Digital health is exploding!
Don’t forget to invite providers to the party.
Video calling, medication delivery, passive health tracking - the tectonic shifts in healthcare can be felt and seen everywhere. Investors and consumers alike are flocking to these businesses.
This isn't a fad, this is the new norm. If you haven't scrolled the internet or ridden the subway lately you might have missed all the ads for erectile dysfunction pills, but chances are you know what I'm talking about.
Digital health companies and their investors have a responsibility to consider the long-term impact of this transformation.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe the health system is perfectly designed. Access is one of the principle short-comings of our current system, especially for marginalized communities. Kalamos is a digital health company with a specific focus on the queer community, so we're all in for expanding access.
However, funneling consumers into the lowest friction experiences can create adverse consequences. It's easier than ever for patients with access and insurance to build a disconnected network of medical providers. The result actually leads to fragmented health information and potentially worse health outcomes.
From a distance, it seems many of these new digital health startups are loosely addressing a much bigger problem - patient/provider mismatch. The litany of reasons for this misalignment is too long to address here, but ultimately we should all be trying to pair patients with providers they are comfortable with.
Digital and physical health integration is especially important in infectious diseases because of the population health risk. At Kalamos, we hope to reduce the spread of STIs through regular testing and treatment. We tell patients “Bring Your Own Provider” because there's nobody better suited to understand your risk and treat you accordingly than a local provider you trust.
We're constantly on the look out for resources to help patients find providers they'll be comfortable with, like OutCare - a resource for LGBTQ patients and their providers.
Can telehealth bridge time and distance access barriers? Absolutely. Can anonymity lower the psychological barriers to seeking out acute care needs? Obviously. Reducing the barriers to starting care is wonderful, but let’s not forget to integrate patients into local health systems where possible.
Erectile dysfunction, STIs, weight loss, hair loss, and many other health issues can be uncomfortable topics to address. Maybe the ultimate goal of digital health is educating both sides of the relationship on how to better communicate and then delivering excellent consumer experiences on top of that.
Our explosion of health services is an awesome opportunity. We're able to better address niche communities and instill a sense of pride in patients' health. That being said, it's worth remembering the importance of the PCP and building tools to empower them instead of disintermediating them.