The healthcare industry is rapidly evolving and adopting new technologies at a rapid pace. Digital advancements have made keeping track of our mental and physical health so much easier and digital health can be positive and empowering for corporate wellbeing. However, when it comes to delivering digital health and wellness programmes – and EAP services – there are a number of potential threats to the success of healthcare platforms, apps and digital tools. These can cause some critical challenges in the adoption and long-term use of digital health platforms.
“…there are a number of potential threats to the success of healthcare platforms, apps and digital tools.”
“Digital health is a broad term that can encompass a wide range of applications, from fitness trackers and apps that help you manage your health, to telemedicine…”
What is the difference between digital health and digital medicine?
Digital health, digital medicine, and digital therapeutics are all terms used to describe the use of technology in healthcare. Digital health is a broad term that can encompass a wide range of applications, from fitness trackers and apps that help you manage your health, to telemedicine and remote patient monitoring. Digital medicine is a more specific term that refers to the use of technology to diagnose, treat, and prevent disease. Digital therapeutics are those that are used to treat a wide range of conditions and diseases.
Digital health from an employee assistance perspective
Based on market research and the analysis of over 500 online mental healthcare solutions, Intelliprove, who are pioneers in health technology in the US, reported that they were able to identify three key challenges that are crucial in the worldwide success and adoption of digital mental healthcare platforms and tools. The following three challenges are critical to meet in order to achieve guiding a user in a fully personalised way through a variety of qualitative digital mental healthcare solutions.
- Quality of the content
Science-backed, evidence-based and clinically validated content is essential. The offered solutions should fit clinicians’ workflows and be tailored to the specific needs of patients.
- Guidance of the user
Research has shown that software-based mental health solutions that include human support are often more effective than self-guided or automated treatments.
Adaptation of the content (exercises, videos, blogs, telehealth) to be appropriate to the user is necessary. This is crucial to increase the efficacy and engagement during the patient journey.
A digital health and wellness programme perspective
For employees today, corporate wellness programmes can be seen as derivative and unengaging – leading to the lack of a positive outcome in participants. On the other hand, smartphone applications and wearables give immediate insights into an individual’s personal health and wellness metrics. They provide nutrition trackers for daily food or water intake, fitness activities or sleep patterns. These are available to suit an individual’s schedule, while they are sitting at their work desk or on the couch. Here are some of the pros and cons for digital health and wellness platforms and tools:
“…smartphone applications and wearables give immediate insights into an individual’s personal health and wellness metrics.”
- Digital wellbeing platforms can be an easy access, one-stop portal for health and wellness solutions and information.
- Digital health apps can be used as a regular check-in tool.
- Through lifestyle apps, employees can learn more about diet and nutrition, exercise and physical fitness, as well as adopting healthy habits like reading and mindfulness meditation.
- They can help employees cultivate positive emotions and positive thinking – and help to understand how to control or deal with negative thinking.
- They provide an in-your-hand or at-your-desk channel for healthcare awareness delivery.
- They deliver easy access to reports and updates on health.
- Digital platforms can be time consuming.
- They reduce real-time interaction and engagement with people.
- They need regular upgrades.
- They can be expensive.
- There is always a threat that hackers can access patient reports and records.
What makes for a great health and wellness platform or app, and how can you make sure it has all the essential components that users want? A digital wellness app for employees should:
- be user-friendly;
- make wellbeing fun, where engagement is further enhanced through fun challenges that inspire friendly competition;
- be based on a proven method to increase mental health;
- have tools for setting up personal and professional goals, such as tracking heart rate, blood pressure, stress level, sleep quality and food intake
- provide tools to facilitate planning the day at work;
- provide hours of elearning through inspirational reading about different areas affecting health, such as stress management, personal growth, healthy eating, or finances;
- send out surveys allowing employees to answer anonymously to reflect on their current health and workload.
- Additional motivation could be provided through gamification and incentivisation with in-app rewards and benefits.
The ability to tailor the digital health experience for each user is crucial to user engagement, retention and, ultimately, the success of a digital health platform or app. Personalisation gives users a reason to keep coming back.
Data Security and Privacy
One of the greatest challenges associated with digital health is data security. When patient data is stored electronically, it is at risk of being leaked or hacked. This could lead to sensitive information being released to the public or used for identity theft. An additional risk is that of privacy. If patient data is not properly secured, it could be accessed by unauthorised individuals. This could violate patient privacy and could even lead to legal issues.