“The healthcare system as we know needs to be sent for retirement,” says Professor Kolasa, and she really means it. Her point of view sounds radical, but for good reason.
If we look at the health sector over the past 15 years, analyze its shortcomings and consider the rise of digital technologies, it becomes clear that getting out of the healthcare impasse requires honest conclusions that will drive a new mind-shift.
Does her progressive thinking beyond the framework of classical health economics have something to do with the nomadic lifestyle she has practiced passionately for years? For sure, in both cases, experimentation dominates over the passive agreement with the status quo.
An Outdated System
The existing methodology in health economics was developed within a system framework that prioritized centralized health delivery. It’s incompatible with the currently emerging ecosystem centered around the individual.
Therefore, approaches used for the evaluation of medical devices can’t be copied-and-pasted to digital health solutions. Besides, why should we when new technologies make it possible to measure results and pay for them?
Professor Kolasa enthusiastically talks about her passion for translating information into evidence to ensure longer and better lives for patients and a paradigm shift in healthcare. But she does much more than delivering inspiring lectures.
Digital Health Start Me Up Program
Currently, she is leading the 6-month Digital Health Start Me Up Program at Kozminski University. During this first of its kind academic programs in Europe, participants learn concepts relating to innovation, methodologies for generating clinical evidence, and cost-effectiveness specific to digital health solutions.
In her upcoming book The Digital Transformation of the Healthcare System: Healthcare 5.0, she studies how the digital revolution has reshuffled healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic, and advocates for a patient-centric ecosystem. This ecosystem empowers patients to take control of their health via technologies such as next-generation sequencing, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence and digital therapeutics.
We sat down with Professor Katarzyna Kolasa and discussed health economics adjusted to the new digital era.
Professor Kolasa, one of the challenges for digital health developers is demonstrating the economic value of digital therapies. It’s critical for payers. Where should it start?
Digital health is driving the shift toward a patient-centric healthcare system where each of us will have a personal, micro health ecosystem controlled straight from our cell phones.
As soon as patients start trusting digital technologies and enjoy using them, payers will have no choice but to adopt them. We need to acknowledge the fact that digital health has the potential to save money on a scale not seen in healthcare system financing since it was established!
Today, we spent less than 3% of healthcare expenditure on preventive care. In short, that’s 97% inefficiency. Digital transformation has the potential to take the leap from treatment to prevention.
For that to happen, a broad consensus about the key value determinants for each type of digital health technology has to be reached. I envisage a checklist or guidelines that would work as an ISO certificate. Potentially, it should be driven by collaborative efforts across many stakeholders, including developers, patients, healthcare professionals and payers.
How can economic theories be applied to understand the behavior of patients using digital health tools?
We need to acknowledge that we are entering a paradigm shift. But unfortunately, we still lack some critical skills required for this digital transformation to happen.
Our mindset was formed in the era of the paternalistic healthcare system. And it’s still anchored there. Digital solutions teleport individuals to the next level of sovereignty in health and care.
The extra-welfarism that set up the healthcare system framework powered by the unlimited responsibilities of budget holders (payers) is gone. I believe it will be replaced with healthcare 5.0 based on two new principles: individual sovereignty replacing paternalism and holistic health replacing the decision-maker’s definition of health.
Well, it won’t happen overnight but will evolve over time. As Nobel Prize winning biochemist Richard Kuhn described, any paradigm shift has many phases, starting with a crisis. I believe the COVID-19 pandemic was such a crisis for healthcare systems that will trigger change.