How digital health tools can help transform healthcare – Joseph Doyle and Sarah Reimer

Joseph Doyle, Erwin H. Schell Professor of Management and Applied Economics, MIT Sloan School of Management

From Health Data Management

A coming wave of digital health tools has the potential to transform how and where healthcare is provided.

Using information from a patient’s medical record—including lab results, provider notes and images, such as CT scans—along with genomic data, prior insurance claims and environmental information, machine learning algorithms can substantially improve diagnostic testing. They can also support decision-making tools for providers to improve guideline adherence.

The tools’ success is not a given, however. They must first gain the trust of patients, providers and payers. In addition, the tools must not prompt alert fatigue. If providers are flooded with warnings and advice, they may become desensitized and tune out the information.

This coming wave provides a golden opportunity to overcome both hurdles—smart piloting of the new tools. By systematically introducing these digital health tools, we learn what works and what doesn’t. Randomized trials do not need to be limited to pharmaceuticals and medical devices; they can inform healthcare delivery designs as well.

Recently we worked with colleagues Sarah Abraham, Laura Feeney and Amy Finkelstein at the Jameel Poverty Action Lab—a research institute at MIT that supports randomized evaluations of this kind—to conduct a rollout of a new tool: Clinical Decision Support (CDS) for high-cost imaging. This software provides information to doctors about whether a CT scan or MRI test they order for a given patient is appropriate. The information comes via a best practice alert, which is based on guidelines from the American College of Radiology.

Our study is timely. Starting next year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have put in place a new regulation that requires a doctor’s imaging orders be accompanied by a CDS consultation. The regulation was put in place amid mounting concerns in the medical industry about the overuse of these powerful and expensive diagnostic imaging tests.

Read the full post at Health Data Management.

Joseph Doyle is the Erwin H. Schell Professor of Management and Applied Economics at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He also is co-chair of the MIT Sloan Initiative for Health Systems Innovation (HSI).

Sarah Reimer is the Medical Director of Population Health Research at Aurora Health Care.

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