HLTH23: Peterson Health Technology Institute sets out to build clinical evidence for digital health tools

LAS VEGAS—As HLTH 2023 kicks off, the next four days will be buzzing with hype over digital health and virtual care innovations.

But, do digital health tools improve patient outcomes and lower costs? One independent institute aims to find out.

The Peterson Health Technology Institute (PHTI) aims to raise the bar in digital health by providing independent, evidence-based assessments of emerging products, something that is currently lacking in the market.

The pandemic prompted an influx of capital into the multibillion-dollar digital health products industry, yet 80% of digital health products lack clinical efficacy evidence, and many are not subject to U.S. Food and Drug Administration review.

The Peterson Center on Healthcare launched the PHTI in July with the goal of assessing the clinical benefits and economic impact of digital health solutions, along with the offerings' effects on health equity, privacy and security. 

PHTI announced Sunday that its initial assessments will focus on remote patient monitoring for diabetes management and virtual musculoskeletal care. The reports will be released and freely available online early next year.

Each represents a robust set of technology-enabled interventions that claim to deliver clinical outcomes, better treatment adherence and an improved user experience, PHTI executives said.

The organization plans to conduct its evaluations using a custom assessment framework, made public last month. The evaluations aim to identify the most promising aspects of digital health innovation, accelerating the adoption of high-value technology in healthcare. 

“PHTI is targeting digital health tools that address complex health problems and have high potential to improve outcomes and affordability for both patients and payers,” said Caroline Pearson, executive director of the Peterson Center on Healthcare, in a statement. “We will gather insights from stakeholders across the healthcare industry to provide input about which key areas of health technology would benefit from our independent evaluations.”

Diabetes, which affects 11% of the U.S. population, is the most expensive chronic condition and disproportionately affects people of color and lower-income communities. Many digital health companies have been launched to support people with diabetes through remote patient monitoring using blood glucose measurement and patient engagement. 

An estimated 1 in 2 adults in the U.S. experience musculoskeletal disorders, costing nearly $400 billion per year. Virtual physical therapy includes a range of digital health solutions that claim many of the same benefits of in-person physical therapy through enhanced access to a virtual platform and the convenience of participating at home on patients’ own schedules. 

The organization says it is exploring a range of high-impact clinical areas for evaluation in 2024. PHTI’s selection process includes identifying therapeutic areas and types of services that are driving significant levels of spending; are experiencing rapid growth, digital innovation and investment; and have a strong evidence base and measurable outcomes to inform clinical and economic impact assessments. 

PHTI solely determines its selection of assessment areas and is informed by data and published literature, research on new technologies to augment and replace traditional care delivery models and input from purchasers and end users including health plans, employers and providers, the organization said.