The Digital Health Revolution Will Need To Wait...A Bit

There are real, practical concerns regarding digital health that will need to be ironed out before adoption can take place, says a well regarded cardiologist.

October 19, 2015

4 Min Read
The Digital Health Revolution Will Need To Wait...A Bit

There are real, practical concerns regarding digital health that will need to be ironed out before adoption can take place, says a well regarded cardiologist. 

Arundhati Parmar

The excitement around digital health is palpable and there are startups that are meaningfully affecting change in treatment of very difficult diseases like diabetes.

Recent healthcare conferences - the annual medtech industry conference hosted by AdvaMed in San Diego and the more clinically focused Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics - all tipped their power to the growing influence of digital health and wearable. Yet there is a sense that we are in digital health 1.0 and that the revolution will have to wait a bit. 

A panelist at AdvaMed said just getting the data to flow will not mean much for adoption. Wearables and digital health will have to answer the "so what" question to make all that data really meaningful.

"The challenge on the clinical side is 'What do I do with the data?'" said Ranndy Kellogg, chief operating officer of Omron Healthcare, explained pointing to this as one of the causes impeding doctors and hospitals from adopting wearables and digital health. "There's may be too much data. What is the right data for what I need for that particular patient, that particular consumer. Just because I [as a consumer] can collect the data doesn't mean I need to sent it to my doctor."

In a recent interview, Dr. Robert Schwartz, senior cardiologist at the Minneapolis Heart Institute and Foundation, declared that physicians who don't adopt digital health tools will fall by the way side in the future, but there are real, concerns about the massive amounts of data being generated.

Take for instance the novel EKG technology developed by AliveCOR, which has developed a device that can be attached to an iPhone or smartphone to take an EKG.

"There is a big problem with liability," Schwartz said. "A patient sends me an EKG with AliveCor and I don't do anything about it and the patient has a problem, am I liable for that?" Scwartz asks. "We need that to be worked out also given the possibility of litigation because otherwise some [medical] groups are saying that, "We are not going to accept any AliveCor or any outside readings for now.'"

Schwartz said that can be a huge, stumbling block in the path of this novel technology. 

In his practice, the volume of data being generated has not been a concern because he has few patients using those tools and when they do, they simply bring a pdf of the reading done at home during their regular office visit to show it to him.

"It's not been a problem at my practice yet," he says.

Then, there are concerns about quality as well. 

At TCT and AdvaMed conferences, well-known cardiologist and digital health evangelist Eric Topol did a live EKG reading of his heart to demonstrate the power of digital technology. 

Eric Topol didn't show you the tracing but that was a terrible tracing that he got when he did it live like that .. and they don't have it right," said Schwartz, who was on the panel discussing digital health at TCT and saw on a monitor the EKG reading that Topol got using his AliveCor device. "At this point it is not clinical grade and it needs to be."

Schwartz believes that technology developers are not "paying attention to where the technology meets the skin, where the technology meets the brain or where the technology meets the whatever it is they are trying to measure" so that the data is not technically accurate.

"I think the next  revolution is to going to [answer] 'How do we solve a technical problem of getting medical quality data from the ambulatory outpatient," he said.

Schwartz will be a speaker on a panel of physicians speaking about unmet clinical needs and novel technology at a conference in Minneapolis co-hosted by LifeScience Alley and MD&M Minneapolis on Nov. 5.

Arundhati Parmar is senior editor at MD+DI. Reach her at [email protected] and on Twitter @aparmarbb

To learn more about medical devices and trends in the marketplace, attend the two-day MD&M Minneapolis conference, Nov. 4 and 5 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. 

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