Sep 10, 2019

Separating hype from reality in health tech

Data: Kaiser Family Foundation Health Apps and Information Survey; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Tech companies trying to disrupt the health care system still have a long way to go.

Why it matters: Splashy health tech announcements are everywhere, but many are more hype than reality, according to a poll conducted for this column.

By the numbers: 70% of the people we surveyed say they’ve used the internet to research symptoms or learn more about health conditions. And 51% use apps or other tech tools to track their sleep, fitness or diet.

  • But as people’s needs shift from personal information-gathering into the formal health care system, their tech usage begins to fall.
  • Only 44% have accessed their medical records online, and fewer than 25% have used the internet to manage chronic conditions, mental health, or their health care spending.

Yes, but: Across the board, young people are more likely to go online for some part of their health care needs.

  • Nearly half of 18-44 year-olds, for example, have used the internet to research a provider — compared with just 32% of patients older than 45.

The big picture: In Silicon Valley, where I have lived and worked for over 25 years, “disruption” is a buzzword and a goal unto itself. And in health tech, promises of “disruption” run the gamut from coverage to payment to actual care.

  • Apple, Eli Lilly and a startup called Evidation Health recently announced plans for an iPhone and Apple Watch feature they say could help detect Alzheimer’s.
  • Startups like San Francisco-based Forward offer concierge primary care that uses a slew of high-tech tools, in an office modeled on the experience of using an app.
  • And of course there’s the most famous example of a failed promise of disruptive health tech: Theranos.

The bottom line: It’s time to pay close, serious attention to what is real and what is hype in health tech.

  • This conversation, which has been the province of investors, tech companies and the business press, warrants more serious and objective questions about the effects on people’s health, privacy, and their health spending.

Go deeper

Medtech's quick-fix addiction

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Some technologists look at the pileup of crises weighing down American health care — overworked doctors, overpriced treatments, wacky health record systems — and see an opportunity to overhaul the industry, which could save lives and make them money.

Yes, but: There's frequently a chasm between can-do engineers itching to rethink health care and the deliberate doctors and nurses leery of tech that can make their lives more complicated, or worse, harm their patients.

Go deeperArrowOct 5, 2019

Health care dominates 2019 ad spending

Data: Advertising Analytics; Chart: Axios Visuals

More than half of all issue advertising this year has been on health care, and that spending will only increase as the 2020 campaign gets closer.

Between the lines: Most of the top health care spenders are focused on issues like surprise medical bills and drug prices — many of which would cut into the health care industry's profits.

Go deeperArrowSep 11, 2019

Health Care Vitals: Phoenix

Julie Bowman, Chief Nursing Officer at the Phoenix Children's Hospital, sits at the Axios table between Sam Baker, left, and Libby McDannell. Photo: Mindy DeLuca for Axios

This Wednesday, Axios' Sam Baker hosted an Expert Voices Live discussion in Phoenix, digging into the state of health care access and affordability in Arizona.

Local leaders, policymakers, and advocates discussed solutions to challenges in health care policy and providing equitable, high-quality care.

The need for data in policymaking

As health providers become increasingly dependent on data, the importance of accurate and accessible information is paramount in providing effective care.

  • Kevin Earle, Executive Director of the Arizona Dental Association: "[There is] no comprehensive oral health surveillance system in Arizona and getting data is very challenging. [To make more effective programs] we need to get the data, make the connection between oral health and systemic health; it's going to take a multi-pronged approach."
Access across communities

A consistent theme was the importance of creating policy that could serve all constituents, from rural to urban areas and other uniquely vulnerable communities. Challenges presented by the complexities of the current systems and addressing the needs of all patients featured prominently in the conversation.

  • Linda Ross, Chief Executive Officer of Circle the City, on reaching vulnerable groups to provide medical care: "Getting care to the homeless population is a problem; we have to go to the homeless communities to provide them care."
  • Wendy Armendariz, Chief Executive Officer at Neighborhood Outreach Access to Health, on how oral health tends to fall by the wayside for children: "the amount of case management versus the children that follow up for care is very small; oral health is second or third on family lists; it’s not a priority."
  • Kevin Earle, Executive Director of the Arizona Dental Association, shared "The Navajo community has the highest level of oral decay in the country...Education is an opportunity to better control decay. [We need people] who are from these communities, working with these communities to understand the importance of oral health and be embedded in all their health activities."
Oral health and comprehensive care

How to measure the impact of effective care was a significant topic of conversation, as well as the connection between oral health and overall well-being.

  • Julia Wacloff, Chief of the Office of Oral Health at the Arizona Department of Health Services, discussed collaboration across different sectors to create effective health policy in Arizona: "We brought many different partners to the table to identify priorities...[It was important] to bring grassroots organizations to the table. It wasn't going to be just one organization."
  • Regina Cobb, State Representative for District 5 at the Arizona House of Representatives, on how to make changes at the policy level: "One of the things we’ve focused on [in policy] is comprehensive care, oral care as integrated into whole body care. [To make lasting change] we need to educate policymakers to show them how important integrated care is."

Thank you Delta Dental Institute for sponsoring this event.

Keep ReadingArrowSep 27, 2019