Improving Healthcare through Digital Technologies

What a year… 2020 was without a doubt a hard year for all of us. We had to adapt to the “new” normal and change the way in which we did everything. As I mentioned in my presentation, the health care industry has been changing slowly throughout the past years, but during the pandemic the shift to digital transformation accelerated and has been very beneficial to the general public as more options for treatment on demand.

Telemedicine and connected health platforms are ways in which healthcare has become more digital and accessible. There is an increase in demand for on-demand, more flexible healthcare solutions. These options use existent technologies such as video calls and messaging to provide medical services. Connected health is a platform in which a patient, a nurse/doctor and medical equipment are connected. This technology allows doctors and nurses to monitor and support their patients while doing medical treatments at home.

Prescription delivery services are other ways the healthcare industry is changing. Services like PillPak from Amazon and Capsule are a few of the online pharmacies that have been created and gain momentum because of the pandemic. PillPak has a lot of added benefits other than delivering for free to your door, they separate the prescription into daily doses and provide the date and time you should take them. This is a great benefit for the patient and for their care givers, as it saves time and provides guidance on when to take them.

Services like Firefly Health, which is accessible by phone app provides on demand access to a care team of primary care doctors, behavioral health specialists, health guides, and specialists. The mission of this platform is to change care for the better, and they are doing this by providing the users with continuous access to their health data. You are able to book an appointment for the same day, something that is virtually impossible in the current health systems.

Firefly health came up with another offering, creating a program called “Return to Work” to monitor employee’s health. This service provides constant monitoring through daily screenings  and combines it  with access to their care team through their mobile technology model.

Return to Work System from Firefly Health

In late 2019, with the push by the government to push medical treatments at home, for example by setting the goal of 80% of new end stage kidney disease patients to treat at home or have a transplant by 2025 technology goals. It motivated companies to look into ways to improve and change the way treatments are made at home.

Medical systems geared towards the treatment of chronic kidney failure like the System One with Nx2me connected health platform from Fresenius Medical Care and the Tablo system from Outset Medical are finding ways to improve the connectivity between patients and care team. The tablo system is an easy to learn and use system that reduces training time and guides the user through their treatment. The system is connected through a 2 way wireless data transfer to the HIPAA approved cloud based monitoring and reporting platform. These systems are the beginning of what can change the way chronic diseases are treated and provide more flexibility to patients and allow them to have more control of their health and treatments.

NxStage’s System One with Nx2Me
Tablo Sytem from Onset Medical

Through the crazy times last year, the healthcare industry made leaps in their digital transformation process. Investments for development in new technologies will continue to grow and improve patient experience while also minimizing costs for providers. I believe projects to leverage existing technologies to improve the way we interact and receive health care will continue to expand. On demand access to a doctor through telemedicine will be normalized, especially for non urgent situations. As well as companies will re-imagine how to treat chronic illnesses that require constant treatment and follow up will be moved to the comfort of patients home.

Would you embrace digital changes in the way you get health care?


  1. abigailholler1 · ·

    The transformation in the healthcare space is quite remarkable! One major question I have on this topic: will these advancements in the healthcare space eventually translate to more affordable healthcare for individuals? As you mentioned above, technological advancements are driving lower costs for providers and are likely to have a considerable impact on the pricing model for these providers in future. Specifically, I think one way to encourage adoption for telehealth visits is to charge a lower co-pay / out of pocket cost for the appointment. I’d assume that telehealth visits run more efficiently, and thus physicians might be able to see more patients in a shorter amount of time. I’ll continue to embrace a more digitized healthcare experience in future because it is more convenient to me, but I am also hopeful that the cost savings generated to providers will filter down to individuals.

  2. lisahersh · ·

    Thanks so much for sharing, Lourdes! While many companies have had to do a mad dash in digitizing due to COVID, I don’t think any industry has experienced the level of disruption currently happening in the healthcare space. I love the idea of having access to all of your health data like what Firefly Health offers. I feel like every time I switch doctors I have to provide them my health history from memory, which is almost impossible when it comes to vaccinations I received as a child. My mom worked as an ER nurse for a number of years and she said one of the biggest issues was not having a patient’s info such as blood type, medical allergies, etc., readily available when a person was incapacitated. I think blockchain will have a huge impact on providing this patient data in a secure way to anyone who needs access to it, which was discussed in the Group A reading “Estonia: The Digital Republic” from our “Blockchain and Cryptocurrency” class.

    Also, as someone in the healthcare space, I would love to hear your perspective on the vaccine passport app:

  3. A lot of really good information. To answer your question, yes I do embrace digital changes in the way I receive healthcare. One of the silver lining’s of 2020 was telemedicine. It was great to be able to see my doctor over video because it added an extra thirty minutes to my day each visit in time I saved not having to travel. It is also a lot easier to schedule around work. I really like the idea of what PillPak is doing, I think this a great use of technology. I have also heard rumors that Amazon Pharmacy would like to get to the point so that they cut each pill to the exact dose that a patient needs further increasing efficiency.

  4. courtneymba · ·

    Great post, Lourdes! And interesting comment, Abigail. I completely agree with your point raised to incent patients patients with a lower co-pay to increase opt-ins for telehealth visits. There are some appts that make complete sense to do via telehealth, but then others that feel like such a waste to do remotely (like my recent cardiology appt ha!). I think there’s some interesting opportunity here for more preventative care efforts via Telemedicine. The blood work teams would need to do vital checks with the labwork to keep it to only 1 in-person visit.

  5. Awesome post Lourdes! I think that COVID has brought upon an acceleration of the digital transformation within healthcare at an extremely fast pace. What I think needs to accelerate is the way in which this data is shared and transmitted. Right now health data is increasingly siloed across multiple health networks and software systems, my hope is that through wider spread adoption of the blockchain that we will come to see companies develop solutions that will allow for faster analysis of health trends and allow for predictive analytics to be able to induce better preventative care. For example in a future scenario, if a healthcare system had access to this data a predictive algorithm would be able to send alerts to patients based on their medical history and shared biometrics from Fitbit or Apple so that they could know how they were reducing their risks of certain health ailments.

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