Adopting New Technology: Barriers and Breakthroughs

May 8, 2019

Pharmaceutical Executive

Volume 39, Issue 5

Preserving positive ROI amid healthcare’s innovation explosion.

Over the next decade, there’s not a single profession or specialist group in healthcare that will be untouched by digital technologies. Currently, stakeholders across the spectrum are focused on easing and promoting the adoption of technology and innovation.

Barriers

One of the biggest barriers to broad adoption continues to be cost. New technologies are usually more expensive than commodity products and require investment. Which raises the question by insurance companies, patients, and physicians: who should pay for new technology? The industry has seen many pilots and trials in which one stakeholder is willing to bear the full cost of the innovation for a short period of time. Few of these transition into sustainable business models with adoption at scale.

The promise of an innovative solution that can help doctors and patients isn’t enough to get a product to market. The payoff for these investments must be clear. Each solution must prove on its own merit how it improves patient care and reduces cost. The industry has moved past the “just trust me” phase. Adoption of investments requires clear ROI within a few years. 

Providers and payers themselves can present another challenge. Too often, time and resources are wasted on adoption of solutions that can’t be sustained, are unable to be scaled, and/or do not provide positive ROI. As the availability of digital solutions grows, industry leaders must be judicious about which products are introduced to the marketplace. Poorly designed and executed implementation reduces the impact of promising solutions. This leads to an unwillingness to further try new technology and cripples our collective efforts toward progress.

A third challenge involves winning the buy-in of clinicians, who also evaluate and adopt these new technologies. Studies have shown that historically it’s taken more than 15 years for innovation to be adopted in healthcare. Many clinicians are inherently risk averse. They are taught not to fail, since failure may result in harm to patients. They’ve seen technology advancements in healthcare solve many problems, but also create new ones. For example, we hear from physicians that the multitude of clinician-facing digital solutions are contributing to burnout.

Breakthroughs

Fortunately, even physicians are recognizing the need to think about innovation differently and change the pace of adoption. Recently, the American Medical Association convened the Digital Health Physician Adoption Summit to discuss how best to support physician adoption of safe and effective digital health innovations. Meanwhile, developers are increasingly focused on building solutions that can fit within physicians’ current workflows to provide data that enhances clinician problem-solving and facilitates effective relationships between patients and physicians.

It’s encouraging that regulatory bodies like the FDA and UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) are also making strides to support industry efforts. NICE created the Accelerated Access Collaborative with the goal of making it quicker, cheaper, and easier for innovators and the National Health Service to get transformative technologies into the hands of patients. The FDA has created a similar Medical Device Innovation Consortium in hopes of advancing medical device regulatory science. 

The long haul

As we work to fully understand the needs of all stakeholders and provide solutions to these adoption barriers, those of us in the drug delivery space recognize that patients are often the best advocates for technologies in healthcare. We continue to listen to patients and study their behavior. We know that patient adoption of a technology isn’t driven by innovation or trendy solutions. It’s driven by solutions that are simple and meet patients’ basic needs. 

We also know that our work doesn’t end when those solutions reach the hands of patients. We have to be attentive and responsive to the changing needs of the various stakeholders and we must adapt our solutions to evolve with them. It isn’t a launch-it-and-leave-it scenario. Evolution is inevitable. 

 

Chrissy Bell is Global Business Leader, Inhalation and Connected Health, 3M Drug Delivery Systems

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