Combatting Misinformation related to COVID-19: a Primer for Healthtech Companies and Consumers

by | Mar 26, 2020 | Healthcare | 0 comments

As a Pulmonary & Critical Care Physician who has a passion for finding digital technology solutions to our health care problems, as well as 5 years of experience helping healthtech companies in the SF Bay Area, I have evaluated many and led the adoption of several platforms in my practice.  Through involvement with Health 2.0 SF, I have mentored founders with solutions that have the ability to re-shape the practice of Medicine.  Below I share my observations on the tsunami of COVID-19 information we are deluged in.

Misinformation Avalanche

Fortunately: scientists, epidemiologists, and physicians are not facing anything new when confronting the copious amount of misinformation people bring to them.  People over the span of time, without credible background knowledge on a subject, have been prone to follow movements based on an erroneous understanding of causation vs correlation or fear-based propaganda that fits their political ideology.  The epitome might be the Anti-Vaxxing crowd, many of whom are already lining up against any possible future Coronavirus vaccine.  COVID-19 has brought upon an onslaught of media and social media activity: with the ability to spread helpful information on these channels has come an unprecedented manner to spread misinformation that at minimum confuses (what is fact vs opinion), often shapes (opinions and behaviors), and occasionally kills.

Already related to COVID-19 we have seen the home-remedy folks, conspiracy theorists, and racists rush to create fake news or propaganda to satisfy a fearful base.  To counter this deluge of bad information, Twitter, Google and Facebook are launching campaigns within their platforms to fight it back; and even CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta has a new Podcast that has content to educate and combat against misinformation.  As part of the health community, please be careful what you re-tweet or share: consider the source (CDC, WHO, local hospital medical leaders are reputable), do not under-analyze preliminary scientific (typically not peer-reviewed) data, and keep in mind that certain knowledge is not concrete, as scientists continue to unravel  this disease.   Slow down and fact check!

Developing Healthtech in the World of COVID-19

Healthtech founders, including ones I mentor, are facing an existential dilemma: push forward with their platform in a badly damaged economy with fewer VC and consumer dollars; or tailor their platform to help solve a need in our current pandemic, and hope the buy-in and funding will come.

For either approach, I describe the Quadruple Aim that leaders in hospital systems need from health technology.

The Quadrupal Aim
MDisrupt Quadrupal Aim

Briefly, all solutions must begin by being able to either improve the patient or clinician experience.  A platform aimed at improving the experience for either patients or clinicians must lead to mutual benefit: an improved patient experience must not come with a worse clinician experience, or vice versa.  Concomitantly, a new platform that can help lower costs will only be successful by leading to improved outcomes and patient/clinician experience.  Patients will and must always come first.

It is impossible to understand the nuances of the Quadruple Aim (when considering your consumer and purchasers: patients, clinicians, hospital/government administrators) without a domain expert who understands medical affairs (your product and your consumers).  Everything within the Quadruple Aim needs to be in sync for there to be success of a new platform. 

If the solution, for example, is aimed at improving patient outcomes related to COVID-19 then this requires validation – a level of evidence that demonstrates that the data obtained from the platform is accurate, and that the added data is effective in its goal relative to doing nothing (or versus the standard of care).  The solution also must be easily integrated into the workflow, for patients to use (ex: how many smartwatches are worn consistently; asking consumers to perform manual data entry into an app is not typically sustainable) and/or for clinicians to access seamlessly.  A bad patient or clinician experience ensures a futile effort.  The process is lengthy and complicated, and it needs to be kept in mind that each particular locality will have variable needs during this pandemic.  Talk to medical professionals near you with boots on the ground.  If it will take over a year to perform a fast-tracked clinical trial on a vaccine and therapies, and until March 21st to see Google create its Coronavirus resources; then it will take time even for a digital platform to apply the scientific method to identify the problem within the pandemic to solve, and then testing of the platform for meaningful outcomes.

It Takes a Village

What is not misinformation is that with every known major societal disruption there are opportunities that rise through the ashes and lead to fundamental change.  There are multiple areas impacted by COVID-19 that need solutions, including the supply chain, population management, consumer facing tools, and back-office.  When tailoring a platform to meet the needs of our Coronavirus pandemic, an honest assessment must be first made of whether anyone on the team has experience in epidemiology, pulmonary, and/or infectious diseases.  Product development and management in Tech requires a different skillset and experience base than for Health. There are no short cuts for understanding the disease; or clinician and patient behaviors, attitudes, and needs. You will need a team, including domain experts and experienced healthcare product managers: talk to us, we are here to help.

Sachin Gupta MD, MDisrupt Guest Author

Sachin Gupta MD, FCCP, ATSF, Physician Consultant

MDisrupt Guest Author

Dr. Gupta is a thought leader in Healthtech and a Consultant through his roles previously at Kaiser Permanente and Health 2.0 SF, where he co-developed the “Project Zygote” pre-accelerator curriculum for entrepreneurs in digital health. Clinically he is in private practice now and a known expert in rare lung diseases, early technology adopter, and patient advocate. He is an editor for the monthly California Thoracic Society Inspirations, as well as the CHEST Physician newsletters, and an active member of the Pulmonary Hypertension Association.

Specialties: Pulmonary, Critical Care, Clinical trials, Digital Medicine, Rare lung disease, Physician education, Patient education, Medical Affairs.

If you are a health tech founder looking for guidance on building or growing a healthcare savvy product team, talk to us—we can help.

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