• Maneka Tanwani

Don’t Commit to Digital Health Without These 4 Items


The Covid-19 pandemic was a huge turning point for the entire healthcare industry. This was especially true in the mental health space where many more psychologists and psychiatrists started to see patients remotely via telehealth platforms rather than in the clinic. People interested in seeking mental health services could get connected to therapists via 24/7 chat. Patients could also work with their mental health care provider to help monitor their progress between visits -- all with their smartphones.

Though the number of telehealth appointments has somewhat stabilized since the spike in 2020 in countries like the United States with strong reopening efforts, it is evident that digital healthcare is here to stay. Though there is still a long way to go, it has improved how equitable health services are delivered to people who live in underserved areas. Additionally, it has helped many clinicians manage heavy caseloads and improve productivity.

According to the HIMSS Future of Healthcare Report, 80 percent of healthcare providers plan to increase investment in technology and digital solutions over the next five years as they truly believe in its transformative power. With many innovative HealthTech startups mushrooming, it looks like the future is in good hands.

It is imperative, however, that clinicians and other healthcare providers take utmost care when considering which digital solution to use. By choosing a platform without the following factors in mind, as a medical practitioner, you could end up losing the trust of your patients and waste countless hours with frustrating processes not designed to your needs. Not to mention, it opens you up to cybersecurity and litigation risks that can damage your reputation and disrupt operations.

To help you choose the right product for your healthcare operations, we have identified four items you should consider as clinicians before committing to any digital health platform in the market:

1. User-friendliness and user experience

The first thing you need to check before adopting a health app is its user-friendliness and user experience. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Will it be easy for patients to understand?

  • Is the layout simple, clear and intuitive?

  • Will it facilitate high patient engagement over a long period of time?

  • Is it simple enough for your team of doctors, nurses and lab technicians to use on a day-to-day basis?

Ensure that the app you pick is more than a glorified pamphlet that just sends information one way. It should help you monitor how your patients are doing between visits and intervene in a timely manner as required. 2. Accuracy and efficiency When handling something as crucial as patient health, the solution must be accurate and efficient. Not only must it be able to assist you in your work, but it should also be a timesaver.

Depending on what you are using it for, you should write down specifically some of the problems you are trying to solve, such as following up with patients, simplifying administration, minimizing clinical errors, reducing time for analysis, and more.

3. Privacy and security

Before embracing a new digital health product, please consider the vendor’s privacy and security policies. Health apps may hold sensitive patient data such as personal information, health reports, health history, and, in some cases, financial information – all of which can cause serious irreparable damage if they fall into the wrong hands.

In the eyes of a cybercriminal, health apps and healthcare organizations are homes to a treasure trove of data they can steal and sell on the dark web. These hackers have breached security camera access, implemented ransomware attacks where they “lock IT systems and demand payment to unlock them” and used the data they steal to commit identify fraud. Any company, from big hospitals to independent medical apps, can be targeted, making it significantly important that you work with those that make privacy and security a priority in their work. Here are a few questions you should ask before committing to a vendor:

  • How is the patient’s data stored, used, and shared?

  • What happens to the patient’s data when they wish for it to be destroyed?

  • What sort of security defenses does the app use to safeguard against hacking?

  • What security certificates and standards does the product vendor have or follow?

  • Are you able to rely on and trust the vendor’s security and data life cycle management practices rather than have your own audit team?

For instance: At Mindsigns Health™, we have a mental health remote monitoring and assessment product GenMind™ that analyzes the patient’s verbal and non-verbal features as well as facial expressions for treatment monitoring purposes and sends a report/alarm to their healthcare provider as required. We ask for the patient’s consent daily when they start the application and allow them to choose from a detailed list of data permissions. On request, they can find out what information we are storing and instruct us to destroy or export it. The data is anonymized and encrypted at rest and in transit, meaning that even when there is a breach, the information stays protected. We will never monetize patient data but may, after seeking consent, use certain pieces of data for further research and development and continue to improve our products for the benefit of both patients and clinicians. We design our infrastructure, applications, and organization processes with the continuous objective of being ISO 27000 compliant. We also have an Amazon Web Services’ Business Associate Addendum (BAA) which makes us HIPAA compliant (see #4 for more information about compliance!). Our data security and privacy team, led by Chief Information Security Officer Benoit Delacrose, is based in Europe and Asia, where we conform to local and international laws and regulations.

By asking the right questions about cybersecurity and privacy, you are building patient trust and will make it easier for them to engage you using those digital health platforms, helping you and your patients drive towards better health outcomes, treatment adherence and improved quality of life.

4. Compliance

Lastly, you must make sure that the digital app you are considering complies with regulations set by your country, state, or province.

Depending on where you are and where your patients are residing, you might have to comply with multiple sets of rules. As a clinician, your focus is on providing your patients with the highest level of care and not so much on dealing with the aftermath and penalties of noncompliance; to do so, make sure that the compliance you need from your digital health app partner meets the requirements before you begin any serious consideration. Examples:

  • If you are in the US, you will be familiar with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which protects health information like diagnosis, treatment and prescription information. This law includes any information sent via electronic means which makes it extra relevant when it comes to digital matters.

  • In the EU, organizations must follow the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in safekeeping personal data or risk heavy fines of up to 10 million euros or two percent of the organization's worldwide annual revenue, whichever is higher!

  • In Singapore, the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) manages the storage, collection and management of sensitive personal data.

  • In many other countries, governments are discussing and implementing compliance laws to make sure that as the digital health industry grows, they protect their people’s rights to privacy.

There is still quite a long distance to go in harmonizing the various requirements so there is a need to ensure compliance jurisdictions by jurisdictions. Choose Wisely

We know firsthand how helpful digital health apps can be in assisting clinicians and other healthcare providers with their busy caseloads, but before you decide which platform to use, be sure to do your research into the ease of use, accuracy and efficiency, data privacy and security, as well as compliance the platform offers. Choosing the wrong solution can lead to serious repercussions from loss in patient trust, misdiagnosis, falling victim to cybercrime, and heavy fines. One size does not fit all so ensure that the solution fits your needs and those of your patients.

Here at Mindsigns Health™, we work with clinicians to design our products, constantly finetune our algorithms to provide clinical level precision and accuracy, protect data and privacy, and comply with GDPR, HIPAA and PDPA, whether it be through our mental health product GenMind™ or NeuroBrowser™, a brain health software that automates the interpretation and analysis of EEG waveforms for epilepsy and Neuro-ICU patients. Want to learn more about how our technology can help your mental and brain health clinical work? Send us a message here to start a conversation!