Lessons From The Journey to Take Tech Home
Updated: Jan 18, 2022
I had the opportunity to moderate an amazing panel the first week of December at the BIOMED Silicon Valley show on December 8th. Not only were all of the speakers women (thanks to the great work by MedtechWomen in sponsoring the event) they were also veterans in medtech's journey to move tech out of the hospitals and into our homes. Shena Park, Nicole Winokur, Lauren Levinsky and Dr. Archana Dubey all had some deeply thoughtful experiences they shared at the event. The panel was made extra special with the timely attendance of the young ladies of Soquel Highschool's Biotechnology CTE Program and San Jose State's Biomedical Engineering Society in the audience.
Photo by Vlad Bagacian on Unsplash
The panel stood for a range of products and services at various stages of development, but they all find common ground in the challenge of using tech in home environments to deliver healthcare. Shena Park is a recent addition at Nesos (a digital therapeutic company focusing on the immune system), but spent twelve formative years at iRhythm as it grew from early concept to $200M+ company. Nicole Winokur is at a similarly early-stage company (Exo) focusing on expanding powerful ultrasound imaging outside the clinic. Dr. Archana Dubey is the Chief Clinical Officer at AliveCor, the most clinically validated mobile EKG solution on the market. Lauren Levinsky's Company, Current Health, uses multiple devices to deliver their care-at-home platform.
Some of the key takeaways from the session included:
Understanding Health Systems
While consumer wearables can focus on individual consumer needs, scalable home tech must focus on the needs of the providers as well. Levinsky shared the "controversial" statement that
"...the tech is maybe 20% of the solution." She went on to say "You need to have great technology to do its job, but when it comes to fundamentally changing workflows, turning the hospital system inside out and moving care into the home, I think the other 80% are the workflows and how it all fits into the larger system. You really can't ignore that if you want to be successful."
Supporting Evolving Reimbursement
Dr. Dubey spoke of how AliveCor chose to enter the market positioned as a direct-to-consumer device to "bypass the red-tape" of different reimbursement systems. This approach was taken to ease the frustrations of both the patients and the doctors (of which Dr. Dubey was one) trying to meet cardiology needs with the new tech. Because it had been developed before remote enabling technologies existed, reimbursement of certain episodes of care are often tied to physical locations, such as a doctor's office or a lab. As was discussed by multiple panelists, Covid saw a rapid, temporary loosening of these rules. Levinsky pointed out that these changes are not only vital for managing health in a pandemic, but for meeting even the non-crisis needs. "Health Systems know they don't have the capacity to care for everyone within their four walls...that's going to be a driving force."
Merging of Consumer & Health Products
The "consumerization" of healthcare has been a broadly discussed trend in our industry, and the panelists had plenty to share on that topic. Levinky's company, Current Health, was bought by the retail electronics giant Best Buy in October of 2021. Park's time at iRhythm allowed her to see first-hand a product evolve from a hospital use device to a "home care" product. She reflected on how a change in environment changes a patient's expectations of the products they use. "[When] I'm at home, I expect to go for a walk, take a shower, visit friends, drive, wear my favorite clothes. As products transition to intervening in a crisis to supporting a quality of life, they are going to have to undergo a major make-over to find acceptance." Winokur brought up a great point to address those changes in attitude: "Sometimes I get stuck in thinking about how the existing medical companies do it, but look at consumer brands. We are all consumers at heart, so what do you love most about your consumer brands? Bring those best practices into the adoption of your solution."
Providing Health for Everyone
Several questions from the audience touched on the topic of health equity. In addition to meeting a purely clinical need, Healthtech companies have unique ethical and social pressures to address in their products. All four panelists spoke on their companies' efforts to make their high-tech offerings affordable and accessible. For Park, matching products to their intended users, and not making assumptions about those users, is key. " Invest heavily in user research and iterative product design up front, so that whatever you're taking into development has already been vetted. It's not just the product. It is that entire customer experience from how they find you, to how did they purchase, right up to how they unpack it." For Dr. Dubey, good business practices support good social impact. "I keep a really keen eye on keeping costs down. It is only in keeping our costs down are we able to offer our product at accessible pricing as well."
Clearly, making the health journey into the homes smooth and widespread is not just about putting tech in a box. Each previously familiar element of the medical device development process must be analyzed and adapted to enable it. Many thanks to all the panel attendees for their work in making that happen.
You can view a video of the entire panel conversation here.