4 trends that are shaping product management in health care

Nitin Dwivedi | December 18, 2021 | 54 views

Product Management in Health Care

“Health care is different, the data here is emotional! If you tell me you were buying a fishing rod online and were emotional about it, I’d say you are lying. But I do frequently see people helpless and confused when it comes to receiving health care, managing its costs, making sense of its data.” 

 - Senior Product Leader in Optum Global Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

Yes, health care is different, and so is product management in it. This piece highlights the top 4 product management trends that are specific to health care and serve beyond being just a list of technologies making their way into health care. 

Health care consumerism

Lance broke his ankle in a bicycle accident and is now in hospital waiting for surgery. Which of these words would describe him more aptly— a ‘patient’ or a ‘health care consumer’? The fact that Lance holds a high-deductible health plan, manages an interactive relationship with his primary doctor, keenly monitors his fitness through his smartwatch, and learns about healthier diet plans and recipes online — I can say he isn’t just receiving health care, but making active choices on how to pay for and manage his health. This choice and responsibility that people demand, is ‘health care consumerism’. This trend has been growing since 2015 when value-based care started picking up in the US. 

What does this imply for products/PMs?

These are challenging and exciting times to be a product manager (PM) in health tech.  This is because people are now demanding an experience equivalent to what they’re used to from other products in their lives, such as e-commerce, streaming platforms, and digital payments, to name a few. Any consumer-facing product (a mobile app, a web-based patient portal, a tech-enabled service) needs to meet high expectations. Flexible employer-sponsored health plans options, health reimbursement arrangements, price transparency products for drugs and medical expenses, remote health care services, and government's push to strengthen data and privacy rights — all point to opportunities for building innovative products with ‘health care consumerism’ as a key product philosophy. 

Wellness

COVID-19 has tested health care systems to their limits. In most countries, these systems failed disastrously in providing adequate, timely medical assistance to many infected people. Prevention is of course better than cure, but people were now forced to learn it the hard way when cure became both inaccessible and uncertain. With lockdowns and social isolation, prevention, fitness, diet, and mental wellbeing all took center stage.  

Wellness means taking a ‘whole-person approach’ to health care — one where people recognize the need to improve and sustain health, not only when they are unwell, but also when they’re making health care decisions that concern their long-term physical and mental health. A McKinsey study notes that consumers look at wellness from 6 dimensions beyond sick-care— health, fitness, nutrition, appearance, sleep, and mindfulness. Most countries in the study show that wellness has gained priority by at least 35% in the last 2–3 years. And wellness services like nutritionists, care managers, fitness training, psychotherapy consultants contribute 30% of the overall wellness spend.

So, what do health-tech PMs need to remember about wellness?

The first principle is, “Move to care out of the hospital, and into people’s homes”. A patient discharged after knee surgery has high chance of getting readmitted if he/she has high risk of falling in his/her house, or is unable to afford post-discharge at-home care with a physiotherapist. This leads us PMs to build products that recognize every person’s social determinants of health and create support systems that consider care at the hospital and care at home as a continuum.

The second principle is, “Don’t be limited by a narrow view of ‘what business we are in’, as wellness is broad, and as a health tech company, we are in health-care, not sick-care”. Wellness products and services include — fitness and nutrition apps, medical devices, telemedicine, sleep trackers, wellness-oriented apparel, beauty products, and meditation-oriented offerings, to name just a few. Recent regulations in many countries require health care providers to treat behavioural health services at par with treating for physical conditions, and this is just a start. 

Equitable AI

Last month, WHO released a report titled “Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence for Health”. The report cautions researchers and health tech companies to never design AI algorithms with a single population in mind. One example I read was, “AI systems that are primarily trained on data collected from patients in high-income settings will not perform as effectively for individuals in low or middle-income communities.” During COVID-19, we came across countless studies that talked about the disproportionate impact on minorities in terms of infections, hospitalizations, and mortality. A student at MIT discovered that a popular out-of-the-box AI algorithm that projects patient mortality for those admitted in hospitals, makes significantly different predictions based on race — and this may have adversely moved hospital resources away from some patients who had higher risks of mortality.

How should I think about health equity as an AI health-tech PM?

Health equity means that everyone should have a fair chance at being healthy. As a PM, it’s my job to make sure that every AI-assisted feature in my product is crafted to be re-iterative and inclusive, to serve any community or subpopulation, and is validated across many geographies. To prevent any inequitable AI from getting shipped, it is important to ensure that the underlying AI model is transparent and intelligible. This means knowing what data goes into it, how it learns, which features does it weigh over others, and how does the model handles unique features that characterize minorities.

Integrated and interoperable

In every article that I read on topics such as digital platforms, SaaS, or connectivity with EMRs, I always find the words: ‘integrated’ and ‘interoperable’ therein. Most large and conventional health tech companies started by offering point-solutions that were often inextensible, monolithic, and worked with isolated on-prem servers and databases. To give a consistent user experience, leverage economies of scope, and scale products to meet other needs of their customers, started an exodus from fragmented point-solutions to interoperable, integrated solutions. The popularization of service-oriented architectures (SOAs) and cloud vendors like AWS, Azure, and GCP has also helped. 

