As promised, we’re returning to a question we asked in the beginning of this post: Do these advances in digital health actually improve clinical outcomes?
In a strict economic sense, the incentive for any healthcare company, digital or otherwise, is merely to increase utilization (or, even more cynically, sales). This dynamic comes to bear all the time in healthcare, and sometimes the result is just neutral: advancements in imaging, for example, have enabled doctors to diagnose lung cancer much sooner, but there isn’t yet clear evidence that this enables doctors to improve care or reduce mortality. Hence new imaging technology gets adopted, but clinical outcomes don’t change. It would be an outright failure, if, say, a telemedicine company convinced a generation of healthcare consumers to first engage with a doctor over video calls yet this delayed consumers from getting the in-person care they actually need. Or if a generation of Quantified Self consumers overwhelmed the system with personal health data that theoretically promised better outcomes but in practice had no use.
Suffice it to say, we’re eager to work with companies that promise to improve clinical outcomes in conjunction with building a good business.
We’re grateful that you’ve made it to the end of this series. If you have comments, questions, or further examples of absurd medical stock photos, we encourage you to contribute to the comments here. Our hope is to have an ongoing dialogue on important questions, trends, and changes surrounding the healthcare system in this country.
Many thanks again to Dr. Josh Landy of Figure 1, Dr. Christopher Tran of The Ottawa Hospital, Tyler Hayes of Prime, Justin Fulcher of Ring.md, Jeanne Pinder of ClearHealthCosts, Andy Weissman and Albert Wenger of USV, and Boris Wertz of Version One Ventures for reading drafts of this post. Special thanks to Kristin Lindstrom for helping us to write this post and Alexander Pease for contributing to the research for this post during his time at USV.