The need for that kind of context is part of the reason why digital healthcare generated a record $3.1 billion in venture capital funding during the first quarter, according to data from the venture capital firm Rock Health. Moreover, another report showed that nearly 90% of hospitals and healthcare systems had invested or planned to invest in remote patient monitoring technologies as part of their transition to a value-based care model.
The financial devastation caused by COVID-19 likely slowed the pace of investment, certainly, but didn’t stop it altogether. For one thing, says Deborah DiSanzo, who teaches artificial intelligence in health and managing health information at Harvard, the pandemic itself underscored the need for remote monitoring devices. She should know—she’s currently working with three different venture capital–backed remote monitoring start-ups. “COVID is the tipping point,” says DiSanzo, who held executive positions at IBM Watson Health, Philips, and elsewhere before transitioning to academia. “Now that adoption of remote devices has taken off, there’s no going back.”
If remote monitoring is indeed poised for mass adoption, the impact on healthcare systems’ talent needs, organizational structure, and supply chain management cannot be overstated. The cloud, security, and privacy components alone will force healthcare systems into competition with deeper-pocketed companies for data analysts, engineers, information technology, cybersecurity, and other tech professionals, says Jessica Johnson, a principal in Korn Ferry’s Health and Life Sciences Technology practice. “There needs to be close collaboration between the technology and clinical sides so that remote monitoring solutions can be customized and integrated into workflow so that the right people are getting the right data and the right alerts,” says Johnson.
Just as healthcare systems will be battling with other industries for tech talent, they will also be fighting to retain their clinical talent. Korn Ferry’s Vied says device makers are already out recruiting nurses, nurse practitioners, and other medical staff as they prepare to ramp up business. “The sentiment is that the time to move in the market is now,” says Vied.
Healthcare professionals may feel the same way themselves. An increase in virtual and digital medicine, coupled with the burnout and psychological trauma of being on the front lines of the pandemic, could result in a situation where healthcare professionals seek to leave the field for more personal and career security. “Training, career pathing, and other retention tools are going to be more important than ever,” says Korn Ferry’s Chavey.
More remote monitoring devices also means more links along the supply chain. Not unlike other tech devices, a lot of components for remote monitoring devices are made in China. And as COVID-19 showed, being too reliant on one market risks a run on inventory—except in this case it could be respiratory monitors instead of smartphones. Experts say sourcing will have to get more aggressive, with two or three levels of alternative providers in place, and better managed in terms of keeping stocks in place to reduce risk.
But perhaps the biggest challenge with regards to remote monitoring is one that is often the most overlooked: keeping the human element in care. So much focus is on the technology that it can dilute the human experience. Patients may not want a device monitoring their every breath, and they may not want an insurance company dictating if they exercise or not. Doctors will need to increase their emotional intelligence and empathy quotient to help patients overcome those suspicions and establish a relationship that goes beyond the transactional.
Lowery says that remote monitoring is already helping to do that from a resource standpoint. “Not every patient receives the same amount of post-op interaction from surgeons,” he says. “Remote devices can help winnow down the patient pool to the ones that need human interaction the most so healthcare systems can apply the right resources to the right person at the right time.”
For more information, contact David Vied at firstname.lastname@example.org, Julie Chavey at email@example.com or Jessica Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.