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Builders of health tech interoperability
Jan-Felix’s article Shopify for Digital Health made me think about the exponential pace of emerging entities working to decentralize healthcare and bring “something better” to the periphery. For patients, this might be the promise of access and affordability. For clinicians, hopefully more agency and autonomy.
Leaning on the history of the synthetic fibers industry, co-author of Innovator’s Prescription Clay Christensen argues that healthcare becomes affordable and accessible only by commoditizing the expertise and intuition of physicians rather than replicating them. This can be an unsettling thought to anyone who dedicated their prime years to mastering the art of the healing profession. Understanding how money flows in healthcare is not something “healers” prioritize. I was never taught in medical training why hospitals need to have marble lobbies or how BUCAH (Blue Cross Blue Shield, UnitedHealth Group, Cigna, Aetna and Humana) skyscrapers “improve health.” But it’s all beginning to make sense.
Seasoned physicians feel burned by technology, such as the EHR that was going to save time, improve communication, deliver higher quality of care, and drive less medical errors. Decades later few would argue that any of this came true. Traditional EHRs are built to capture charges rather than build insights about the health of populations. They encourage “productization over platformization,” although that’s changing.
While health technology has not yet succeeded in unbundling the family doctor, it’s getting closer by the day and it’s here to stay. For this reason, physicians can’t view #healthtech as a threat and need to become literate in what’s emerging so they are able to shape and influence the next batch of innovations.
In addition to start-ups Jan-Felix outlined, here are three more interoperability enablers to watch:
Innovaccer valued at $3.2B is a B2B2C builder of single patient record and a threat to Zus Health to do the same. They strive to blur the line between digital health and health. By streamlining omnichannel data, they isolate the signal from noise to drive preventative care on a population scale. They are a harbinger of data openness that dovetails the 21st century Cures Act (makes me think of geopolitical glasnost). Because a single entity cannot solve all healthcare issues, the Innovaccer platform is meant to facilitate an ecosystem of innovation. Think incubator for health systems and payors to start their own digital health companies on top of their platform.
Particle Health (raised $14.3M) has set out to “destroy the fax” by standardizing patient data access via APIs and partnerships with other companies like Ribbon Health and Cureatr (the way Plaid enabled Venmo to exist).
Similar to Awell of Belgium, NY-based AvoMD (raised $3M) brings a no-code platform to make guidelines into interactive clinical decision support at point-of-care via standalone app or EHR integration. They enable not only creation, distribution, and analytics of interactive workflows, but also allow institutions to monetize their content via AvoMD marketplace.
It will also be interesting to see how all of the tech that “shopifies” and “unbundles” healthcare will get picked up by the Direct Primary Care (DPC) community whose physicians are known to be early adopters of technology and innovators of care delivery. After all, what we are capable of building depends on what we are building with. As JR put it, “whatever good things we build end up building us.”