Prospecting for digital health gold – part I

I was intrigued to see the US Mobihealthnews headline “An untapped market for digital health innovation exists among seniors hoping to age in place” as I wondered if this was the same one that the the DHACA/Carers UK work for the DHSS discovered nearly three years ago, that still hasn’t been claimed. Answer is “not quite, though there are similarities”, which means we can have at least a Part II later. It is referring to a very detailed analysis done by Rock Health of the desires, abilities and resources of the current population of “seniors” in the US. Rock Health identifies three main factors:

  • An ageing population comprised of tech-savvy Baby Boomers
  • Regulatory and policy changes have created new incentives for aging in place
  • Digital adoption accelerating due to COVID-19

(For the UK I’d perhaps substitute “High death rate in care homes” for the second item, or add to it)

Specifically they see the technology as:

  • Bringing transparency to Medicare Advantage* open enrollment and supplemental benefits
  • Fighting loneliness and its detrimental effects on mental health
  • Supporting older adults who experience food insecurity
  • Bridging the gap between seniors and healthcare professionals
  • Enabling at-home rehabilitation—particularly in rural areas
  • Extending the acuity of care that can be safely delivered at home
  • Connecting more home care providers to families—especially for assisting ADL and IADLs+
  • Proactively supporting unpaid caregivers as they navigate complex decisions

* Medicare Advantage is provided by a private insurer that typically adds extra benefits to the basic Medicare packages available to all US senior citizens.
+ IADLs are Instrumental Activities of Daily Living – essentially additional skills over and above basic ADLs to allow someone to live independently.

It’s worth a good read as, even though for example the niceties of Medicare Advantage may not apply to many UK residents, the basic message that technology makes it easier to identify state benefits you are entitled to, still applies.

As someone very much into “senior” territory myself, why I wonder am I not yet feeling compelled to go out an buy this stuff? The short answer is that I fear being left with a load of junk – when my Epson printer serially refuses to connect to WiFi and the only help the maker provides has to be paid for, when my LumiraDx app (Engage, on the NHS App store) regularly cannot even remember my user name from one day to the next and my Polar Beat app sometimes refuses to connect to the Polar heart monitor even though my smartphone has paired with it, I just don’t have the confidence to advance to anything approaching a connected house. Thankfully there are a few good news areas like Total Triage, where askmyGP has transformed our local surgery into a genuinely helpful health promoter, and conferencing apps that have definitely reduced isolation during lockdown.

The opportunity for someone who can reliably tie it all together is huge.

Lessons for all entrepreneurs from the demise of Proteus

Fiercehealthcare has a great summary of the problems that caused Proteus to stumble – very definitely worth a short read. The key point is that smart shiny technology will not of itself guarantee success…and Proteus’s was especially smart. The two most important requirements, points that we often find ourselves making to DHACA members who seek our free (within limits) advice, are that customers have to want it, and the business model has to be sound.

And finally…

Thanks as always to Prof Mike Short for pointing me to things I might otherwise have missed.

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