The what and how of integrated-interoperable solutions for PMs:

Integrated solutions (IS), as I see them, are of two kinds — one, in which as a health tech company, we help our customers (health systems, insurance companies, direct to consumers) accomplish not just one, but most/all tasks in a business process. For example, a B2B IS in value-based care contract management would mean that we help our customers and health systems by giving an end-to-end solution that helps them enter into, negotiate, plan for, manage, get payments for their value-based contracts with health plans. 

In the second type of IS, we offer products that can be easily customized to different types of customers. For example, a health management app that people can subscribe to for different programs such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol management, as needed. The app works with different datasets for these programs and uses different analyses and clinical repositories in its backend, but still delivers a consistent user experience across programs to a user who enrolled in multiple programs, say diabetes and weight management.

‘Interoperable’ simply means that one product should be able to talk to other products both in and out of the company. For example, if product-A can alert a doctor about any drug-drug interactions or allergies a patient might have, while she is writing prescriptions for the patient in product-B (an EMR), then product-A does talk to product-B, and hence, is interoperable. This trend is picking up further with the growth of IoT devices, and industry-wide participation in adopting common standards for data exchange. 

Conclusion

Though the article derives much of its context from US health care, I have tried to keep a global lens while choosing these topics. For developing economies like India, digitization is the number one trend as much of the health system is still moving from manual records to digitally store patient and medical data in EMRs. The good news is that India is booming with health-tech innovation and that is where consumerism, wellness, and equitable AI make sense. Once companies develop enough point-solutions for different health system needs and use-cases, Indian health tech will see a move towards creating integrated, interoperable (IGIO) systems as well. 

There are some other trends such as — use of non-AI emerging tech such as Blockchain in health information management, cloud infrastructure for health tech innovation, big data and analytics to improve operational efficiency in areas such as claims management and compliance reporting, Agile product management for co-developing with and continuously delivering to clients etc. — but I see them either as too nascent, or too old to feature in this list. 

Finally, as a health tech product manager, you can use the following questions to assess your products against the above trends — (Consumerism) do the products that I manage, empower consumers with choice, information, and actionability? (Wellness) Does my product emphasize keeping them out-of-hospitals and healthy in the first place? (Equitable AI) Am I sure that my product doesn’t discriminate against individuals belonging to underserved populations? (IGIO) And finally, is my product scalable, integrated and interoperable to expand to a platform, in the true sense?

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Caring for the world, one person at a time... inspires and unites the people of Johnson & Johnson. We embrace research and science - bringing innovative ideas, products and services to advance the health and well-being of people. Employees of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies work with partners in health care to touch the lives of over a billion people every day, throughout the world.

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By strengthening our partnership, we will be able to create additional opportunities for TSU students and further our commitment to advancing diversity in healthcare.” Sam Hazen, chief executive officer for HCA Healthcare Funds from this gift will support scholarships for students participating in the university’s Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Institute Accelerated Medical Pathway program. Three two-year scholarships for rising juniors and three two-year scholarships for graduate students within the College of Engineering will also be awarded. Through these scholarship programs, HCA Healthcare Scholars and HCA Healthcare ITG Scholars will be provided with hands on shadowing opportunities, mentors, seminars, leadership sessions, guest speakers and career guidance. HCA Healthcare will also offer dedicated internship opportunities in the ITG Pathways, Technical Resident and Part-Time Internship programs annually to TSU students. “It is an honor to partner with TSU to support more students pursuing careers in healthcare and, in turn, helping to build a diverse talent pipeline of healthcare professionals,” said Sherri Neal, chief diversity officer of HCA Healthcare. “Increasing the diversity of our healthcare workforce is vital to providing equitable, culturally competent care to our communities.” HCA Healthcare has a history of partnering with TSU. In 2015, HCA Healthcare gave $1 million to TSU to fund internship opportunities and support the growth of the Health Information Management program. Marty Paslick, chief information officer for HCA Healthcare, serves as an advisory board member for the College of Engineering where there are currently seven HCA Healthcare colleagues serving as adjunct faculty. “We applaud and thank HCA Healthcare for this generous gift and continued support of TSU, and our talented students,” said Glenda Glover, president of Tennessee State University. “This investment in our students helps them to become the future doctors and health technology leaders they aspire to be. HCA Healthcare is making their dreams a reality.” HCA Healthcare is committed to partnering with organizations to help develop a diverse pool of future healthcare leaders. Included among these partnerships is $750,000 to The University of Texas at El Paso to create multiple graduate-degree opportunities for students interested in healthcare careers. The company also gifted $1.5 million to Florida International University’s (FIU) Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing & Health Sciences (NWCNHS) to expand its faculty, offer scholarships to increase enrollment and help address the national nursing shortage. In 2021, HCA Healthcare announced a $1.5 million investment in Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) School of Allied Health Sciences to strengthen students’ pathways from undergraduate to graduate to management careers in the healthcare industry. In 2019, the HCA Healthcare Scholars at Fisk University program was created to provide scholarships, career planning support and internship opportunities for high-achieving undergraduates. These partnerships and others with industry- and school-based associations are part of HCA Healthcare’s continued efforts to strengthen the diversity of the organization’s talent pipeline. About HCA Healthcare Nashville-based HCA Healthcare is one of the nation’s leading providers of healthcare services comprising 182 hospitals and approximately 2,300 ambulatory sites of care, including surgery centers, freestanding ERs, urgent care centers, and physician clinics, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. With its founding in 1968, HCA Healthcare created a new model for hospital care in the United States, using combined resources to strengthen hospitals, deliver patient-focused care and improve the practice of medicine. HCA Healthcare has conducted a number of clinical studies, including one that demonstrated that full-term delivery is healthier than early elective delivery of babies and another that identified a clinical protocol that can reduce bloodstream infections in ICU patients by 44%. HCA Healthcare is a learning health system that uses its more than 35 million annual patient encounters to advance science, improve patient care and save lives. 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KORU Medical Systems Joins Subcutaneous Drug Development & Delivery Consortium

