health systems already offer their patients an online portal to schedule appointments, electronically send their physician a message and review their health records. However, to differentiate further, some are partnering with digital health companies to deliver an even more personalized patient experience to increase engagement. Rather than build their own web solutions, these hospital and health systems are partnering with digital health companies to integrate their technologies into the hospital’s existing IT and patient management systems. One example of this is a collaboration between Sutter Health and Ada Health to deliver a 24/7 on-demand health assessment tool that offers care navigation to support users in identifying the next step at the onset of symptoms.

Q: As the number of connected devices in consumers’ lives increase each year, what solutions need to be created to allay rising consumer concerns around data security and privacy?

A: As more consumers install connected devices into their homes, they’re sharing a very intimate snapshot of their lives with big technology companies and the proper handling of that information is a constant debate. Partnerships between large tech giants and smaller providers will continue to drive innovation in the connected device industry, yet this creates a more complex layer for ensuring proper data security and privacy. There is not yet a national standard for security on IoT devices, so individual companies are left to determine their own policies.

In the health industry, where highly sensitive personal health information is being exchanged, this concern over privacy is nothing new. The 1996 HIPAA privacy rule established national standards to protect individuals’ medical records and other personal health information, which affects all entities that touch health information, from providers to insurers. Now, as technology companies enter the health tech landscape, they too, are navigating this highly regulated industry where many digital health companies await further guidance with regards to governance over mobile health applications and digital tools.

As consumers continue to welcome connected devices into their homes, it will become increasingly important for them to be aware of what and how their information is being shared. While health companies await further guidance on governance, the best solution is to take an approach of full transparency and to publicly share their privacy policies.

Particularly in the health system, where patients and physicians need two-way communication to successfully manage a patients’ health, the management of that patient’s data has long been a topic of debate. One way the industry has overcome this challenge is by anonymizing patient information. This allows physicians to collaborate and share insight on cases, which greatly advances the medical profession, without risking any breaches of personal patient information.

At Ada Health, we put that decision in the user’s hands to be empowered to manage their own health journey, and decide with whom and when to share any personal health information. When taking a health assessment on the Ada app, users’ health data is completely anonymized and stored separately from personal data. Further, we comply with and keep up to date with the world’s strictest data protection laws, policies, and regulations including GDPR in the EEA and HIPAA in the US.

Q: What impact will emerging technologies like AI, machine learning, and blockchain have on the smart home? What are the associated challenges with implementing these technologies in the home?

A: A decade ago, we saw the transition from web to mobile, and now the big shift is toward artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled devices and platforms. In the health industry, these new technologies offer the opportunity to break down barriers to access, such as geographical access to a physician, financial restraints, or even personal preferences. This new era of digital health solutions opens up a world of health services that traditionally only existed outside the home. These solutions also bring a level of personalization that can offer users ongoing, longer-term management of health, rather than relying solely on annual or one-off visits to a physician.

Digital health solutions like Ada address the consumer’s expectation that, just like their online banking, their health providers are also offering modern communications tools. Just as you’d deposit a check or check your balance from your smartphone, users can now access their personal health information from the convenience of their smartphone and the comfort of their home--no matter what time of day. It’s no surprise that over half of all Ada health assessments are conducted outside normal clinic operating hours.

The challenge moving forward lies in ensuring that everyone has access to these technologies. The National Rural Health Association reports that 77% of rural counties are considered Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas while 9% have no physicians at all. With over half the world’s population having a smartphone, mobile-based AI health assessments can help deliver healthcare to everyone, wherever they are.

No matter what the setting, in a hospital, or in the home, integration with existing platforms is critical. In order to be successful, users will need a unified and cohesive platform. This challenges service providers to approach product development from a collaborative standpoint, rather than designing singular, standalone devices.

Q: What innovations have you seen that will address the existing needs of the elderly to enable independent living in the smart home?

A: Specifically in the health industry, medication management is a major concern for seniors. This population often has a complex medication schedule and they can benefit from a smart tracking system that reminds them of dosage and tracks progress. These tools begin to serve as digital assistants that can perform the tasks of a healthcare companion and, when given permission, can communicate important health information to the user’s care providers and even remind people to take their medications thereby improving adherence.

The rise of mobile care and telehealth also addresses the needs of seniors, especially those with limited mobility and access to health services. Older individuals are not always able to make it to hospitals or clinics and - even before they go - often don’t know the severity of their condition. Users often go to the doctor just to find out if they need to see a doctor. Now, users can turn to AI-driven health tools like Ada to better understand their symptoms and manage their health instead of immediately going directly to the ER or doctor. In fact, nearly 60 percent of Medicare beneficiary visits to emergency rooms and 25 percent of their hospital admissions were “potentially preventable” had patients received better care at home or in outpatient settings (source).

To achieve more independence, we must arm this population with more accessible information that empowers them to better understand their health and supports them in their care management.

Q: What is necessary to build a seamless smart home experience that crosses brands, platforms, and ecosystems?

A: When we talk about introducing new technologies into the US health system it’s impossible not to be reminded of the challenges with electronic health record (EHR) integration. Although EHRs have created pain points for health professionals, they offer an important learning opportunity for the success of future digital health implementations.

Nobody would argue that the aim of improving patient safety and streamlining health information will benefit the delivery of care. However, successful rollout and interoperability requires insights from key stakeholders and a deep understanding of the interactions within the entire ecosystem. With any connected home device, the solution must integrate into the end-users’ preferences, whether that is the workflow of a physician or the daily activities of a consumer. Trust is also a critical element that must be bridged between the technology provider and end-user.

Now, technology companies like Apple and Google are following the lead of health companies, hiring on-staff physicians to compete in health tech and deliver solutions that improve both the physician and consumer experience. This collaboration further signals the move toward personalization in health and a more open dialogue between health and technology providers.

Next: The Future of Independent Living in the Smart Home - Insights from The Greystone Group
Previous: Apple Watch Fall Detection Opens New Avenues for Independent Living Market


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