OCTOBER 16-18, 2019



October 16-18, 2019 | Boston, MA

Scaling Digital Health: From Hundreds to Thousands of Users and Beyond

By John Sharp, Director, Thought Advisor for Personal Connected Health Alliance

As the evidence for the effectiveness of digital health grows, companies have been able to scale from small pilot studies to serving thousands, to tens of thousands of consumers or patients. We are seeing that investors are still focused on digital health. Exits through acquisitions (including by big tech) and IPOs are occurring. But what really is the measure of success in digital health? Is it IPOs in the Silicon Valley approach to digital technologies or should there be a different approach in the health and wellness industries?

I propose that the measure of success in digital health should be its ability to scale effective technology to improve health and wellness. Take for example, diabetes prevention programs. Initially promoted by the YMCA as an in-person program and then a CDC national program, it has been successfully adapted to a virtual coaching app which has equivalent outcomes to the in-person program. These are beginning to reach tens of thousands and potentially millions through employers and payers. This is why the American Medical Association is declaring digital options must be part of the fight against prediabetes. Virtual coaching is now expanding to other chronic illnesses and moving toward making care management a telemedicine approach rather than strictly in-person. These expansions are making their way to other conditions like mental health, hypertension and pregnancy. There is also a move beyond smartphone apps to other devices like smartwatches and voice technology.

How do you build to scale from the beginning of a digital health company? What is the secret sauce that allows one to grow and have a broad impact? Early stage companies have the challenge of gaining early adopters (customers) while groups like payers and employers require the startups to demonstrate maturity, according to Sean Duffy. In the risk-averse healthcare market, buyers are not looking for disruption, but “value continuity and an iterative approach to innovation that limits downside risk.” By focusing on one problem, it can lead to future product innovations and sustained growth. As recommended by NODE.Health, reducing the cycle time for clinical validation of apps and devices in partnership with health systems can launch digital health ideas forward. “Those that partner with such nimble innovation centers and organizations committed to demonstrating evidence in digital health stand to distinguish themselves in the demanding healthcare marketplace with high-quality digital evidence.”

In our Health Tech StandOut! competition at the Conference, top innovators will get the chance to present their ideas to a panel of experts. These new ideas could be part of the future of scaling digital health to the global population.

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