KORU Medical | October 05, 2022

KORU Medical Systems, Inc. a leading medical technology company focused on the development of innovative and easy-to-use home infusion solutions, announced its membership in the Subcutaneous (SC) Drug Development & Delivery Consortium making it one of the first device companies to be added to the Consortium. “The Consortium creates an important forum to identify and address key challenges and opportunities across the SC field. Key industry experts can collaborate on issues at the clinical, regulatory, and commercial level and work towards advancing the SC market and creating the best outcomes for patients. I am excited for KORU Medical’s membership as one of the first device companies and look forward to advancing SC drug delivery.” Linda Tharby, KORU Medical’s President and CEO The Consortium was convened in 2018 as a community of well-recognized industry experts with decades of experience in the pharmaceutical drug delivery, device development, and commercialization space. The Consortium was built upon a strong desire for clear and transparent evidence-based communication of existing SC technologies and information. The Consortium’s mission is to identify current and future unmet medical needs within a dynamic SC drug delivery and development environment to transform patient care and improve patient outcomes. As a member, KORU Medical will contribute to advancing understanding of patient preference for SC therapy and the clinical trial strategy and technology for high-volume SC drugs. KORU Medical was one of the first companies to develop technology for SC biologics with volumes above 5mL, and its Freedom System is used by over 25,000 patients today to receive SC therapy. KORU Medical is established as the market leader in above 10mL and will bring this deep expertise in patient experience and subcutaneous injection technology to the Consortium. About KORU Medical KORU Medical develops, manufactures, and commercializes innovative and easy-to-use specialty infusion solutions that improve quality of life for patients around the world. The FREEDOM Syringe Infusion System (the “Freedom System”) currently includes the FREEDOM60® and FreedomEdge® Syringe Infusion Drivers, Precision Flow Rate Tubing™ and HIgH-Flo Subcutaneous Safety Needle Sets™. These devices are used for infusions administered in the home and alternate care settings.

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FUTURE OF HEALTHCARE

Lionel Richie Partners With All-In-One Healthcare Company, Devoted Health

Devoted Health | October 04, 2022

The iconic singer, actor, and American Idol judge, Lionel Richie is partnering with Devoted Health, a new kind of healthcare company providing all-in-one care for Americans on Medicare. Richie has long been dedicated to improving healthcare access, and through this partnership, he will support Devoted Health’s expanding efforts to offer higher-quality care to more Americans on Medicare across the country. “Getting great healthcare needs to be a lot easier for folks. Devoted is making this happen by bringing all of the ingredients for quality healthcare together.” Richie said. “Devoted cares for each member with all-in-one healthcare. Better quality healthcare from better coordination of care can really make a difference to folks who want to live their best and most fulfilling lives. I am excited to partner with Devoted to change and improve healthcare in America!” Devoted Health is changing healthcare for the better through its innovative all-in-one healthcare solution, which combines Devoted Health Medicare Advantage plans, access to top local providers alongside specialized care delivered by Devoted Medical, full-service guides for more personalized coordination, and world-class technology that powers it all. The result of bringing these exceptional ingredients together into one seamless offering is a complete, coordinated, and customized healthcare experience for each Devoted member. "We are thrilled to work with Lionel Richie, who is such an inspiring leader and so deeply passionate about making healthcare easier for everyone. We couldn't imagine a better spokesperson and ally than Lionel Richie." Todd Park, Executive Chairman of Devoted Health About Devoted Health Devoted Health is an all-in-one healthcare company on a mission to dramatically improve the health and well-being of older Americans by caring for every person like family. To accomplish this, Devoted Health has designed and built an integrated healthcare solution that combines Devoted Health Medicare Advantage plans, access to top local providers alongside virtual and in-home care delivered by Devoted Medical, full-service guides, and world-class technology that powers it all. The result of bringing all of these exceptional ingredients into one seamless offering is a complete, coordinated, and customized healthcare experience for each Devoted member. Founded in 2017 by brothers Todd and Ed Park, Devoted now serves over 70,000 members across Florida, Texas, Arizona, Ohio, and Illinois.

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