Good afternoon! Last week marked the two year anniversary of the World Health Organization calling COVID-19 a pandemic, so we asked the experts to reflect on the way health tech products get developed and go to market has changed in that time. Questions or comments? Send us a note at [email protected].
EVP, Chief Transformation and Digital Officer at Novant Health, and Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Novant Health Enterprises
Prior to the pandemic, health care companies and their software vendors were not generally known for rapid development of new functions, granular levels of responsiveness, fluid roadmaps or in some cases even iterative or agile creation methods. Because the consumers of their products were slow and careful adopters, there was no reason to optimize for speed.
The onset of the pandemic compelled these organizations to rapidly build new functions into their products and platforms, as they were forced to incorporate pandemic-related workflows, data sets and functionality in response to the emerging challenges. This tested their appetite for rapid roadmap evolution, their ability to quickly deploy, pivot and deploy again and their ability to make decisions quickly, while still maintaining highest degrees of quality.
Meanwhile, with change comes opportunity — and many new entrants joined the health care ecosystem during the pandemic, creating an environment of greater competition and increased fragmentation. So the general sense of urgency continued to expand, even as the pace of delivery caught up with the demands created by pandemic response.
As a result, speed is now top of mind for all health tech creators. Some have adopted a more rapid and iterative approach to product management, others have streamlined their path to launch of new functions or components and still others have significantly edited their planned roadmap for the next few years. But the most interesting change I’ve seen is the willingness to co-create solutions with a variety of entities across the health care ecosystem. Coopetition is the new way forward, particularly in the face of such enhanced competition, and my belief is that jumping on those co-creation opportunities with unconventional partners will be the way that every product company in health care (and other industries) will compete in the coming years.
Chief Digital Officer at GE Healthcare
Hospitals are under immense capacity and financial pressures. They need rapid plug-and-play tools that combine different data streams from different points of care to drive productivity and improve patient outcomes.
The rapid increase in patient volume from COVID-19 necessitated hospitals have a holistic picture of the resources they had available — beds, PPE, staffing, etc. In fact, at GE Healthcare we’ve had hospital CEOs remark that they’ve made more progress on digitization than they ever thought they would in the next five or seven years.
Looking ahead, the process of developing new technology is focused around utilizing the vast amounts of data that exists, refining it and making it interoperable so it can be combined with other data sets and third-party apps. The entire body of health care data on the planet doubles every 73 days. Therefore, health tech creation will focus on breaking down siloed data so it’s easier for clinicians to get a holistic look at patient health and for hospital administrators to more easily identify bottlenecks and operational vulnerabilities.
CTO at Collective Health
The pandemic, and related COVID testing, vaccinations and care regulations, has definitely driven the need to be more nimble with regard to supporting new benefits and cost-sharing requirements. As a result, our systems need to quickly handle modifications to health plans and associated cost shares. Given the urgency of these mandates, we’ve had to shift to react more quickly to customer needs. We are making a significant investment in plan setup tooling to make both micro and macro changes based on new benefits, such as those required for COVID care support. This helps our Plan Operations team more easily update plans and push changes through our systems. Collective Health has always focused on giving employers flexibility in their plan design, and this mindset has allowed us to quickly support the rapidly changing benefits needs.
Senior Vice President of Product and Analytics at One Medical
The pandemic forced many industries to rapidly adopt new technologies in order to meet the rising demand for digital and hybrid solutions. In health care, we’ve seen a permanent shift in consumer behavior — millions of Americans are embracing telehealth solutions in a way they might not have pre-pandemic. As an industry, we have to continue building trust and incorporate technology that allows consumers to access quality care wherever they are and gives providers the bandwidth to support their needs.
At One Medical, we had already built, from the ground up, a custom technology platform that was able to scale to meet shifting patient needs and provider workload at the onset of the pandemic. We’ll continue to innovate based on consumer and provider needs to ensure a quality patient experience.
