With the digitisation of healthcare has come a plethora of apps: globally, there are now more than 350,000 health apps available through online stores and these digital health apps have been downloaded 20m times.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with healthcare apps. In fact, there’s so much that’s right about them. Many are vital in helping patients manage their personal health, connecting people with life-changing or life-saving support, or allowing healthcare staff to work more easily and efficiently.
App overload of harming digital healthcare
The issue lies in the increasing fragmentation of healthcare the seemingly endless supply of new apps is creating. With so many coming to market, most are now competing for space and, as a result, being highly strategic about the health needs or market they service, in order to stay commercially viable.
This is harming healthcare. As a result of app overload and the impact this has on the commercial strategies of the companies behind them, a market has emerged that’s simultaneously oversaturated and full of gaping holes. There are far too many offerings sweeping up the lucrative, so-called ‘easy’ slices of the market (think healthy young people moving from NHS GP surgeries to on-demand primary care apps, or patients with one or two annual prescriptions needs turning away from pharmacies towards medicine delivery services) and too few that are genuinely catering to the wide spectrum of health needs that exist in our societies.
The result is that some of the most successful healthtech companies are those which leave certain communities or patient groups behind. Too often, this is because the cost or compliance concerns that make serving patients with more complex or nuanced needs too complicated or too risky.
It’s time we fixed these gaps. And to do that, healthtech innovators need to think less about building brands and awareness for themselves and their products, and more about mending the holes in the healthtech fabric.
Technology solutions which can support digital health
The next wave of digital health should go all-in on tech solutions that are designed to sit quietly in the background. Solutions which enable existing healthtech companies to diversify and widen their offerings: joining the dots which will help make some of these platforms or apps genuinely universal.
That might mean, as we’ve done at CONNECT Care, developing a platform which can be used interoperably with the systems already used by the carers and clinicians of patients with complex medicine needs. Instead of reinventing the wheel, we are re-creating technology features which already exist elsewhere; we are closing gaps.
Entrepreneurs must not be sidetracked by desires to have their brand front and centre of their growth strategy. Instead, we must focus on who needs the most help and how we can get it to them most effectively - even if that means your tech is accessed through the interface of another’s.
This is the belief that drives our work at CONNECT Care. From the very beginning, we designed our app to be different. Our technology focuses on helping patients and care teams manage multiple medicines, but it’s designed to integrate with existing health and social care systems. This means clinicians and carers can benefit from our tech without having to leave the platforms they regularly use - saving precious time - and can manage their care all in one place.
Our services are enhancing the existing health and care landscape, rather than looking to muscle in on a market already noisy with competitors vying for the same slice of pie. This is very often the best thing for patients, but frequently the last route innovators think to take.
The foundation of good healthcare technology
Interoperability, co-design, collaboration; these should be the watchwords guiding all healthtech innovators if we want to build a genuinely inclusive landscape that serves all patients. This ‘partner-preneurship’ will add value by making things simpler and closing the gaps which plague the healthtech ecosystem. Key programmes, such as the UKRI’s Healthy Ageing Challenge is helping move this agenda forward, by placing a crucial emphasis on collaboration for those companies looking to unlock funding.
We know that what is visible is not always the same as what is valuable. It’s time health tech acknowledged this. As our industry grows, we can’t let the lustre of shiny new apps distract us from gaping holes in our systems or make us forget the foundation of all good healthcare: collaboration. If we’re to improve patient outcomes - and create truly connected, inclusive care - more technology needs to relinquish the limelight and embrace the backseat.