By Elliott Kernohan, CEO of ableX healthcare
‘Value-based healthcare’ is a growing focus for health systems globally. Its goals are to improve outcomes for patients and reduce the cost of care. Aligning the interests of patients with the care provider is key. One mechanism for doing so is to shift the emphasis of healthcare funding towards the quality, rather than the quantity of healthcare delivered. For example, a healthcare provider would be paid based on the outcome of treatment or a procedure for a patient, such as restoring independence at home or enabling the patient to manage their own health issues more effectively, and not solely for the number of times a patient visits them.
Digital therapeutics could provide a starting point to implement value-based healthcare in New Zealand. Digital therapeutics are tools which enable health outcomes, such as mobile apps, wearable devices, and telemedicine platforms, whose interventions complement or substitute for traditional therapeutics. An example is the ableX healthcare system comprising therapy games and handheld controllers which assists patients to complete their daily routine of stroke or multiple sclerosis rehab at home. It also collects data from which a healthcare professional can confirm adherence, thereby allowing care to be further personalised, leading to even better outcomes.
As well as their therapeutic impact, these technologies offer new, more scalable ways of organising health services. Being under-resourced is a key constraint in non-acute services across the country; this limits patients’ ability to access services that promote optimal health outcomes. With systems such as ableX, a physiotherapist can prescribe a therapy routine remotely and be certain that the patient is getting daily practice. The physiotherapist’s expertise can be scaled to multiple patients simultaneously with an intensity that matches at least that of hospital-based treatment, leaving hands-on time for patients with the greatest need. Such scalability means that digital therapeutics are inherently capacity-building and cost-effective. This model genuinely empowers the patient at the centre of care, strengthening the partnership between patients, carers and healthcare professionals.
These challenges of intensity, access and adherence are common constraints on outcomes across many diagnoses. To encourage adoption of digital therapeutics in NZ, the funding model requires more flexibility: providers need an incentive to break away from convention and adopt mixed modes of healthcare delivery, assisted by technology. ableX is one example of a digital therapeutics company with the potential to unlock productivity, insight and value through a focus on better health outcomes.