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Connected Care: Hype or Here?

May 29, 2018

Editor’s note: Derek Cothran, senior vice president of client strategy and development at EnvoyHealth, contributed to this post.

The term “connected care” has been around for several years—defined as real-time electronic communication between patients and providers. Common examples include telehealth, remote patient monitoring, and secure information exchange (e.g., online health system portals that allow patients to see electronic medical record data).

But now more than ever, technologies are emerging and becoming widely accessible. This is expanding the connected-care environment—and the ability of healthcare innovators to meet patients where they live, work, and play.

Expanding Technologies
Mobile health
generally refers to applications that support wellness tracking and coaching. Apps are becoming much more useful in these areas. But more importantly, this technology is being adopted as a key component for specific disease management programs. An example is Pear Therapeutics’ reSET® system, which gained FDA clearance for substance use disorder last fall. (Pear is seeking a second clearance for opioid use disorder.) reSET is the first of its kind—a “digital therapeutic” that can be prescribed just like a drug.

Wearables, common in the connected-care environment, are moving toward a practical way to manage specific diseases and indications. These present an unobtrusive way to engage with a patient in real time. Wearables can measure activity (e.g., sleep, gait, biometrics) and trigger tailored reminders based on patient behavior. Combining wearables with artificial intelligence enables real-time intervention and education built for specific diseases.

Ingestibles emerged last year as another tool to better understand patient behavior and improve outcomes. These can be applied to many disease states and have created significant buzz in the manufacturer community.

Other mechanisms in the connected-care environment include peripherals (e.g., smart bottles and inhaler), which can transmit data such as bottle weight or days since last use. Care teams can use this data to manage utilization, supply, and patient education.

Breaking Industry Barriers
All this sounds innovative and exciting, but is it pragmatic? Can a useful model be put into place now?

The answer is yes.

Barriers are quickly being removed. The FDA is moving to define not only the validity of clinical efficacy but also regulations around software as a medical device (“SaMD”), artificial intelligence, mobile apps, and more. This regulation will create predictability and unleash even greater investment in the market.

Payers, including the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, are becoming more engaged and opening their policies to support these products—either by establishing new codes or using existing telehealth ones. Soon, healthcare providers will be able purchase, “dispense,” and seek reimbursement for connected-care technologies—or receive payment based on patient evaluation and management using these technologies.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers have essentially given each other permission to pursue this new wave of engaging patients and managing their care. Industry titans such as Roche, Novartis, Bayer, and Pfizer have established digital health or digital therapeutics business units. They recognize the value connected care will bring. We expect continued investments and more manufacturers jumping into the space.

A New Care Experience
All the above is why EnvoyHealth has emerged in the market as the primary voice to unite technology and drug manufacturers, patients, providers, and caregivers. We want to create a differentiated and forward-looking connected-care experience.

Our model honors traditional support needs associated with patient access—including support for reimbursement, prior authorization, affordability, and free-goods dispensing—while pulling it all forward to get closer to the patient.

We take care to ensure thoughtful planning and adoption of true connected care—with the highest priority on the patient.

To learn more about EnvoyHealth and the affiliates that helped create our connected-care experience, visit envoyhealth.is or connect with Derek on LinkedIn.

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