Bridging the Digital divide: De-risking the adoption of digital solutions in Healthcare.
The Expert Discussions at the Impact Investing Action Conference on November 11th, 2021 were the conclusion of a series of Roundtables starting in August, 2021 to explore five major societal challenges. Together we explored the major issues relating to these topics and isolated concrete challenges and promising pathways to address them.  In the coming months we will be engaging with innovators and entrepreneurs to winnow through a wide range of possible solutions and determine those most deserving of our expert and investment support. Bridging the Digital divide: De-risking  the adoption of digital solutions in Healthcare. The healthcare sector is perpetually 10 years (or more) behind most other industries when it comes to adopting digital solutions.  We need to reduce the friction and risk of embracing new solutions or we will be forever trapped with an inefficient and overly bureaucratic Health Care Industry. The range of digital solutions are as varied as healthcare itself.  After much discussion, we decided our focus should be separated in two paths:
  1. Solution selection criteria:
    1. Need: Does the product meet  an acknowledged high priority need?
    2. Ease: Does the product fit into or improve existing workflows without additional adoption costs in time or capital?
    3. Data: Does the company have sufficient data to prove the solution provides real measurable benefits?
    4. Payment: The buyer needs direct incentive. Is there a clear pathway to reimbursement via insurance codes or internal efficiency?
  2. Innovation focus criteria:
    1. Bridging Solutions: Companies which help bridge the gaps between existing structures
    2. Patient Enablement: Giving patients greater control and transparency in their care
    3. Wellness Engagement: Using the omnipresent digital devices in our lives to provide better preventative care
    4. Doctor Empowerment: Reverse the trend of the past 20 years and use digital solutions to allow doctors to spend more time with the patient and less with the computer.
Via our conversations and roundtables with a wide variety of experts we first identified some primary “problems”. Like many complex systems our HealthCare system sometimes acts like an emergent self-aware beast that seems to fight change.  Each operator and stakeholder works for their own interest and when you bring experts together they can often agree on potential solutions.  Unfortunately many of these solutions rely on other stakeholders to alter their policies or behavior.  Solutions must above-all be able to operate on their own merits and address real problems without counting on changes in behavior. This becomes the “Zero-th Rule”:  Without participant (clinician, patient, payer, healthcare operator) input no digital solution can be supported. Beyond this we identified the following problems:
  1. Provider Burnout
  2. Lack of Proof
  3. System Integration
  4. Cost of Adoption
  5. Payer Buy-in
Once the major problems were identified we selected some common challenges which persist across them.  By addressing causes and commonalities we isolated those which either generate the problems or deter effective solutions. In the case of Digital Innovation Hurdles we realized many of the problems above have a Strong overlap.  The challenges:
  1. Interoperability: Inefficient data transfer or connectivity between networks
  2. Lack of Evidence: Unclear performance metrics on which to depend in an industry defined by evidence based decision-making
  3. Bureaucracy: Opaque decision making processes
  4. Payer Models: Inadequate price signals to incentivize payers to adopt best-practice solutions
  5. Burnout:  Variety of solutions, innovation paralysis, pandemic overhang, physician resistance
Further discussion highlighted that rather than focus heavily on specific product types we should instead create the solution selection and innovation development criteria presented above. On January 6th we will hold a final Solution based roundtable which will bring together expert practitioners, entrepreneurs and patient advocates to further refine these pathways into action items which we will be using as criteria for a nationwide search for the most promising startups and programs deserving of our support. If you would like to learn more about this important event sign up here. After the solution roundtables we will also be providing policy papers with further detail into our process and will be holding investor roadshows for the most promising solutions. If you would like to watch the expert panel discussion you can access the highlights here or the full discussion here.

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