Viewpoint: Where do primary care providers fit into the 'digital health arms race'?

As consumer companies such as Amazon and Walgreens move into healthcare and more traditional healthcare organizations turn to virtual and mobile services to keep up, the concept of relying on a trusted primary care provider has gotten lost in the shuffle.

Rather than completely sidelining that trust for the sake of convenience, however, healthcare will actually be most beneficial for all involved if providers are the ones to develop innovative services at the intersection of trust and convenience, according to Amanda Tosto, RN, clinical transformation officer in Chicago-based Rush University Medical Center's ambulatory transformation center.

In an op-ed for The Hill, Ms. Tosto explained that the importance of continuity in terms of how healthcare services are presented cannot be overlooked. "The best possible scenario is to have both — easy, innovative and convenient services provided by a trusted healthcare provider or team," she wrote.

Providers, not tech or consumer companies, should be the ones spearheading digital health offerings, Ms. Tosto argued. While companies outside of healthcare may offer lower prices and a better overall consumer experience, a patient's existing, trusted provider will make more informed decisions, prioritize factors such as clinical appropriateness, quality and safety, and be more accessible should an in-person follow-up be needed after a virtual appointment.

"Who will be the winner in this digital health arms race? Perhaps it will be the corporate giants, pushing digital health as a product within popular membership models, or health systems keeping care high-quality, close and personal," she concluded. "The winner may be what system option engineers the best possible service for people where and when they need it."

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