These days, connectivity seems to be a foregone conclusion. At Health 2.0, we track more than 3,000 companies and products in the digital health space and count no less than 500 tools dedicated to connecting patients to providers, and another 50 companies that curate online patient communities. Yet despite all this, the people, tools, and data that need to connect in health care still remain frustratingly siloed. It’s a concept industry insiders know well, and during the Connectivity in Healthcare session at the Health Matters Annual Activation Summit in January, I had the chance to dig deeper into what exactly “connectivity” in health means to industry leaders Aman Bhandari, Dr. Kyra Bobinet, and Vineet Singal.
Aman, Bobinet, and Singal hail from diverse backgrounds and brought their unique perspectives to bear on the question of connectivity in health. Aman currently heads up a new Data Science and Insight unit at Merck where he is tasked with making internal and external data more meaningful for the entire enterprise. Much of Aman’s focus is on using partnerships to scale and drive creative, data-focused initiatives. His example of the Universal Medication Schedule, the result of a public private partnership between Professor Michael Wolf at Northwestern, Walgreens, and a Federally Qualified Healthcare Clinic illustrated the power of scaling simple solutions for health literacy when you forge creative alliances.
Kyra, meanwhile, is the CEO and Founder of engagedIN, a health behavior design firm, where she focuses on the human connections that are missing in health care and how those relationships can drive better health. Kyra highlighted support programs that follow patients post myocardial infarction and give guidance based on the emotional and psychological stages people and their families go through after a heart attack. In her case, meaningful connectivity in health must take timing into account.
Vineet in some ways combines Aman’s data-driven partnerships and Kyra’s human connections as the Co-Founder and CEO of CareMessage, a non-profit that helps providers use text messaging to streamline care management and drive better outcomes. His challenge was convincing local clinics that the populations they served actually did own phones and were very competent at texting. Connectivity for him meant building a relationship of trust with technology to then enable better communication with a traditionally underserved population.
President Clinton opened the day praising creative community partnerships among diverse stakeholders, and challenging the audience to be both forward thinking and realistic when it comes to tackling entrenched obstacles in the health system. Each of the three panelists on the Connectivity in Healthcare session fit President Clinton’s mold, sharing ambitious abstracted views on connectivity, but also the concrete steps they’re taking towards connectedness. At the end of the session, as we broke out into small groups to discuss issues of connectivity in our local communities – everything from senior isolation to EMR interoperability and tech solutions to improve access to school nurses – it became clear that “connectivity” in all its dimensions warrants a more detailed framework and breakdown. So, as we continue to think about digital health and its potential to improve the lives of both individuals and communities, let’s not lose sight of our ambitious connected goals, but let us also be conscious of how community projects can build towards an overarching framework for connectivity in health. When all our efforts combine, we’ll see we’ve built that fabric of connectivity that health care has been so sorely missing.