Can Technology Alone Disrupt Population Health?

While technology has shown to benefit population health management efforts, regular instances illustrate the importance in proper implementation and training of key professionals to fully appreciate its value.

Co-Founder & CEO at Nudge

With reports suggesting that by 2025 half of Americans will suffer from chronic disease with the total healthcare spend reaching $5.5T, it’s become more apparent that technology alone has had limited success bending the US healthcare cost curve.

Over the past 5 years significant investment and resources have been allocated towards innovations in machine learning and predictive analytics, enabling organizations to more accurately identify at-risk consumers by leveraging claims data, social determinants and other inputs. 

However, we are beginning to see that the investment and efforts don’t necessarily result in the intended outcomes or ROI.

Along these lines, a recent report from STAT found that IBM’s Watson had given incorrect cancer treatment advice to physicians at New York City-based Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, citing multiple examples of “unsafe and incorrect treatment recommendations.”

SWAT Article from July, 2018

This emphasizes that while technology has the ability to influence healthcare and patient outcomes, it’s success is largely predicated on how it results in more efficient / effective treatment.

The spokesperson for Sloan Kettering echoed these thoughts stating that "…treatment decisions ultimately require the involvement and clinical judgement of the treating physician… No technology can replace a doctor and his or her knowledge about their individual patient. To that point, the tool is also not equivalent to the cancer care delivered at MSK."

It's no secret that the consumerization of healthcare comes with a healthy dose of technology; however there's been an over-reliance on technology within the industry and too often initiatives have failed to achieve the desired results because technology wasn’t properly implemented or correctly woven into the practitioner workflow.

Consumer Demand For Mobile Health In Health Care

This was illustrated by a 2017 study, “Lack of Adoption of a Mobile App to Support Patient Self-Management of Diabetes and Hypertension in a Federally Qualified Health Center: Interview Analysis of Staff and Patients in a Failed Randomized Trial,” which measured the efficacy and effectiveness of mobile health in improving clinical outcomes in patients with uncontrolled diabetes and/or hypertension in a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC).

Mobile Health Research

The study was largely a failure and highlighted the pitfalls of incorporating technology within the patient care model, stressing the importance in proper contextualization and training of both patients and clinical staff.

Along the same lines we've witnessed similar findings within data of those using the Nudge platform where consumers using mobile health apps and devices in partnership with a health or wellness professional were 3.3x more likely to still be engaged in self monitoring after 120 days vs. consumers tracking alone.


The industry will continue to benefit from new innovations, but more use cases illustrate that the most effective solutions are generally tech-enabled rather than fully reliant on the technology powering them.

Katie Carr

Interested in exploring ways to optimize engagement in your health programs? Start with a quick demo of the Nudge platform.