What the Biden administration means for digital health

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Following the declaration of Joe Biden as President-elect of the 2020 US Presidential election, attention is now shifting to how a Biden administration will impact healthcare in the coming years. Throughout the past year, digital health has gained adoption and praise for its ability to connect patients and providers, as well as creating new channels for patients to take an active role in their health. Under a new administration, there are several initiatives that could help to expand digital health and apply technology to resolve some immediate health challenges.

COVID-19 and technology. The most pressing issue to tackle is COVID-19. Biden has already assembled a pandemic task force and they may turn to digital health to help tackle the public health crisis. Members of the task force have begun exploring the use of Apple and Google technology to track individual exposure. Digital health may also be employed to assist with contract tracing and vaccine monitoring, creating new means for tech companies to assist in ending the pandemic.

Affordable Care Act (ACA). Throughout his campaign, Biden made commitments to reinforce and expand the ACA, which portends to expand the amount of digital health users and support the growth of the industry overall. As the ACA expands and covers more connected care apps, digital health companies and connected health systems can extend to a wide range of users. It also creates additional revenue stream opportunities

Interoperability. The Trump administration helped to ease the flow of health information, including COVID-19 data and patient’s own health records. These relaxed rules enable patients to maintain their own patient health records. IBM Watson has already indicated they plan to create personal digital health passports that enable users to keep their health records on smartphones. But while new advances were made under Trump leadership, it’s expected a Biden presidency will escalate those efforts.  Biden may look to expand interoperability to connect digital health platforms within Medicare and reduce patient costs to access their own health information.

Telehealth. The pandemic has shifted patient-provider connections to virtual means through telehealth. CMS announced plans to expand telehealth to additional areas of care, including behavioral health to help patients stay connected. Biden’s plan would look to use telehealth to expand to rural communications. This helps to address lack of access and providers that continue to create health challenges for more remote communities.

Privacy rules. For digital health platforms that are offered directly to patients, new federal privacy rules allow companies to use personal health information in wider uses. This includes direct-to-consumer digital health apps and wearables. It’s unlikely that a Biden administration will take up the cause to challenge these efforts given a divided Congress, and little national support. It’s expected these rules could fall to the states, and privacy rules differ across state lines. This could create challenges for digital health platforms that connect with patients regardless of state or region.

Healthcare remains front-and-center in the Biden administration, and a key campaign proof point as the President-elect worked to help bring the Affordable Care Act into law as vice-president. With new advances in technology since 2010 when the law took effect, it’s expected that Biden will embrace digital health tools to further expand access and reduce costs for patients, while also harnessing its use to fight COVID-19.