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Fund Reports


Taking Digital Health to the Next Level

Promoting Technologies That Empower Consumers and Drive Health System Transformation
digital health

Executive Summary

Digital health technologies—ranging from wearable sensors and portable diagnostic technologies to telemedicine tools and mobile health care apps—have the potential to transform the health care delivery system by empowering consumers to play an active role in their care and define what services are important to them. They also can help health care providers, insurers, and others analyze a growing body of data to identify unmet needs and measure treatment outcomes to better tailor patient interventions.

Technology-enabled care delivery also may help constrain health care spending and can play a role in payment models that hold health care providers accountable for the quality and costs of care. There has been an influx of venture capital to support the development of tools, such as data-mining applications, that can be used by accountable care organizations and others working to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations. Still, there are significant barriers to the development and adoption of effective digital health technologies. This report outlines these challenges and makes recommendations for overcoming them, with the explicit goal of encouraging clinicians, developers, and entrepreneurs to focus on the needs of patients with complex and costly medical and behavioral health conditions.

Our recommendations are informed by interviews with clinicians, entrepreneurs, investors, and consumer advocates as well as our own research, and are founded on the premise that such technologies will work toward achieving the vision of the triple aim: improving population health, improving care experiences, and reducing per capita costs of care. These include:

  • Defining opportunities by focusing on the nation’s greatest health and delivery system problems.
  • Closing knowledge gaps among consumers, technology developers, entrepreneurs, health care executives, and investors through networking and learning events.
  • Creating test beds in care settings to validate the impact of innovations on quality, outcomes, and costs as well as on clinical and consumer experiences.
  • Enabling consumer-centered design and valuations of new technologies.
  • Addressing barriers to uptake, including operational factors and challenges related to an evolving reimbursement and policy landscape.

Change is likely to come from a confluence of approaches that enable better communication, coordination, and more accessible and cost-effective modes of care. Given this, it is crucial that those seeking to improve care delivery—from developers, entrepreneurs, and investors to researchers, frontline clinicians, and consumers—work together to focus their efforts on areas of greatest opportunity.

Click here to view full report.

See the companion report, A Vision for Using Digital Health Technologies to Empower Consumers and Transform the U.S. Health Care System.

Publication Details



Martha Hostetter, Consulting Writer and Editor, Pear Tree Communications

[email protected]


M. Hostetter, S. Klein, and D. McCarthy, Taking Digital Health to the Next Level: Promoting Technologies That Empower Consumers and Drive Health System Transformation, The Commonwealth Fund, October 2014.