Panel Discussion - Digital Health Technology is Transforming Healthcare Delivery

The 9th Annual U.S.-China Health Summit took place September 26-27, 2019 at the Joseph B. Martin Conference Center at Harvard Medical School (HMS) in Boston, Massachusetts. Over 400 U.S. and Chinese leaders across major health care sectors congregated to address the two themes of more effective investment in healthcare innovation and establishment of sustainable healthcare systems.

At the panel discussion themed Digital Health Technology is Transforming Healthcare Delivery, five panelists from the U.S. and China introduced the availability and evolving trend of digital technology in the field of diagnosis and treatment to the audience.

  • David Mou, Co-founder and Chief Medical Office, Valera Health; Psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital;

  • Corey McCann, President and CEO of Pear Therapeutics;

  • Joseph Kvedar, Vice president, Connected Health, Partners Healthcare; Professor of Harvard Medical School;

  • Ligang Zhang, Founder, President and CEO of iKang Healthcare Group;

  • Lingyun Su, Former Senior Director, AliHealth Research Institute.

The discussion began with Dr. Mou’s first question to the guests, namely, how doctors viewed digital health. Dr. Kvedar, who serves as an executive in a hospital, believed that doctors would not rush to endorse a particular healthcare application (APP) when faced with numerous choices. Therefore, a question deserves reflection is how to make clinicians willing to try innovative medical software and how to promote digital medical devices. Mr. McCann added that digital software must have a solid data foundation so that the accuracy of the diagnosis can be improved to make the innovative healthcare more convincing.

As a country with a population of 1.4 billion, China has attracted great attention to the trend for its future healthcare industry. Dr. Mou raised the question whether digital medical care has potential in China. Mr. Zhang, who has a deep understanding of the Chinese market, pointed out that digital healthcare is promising in China as the country is currently a world leader in big data and artificial intelligence and mobile networks are widely available in the country, all of which provide the technical support for developing digital medical services. In addition, Mr. Zhang believed that China’s doctor shortage is an important driving force to expand the industry. Mr. Su agreed with Mr. Zhang, adding that technicians can be trained to become skillful in the use of digital medical equipment to make up for the shortage of trained doctors.

Dr. Mou then initiated a discussion on the deficiencies and advantages of the industry in the United States, where it starts much earlier. Dr. Kvedar believed that there is a one-size-fits-all model for telemedicine in the country, which leads to insufficient connectivity between doctors and data monitoring devices. Nevertheless, the advantage is that many specialized companies do help the patients successfully manage their diseases by developing software. In this regard, Dr. Mou further asked the guests how to improve patients’ access to telemedicine in China so as to give full play to its therapeutic advantages. Mr. Zhang believed that the key lies in the innovative model of service. Taking the recent insurance for diabetics in China as an example, he pointed out that technology companies could share the risk of insurance companies by guiding the behavior of diabetics with digital medical devices. Moreover, the pharmacy, telemedicine equipment and insurance companies could be connected to better protect the rights of patients. Mr. Su also mentioned that medical innovation should be encouraged to meet the diverse needs of the public as there are different levels in China’s healthcare market.

At the end of the discussion, the guests were asked to list the ideal ways to promote digital health. U.S. guests proposed live streaming while Chinese guests preferred social media. Panelists concluded that a bright future of digital health is ahead to bring better services and benefits to wider public in both countries.

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