Buy or Build: Challenges Developing Consumer Digital Health Interventions.

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Appl Clin Inform


washington; swedish


BACKGROUND Digital health interventions offer opportunities to improve collaborative care between clinicians and patients. Designing and implementing digital health interventions requires decisions about buying or building each technology-related component, all of which can lead to unanticipated issues. OBJECTIVES To describe issues encountered from our "buy or build" decisions developing two digital health interventions over different timeframes, designed to use patient-generated health data to: 1) improve hypertension control and 2) measure and improve adherence to HIV-related medications. METHODS CONDUIT-HID was developed during 2010-2015 to allow patients receiving care from a multispecialty group practice to easily upload home blood pressure readings into their electronic health record and trigger clinician action if mean blood pressure values indicated inadequate control. USE-MI was developed from 2016-2022 to allow entry of patients' HIV-related medication regimens, send reminders if patients had not taken their medications by the scheduled time(s), attempt to detect medication ingestion through machine learning analysis of smartwatch motion data, and present graphical adherence summaries to patients and clinicians. RESULTS Both projects required multiple "buy or build" decisions across all system components, including data collection, transfer, analysis, and display. We used commercial, off-the-shelf technology where possible, but virtually all of these components still required substantial custom development. We found that, even though our projects spanned years, issues related to our "buy or build" decisions stemmed from several common themes, including mismatches between existing and new technologies, our use case being new or unanticipated, technology stability, technology longevity, and resource limitations. CONCLUSIONS Those designing and implementing digital health interventions need to make numerous "buy or build" decisions as they create the technologies that underpin their intervention. These "buy or build" decisions, and the ensuing issues that will arise because of them, require careful planning, particularly if they represent an "edge case" use of existing commercial systems.


Health Information Technology