The successful development and widespread adoption of digital health innovations requires strategic planning, collaboration, and a deep understanding of the complex healthcare landscape.

We recently commissioned a study on how to scale-up digital health innovations from doctors and researchers at the University of British Columbia’s department of Medicine. Leveraging their findings, let’s dive into the strategies outlined by their research and provide insights into how health organizations and pharmaceutical brands can create and scale digital health innovations effectively.

Strategies for Innovation Development

The journey from conceptualizing a new digital health offering to successfully scaling it up across diverse populations and healthcare systems poses numerous challenges. Let’s explore key strategies for pharmaceutical brands and health organizations to effectively create and scale digital health innovations.

  • Leadership, Collaboration & Partnership

One of the foundational pillars for successful scale-up is visionary leadership that articulates a clear roadmap for the future. A McKinsey report found that nearly 40 percent of CEOs from wellness and disease-prevention companies have entrepreneurial backgrounds.

  • Engaging diverse stakeholders, including users, healthcare professionals, technology experts, and policymakers, from the outset ensures comprehensive perspectives and facilitates collaborative efforts in identifying, analyzing, and implementing scale-up strategies.
  • Address Barriers to Scale-Up Early On

Recognizing and mitigating barriers to scale-up are imperative for ensuring smooth implementation and adoption of digital health innovations. These barriers may include:

  • Limited stakeholder engagement: Focus is too specific on one group and fails to have collaboration, co creation and partnership from various relevant stakeholders. For example, the designers of digital innovation do not include medical, IT and business staff.
  • Lack of awareness regarding technology gaps: Developers, researchers and healthcare professionals may not understand each other’s full needs. For example, the time needed to complete relevant steps may be underestimated.
  • Data privacy concerns: It’s important to agree on the data privacy requirements and legal agreements beforehand to decide who owns the data and how it is to be used, shared and tracked.

Overcome these obstacles using proactive measures such as broadening stakeholder engagement, fostering collaboration, and establishing clear data privacy protocols.

  • Focus on User-Centric Design and Messaging

Central to the success of digital innovations is their ability to address the unique needs and preferences of target populations. Organizations should emphasize user-centric design and ensure that every stage of innovation has a focus on user needs and preferences.

Craft compelling messaging that highlights the innovation’s benefits including improved patient experience, better outcomes, and cost savings, health equity, patient education and physician well-being. Align innovations with existing government priorities and standards to ensure seamless integration into current healthcare systems.

  • Ensure Robust Evaluation and Quality Assurance

Every stage of innovation design and evaluation should be user or patient-centered. To do this, develop an understanding of the users and their needs (how they think, how they behave, how they can be influenced by their environment, is the given problem an actual problem?). Make sure you have in person consultations and observe patients in their daily lives to understand their perceptions, opinions, motivations and behaviors better.

Create intervention components that are evidence-based. The techniques, methods, and means to change behaviors or outcomes should be based on empirical evidence.

Comprehensive evaluation methodologies, incorporating user feedback and evidence-based practices, are essential for refining and optimizing digital health innovations throughout their lifecycle. Ensure the evaluation system includes measures relevant to health care professionals, administrators and patients alike.

Integrate the digital health innovation into existing work-flows or systems for prevention or treatment. For example, integrate the innovation into the electronic medical record system so that clinicians don’t have to add another task to their clinical workflow.

Building capacity, fostering interoperability, and adhering to quality assurance standards enhance the innovation’s effectiveness and acceptance among healthcare professionals and patients alike.

  • Address Barriers to Scale-Up Due to the Digital Innovation

Use your robust evaluation and quality assurance tests to identify the barriers your technology presents. Look out for barriers such as:

  • Is it burdensome? Too complex or hard to use? Is the design not intuitive?
  • It cannot be integrated into existing systems or workflows, or is the process too painstakingly slow or dificult?
  • Is the design not intuitive?
  • Does it use closed systems and missing interoperability?
  • Is it unclear who is responsible for the safety and possible claims that could arise in the future?

Account for Population and Individual Needs

Scaling up digital health innovations necessitates a nuanced understanding of population diversity and individual circumstances. Organizations should ensure equitable access by not overlooking patients who often face inequitable access to care. They should also address cultural sensitivities, and build trust in the innovation’s effectiveness to address the needs or patients. Moreover, raising awareness and educating individuals about the innovation’s potential to bridge healthcare gaps fosters broader acceptance and adoption.

Support Healthcare Professionals and Organizations

Providing continuous clinical validation, integrating innovations into existing workflows, and anticipating regulatory and funding barriers are essential considerations for successful scale-up innovation. At times, the health system is not innovation-friendly. Issues related to regulation, liability, reimbursement and funding can hinder scale-up of digital health innovations. Anticipating and planning for these barriers may help the scale-up of the innovation succeed.

It is also valuable to stay aware of the additional work the digital innovation may create for medical staff and monitor that the innovation is complementing or extending the existing health care service and not competing with it or disrupting the workflow. Empowering healthcare professionals and clinical organizations to embrace digital health innovations involves addressing concerns such as workload implications and perceived threats to professional autonomy.

Implement a Scale-Up Checklist

Here is a comprehensive scale-up checklist which you can use as a valuable tool for guiding the implementation process and ensuring alignment with key objectives:

❑ Have you clearly identified the problem based on population needs?

❑ Does your solution address the problem?

❑ Are your stakeholders engaged, and in a position to take action?

❑ Have you included patient partners?

❑ Have you included clinical partners?

❑ Have you considered the existing strategies and policies to build on?

❑ Have you embedded measurement and continuous quality improvement into the process?

❑ Have you embedded sustainability planning into the spread and scale-up process?

❑ Have you considered how to address equity concerns in the plan?

The effective scale-up of digital health innovations requires proactive leadership, collaborative partnerships, user-centric design, robust evaluation frameworks, and a commitment to addressing population and individual needs. By embracing these strategies, pharmaceutical brands and health organizations can navigate the complexities of scale-up and realize the transformative potential of digital health innovations in improving healthcare delivery and outcomes on a global scale.

As the healthcare ecosystem continues to evolve, organizations must recognize the pivotal role of digital health innovations in driving improved patient outcomes, operational efficiency and developing a competitive advantage. By embracing innovative solutions like RxPx, organizations can navigate this shift with confidence, delivering unparalleled value to patients and stakeholders alike.

Learn how you can simplify your digital patient services, prove value and help your brand standout with RxPx by scheduling a demo here.