Co-CEO and Co-founder at GoodRx
The pandemic shifted the way health tech is developed in several ways. As the GoodRx team was forced into remote work and new folks were hired without ever meeting in person, the dynamic of our company dramatically changed. We replaced in-person brainstorming with online tools and put a new emphasis on creating documentation for asynchronous work. Team leaders have also had to be more intentional with team building to make sure our culture and community are felt by all employees, remote or not.
More importantly, the pandemic reminded us of our “why.” GoodRx was founded with the guiding principle of helping our community. A global pandemic was an obvious, daily reminder that we exist to help others. As a result, we created and launched a vaccine finder in less than three weeks — a time frame that was previously unthinkable — which helped millions. We didn’t stop there — we recently revealed a consumer-friendly antiviral locator. Rather than planning for the long term, we’ve had to quickly mobilize and respond to the needs of the moment.
Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT, ATC
Co-founder and Chief Clinical Officer at WebPT
Since the beginning of the pandemic there has been an increased focus on efficiency, accessibility and the patient experience — which have all affected how health tech is developed. Previously, a large majority of health tech was centered around the provider as the primary user in health care settings.
Now, patients are in the driver’s seat and over the past two years health tech innovation has evolved with that in mind. The demand for telehealth and direct-to-patient solutions has been accelerated and forever changed the industry’s approach to technology development. The patient experience is no longer contained within the walls of the clinic or hospital. Health tech leaders have altered their roadmaps to prioritize efficiencies and accessibility for the patient, including product offerings like integrated patient messaging, online scheduling, video communication, remote patient monitoring and bill payment solutions.
Providers and patients alike have also been more willing to share feedback and help improve health tech solutions. Building more efficient feedback loops into the health tech development process has driven innovative improvements and product enhancements with improved patient adoption. While the pandemic has undoubtedly strained our health care systems in numerous ways, it has also accelerated the advancement of health tech development and helped fuel improvements to the overall patient experience.
Managing Partner at Echo Health Ventures
During the first weeks of the pandemic, normal health tech product development cycles shrunk from quarters to weeks. Innovators worked with a singular focus on product roadmaps so that in less than a month, they could launch new products to address patient and provider burdens exacerbated or caused by COVID. With pressing market need, companies like Dispatch Health expanded their at-home clinical model to treat COVID patients, Wildflower Health launched remote patient connectivity for pregnant women, and Avalon Healthcare Solutions built laboratory testing infrastructure. In addition, regulators and insurers quickly mobilized to expand access to telehealth, slash cost-sharing, and remove administrative roadblocks.
These changes ushered in a new era of telemedicine, patient-centric care, and a renewed focus on the needs of front-line providers. Hopefully many of these changes will last. However, as we continue to see investment hype and consolidation, my concern is the health care ecosystem can easily lose focus on what matters most: the patient. It is too easy to focus on the big fundraising announcement or the latest merger announcement these days. As health tech is reconstructed post-pandemic, keeping patients at the center of the development is critical.
Community-centric and population-centric health tech innovation grew during COVID also. Expansion of companies like Cityblock Health (providing communities physical, mental, and social services) and Eleanor Health (offering services to people affected by addiction) showed the new prioritization of caring for those populations who need it most. Hopefully, these changes to being more patient-, community- and population-centric will last.
CEO at Truveta
COVID-19 was a pivotal moment in time that brought together innovative health system leaders from across the U.S., to create a new company – Truveta – which they would jointly govern, to build the health data platform America needs. They knew by combining their data silos they could learn more from greater representation and the broader breadth of their combined data. Prior to the pandemic, each health system would have a fragmented view of just their care – and each health system had unique ways to look at every situation. The pandemic made it clear the world needed faster answers, better guidance, and the chance to learn from each other, including how to best treat patients during a pandemic. We had a shared vision – Savings Lives with Data. We knew that with data we could enable researchers to find cures faster, empower every clinician to be an expert, and help families make the most informed decisions about their care. Our shared COVID experience gave us a clear point of view on the data platform we needed – to make it easy to ask and answer questions about American health.
See who’s who in the Protocol Braintrust and browse every previous edition by category here (Updated March 14, 2022).