A Critical Look at Digital Health: Assessing Quality and Effectiveness

Digital health companies, which marry technological advances with health and health care, have grown exponentially in recent years. This growth makes sense: Digital health companies offer a multitude of innovations, including on-demand services that consumers have come to expect in all other aspects of their lives. For example, remote chronic condition monitoring, telehealth/teletherapy and even exercise therapy can now be done at home.Working data center interior. Concept of hosting, computer clust

Investments in digital health topped $8.1 billion in 2018 alone. The majority (77%) of new companies sell directly to employers and health plans.[1] The challenge for employers—and for every other sector of the health care ecosystem—will be to separate the wheat from the chaff. Although it’s true that digital health holds enormous potential for changing health care delivery, differentiating the valid clinical results from the marketing hype can be difficult.

What Can Employers Do?

In the absence of FDA oversight or consistent criteria evaluating the claims of digital health companies, employers might consider asking:

  1. Does the vendor have clinical outcomes to support claims of effectiveness? Are the outcome measures being tracked clinically meaningful, as with HEDIS measures?
  2. Is the vendor’s program NCQA Accredited? Accreditation ensures that organizations incorporate industry best practices and apply evidence-based methods to programs that support health and improve outcomes.
  3. Has the vendor published its results? Are the studies peer reviewed?
  4. Are the programs effective for high-risk individuals, or have users been primarily low risk?
  5. Has the program demonstrated patient safety and data security?

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[1]Rock Health. Digital Health Venture Funding Year End Update. 2018.