Could “Disruptive” Innovation Improve US Population Health?

US demographics
US demographics
Partnerships between the healthcare community and the technology sector can strengthen the development of evidence-based, HIPAA-compliant, clinical resources.

Partnerships between the healthcare community and the technology sector can strengthen the development of evidence-based, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)-compliant, clinical resources, resulting in improved population health in the United States.

In an article published in JAMA, Anne Stey, MD, MSc, of the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues examined the role of “disruptive” innovation by technology and business companies that enter the healthcare market.

Despite government efforts in the 1990s, life expectancy in the United States has decreased, disparities in healthcare persist, and healthcare costs are the highest in the world. Recently, business and technology firms have begun to enter the healthcare market: Walmart is now a part of the healthcare industry, while the Aetna-CVS merger further foretells businesses taking on the issue of healthcare. The researchers assert that these firms can offer accessible platforms, analytics, and marketing expertise that is not readily available in the traditional healthcare model. With the ability to more efficiently collect data, increase connectivity, and foresee market changes, these “disrupters” could help improve overall population health.

Promoting healthy lifestyles and reducing barriers to access are 2 major points that could be greatly improved upon by technology companies and other businesses.

Smart technology has begun to be implemented in the exercise world; devices, including wearable technology from Apple Inc., are readily available. Success stories surrounding this smart technology abound; exercise using smart technology platforms has been shown to increase physical activity compared with conventional lifestyle counseling in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In patients with depression, technology like mobile phone-based interventions has been shown to decrease symptoms.

Although such programs and devices are evidence-based strategies, clinicians have not been able to promote widespread adoption of this technology. The marketing power of the technology sector could assist with the adoption of these products. Evidence-based interventions that are reimbursed by insurance companies could be profitable, Dr Stey noted, as in the case of the alcohol and drug rehabilitation industries.

Access to healthcare is complex due to the US insurance industry structure. However, access could be improved through the use of online platforms that connect clinicians with patients. Through businesses engaging with clinicians and existing health information technology services, platforms could be developed that increase access to low-cost care for patients in need. Increased connectivity and data collection would assist with patients having access to their own health information. This would allow patients to make informed decisions about their interactions with the healthcare system and reduce redundant testing, saving time and money.

If outside businesses and companies are able to work with the healthcare community, it could mean the development of products that are helpful to and profitable for all involved. Including clinical community in these discussions would ensure that any products developed are medically accurate, evidence-based, HIPAA-compliant, and able to interface with current medical technology. Although initially viewed as “disruptive,” allowing businesses and technology companies to enter the healthcare market could improve population health overall.


Stey A, Kanzaria H, Brook R. How disruptive innovation by business and technology firms could improve population health [published online August 16, 2018]. JAMA. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.10782

This article originally appeared on Medical Bag