Can Digital Health Substantially Improve Healthcare?

Technology has long been thought to be able to play a big role in reducing the overall cost of healthcare, now estimated to be close to 20% of GDP in the USA. Digital Health is perhaps the sector of technology expected to make the greatest contribution. But is this hype justified? Can digital health substantially improve healthcare organizations’ efficacy while reducing costs? 

 8 Promising Digital Health Solutions

  1. Data Interpretation

Healthcare is an industry that is capable of generating huge amounts of data right across the spectrum. This comes from wearable on people and in the home, various sensors, and real-time analytics from smartphones and tablets.  These big data sets can involve things like population health analysis, drug research and development statistics, disease monitoring outputs, and even patient treatment over time.

With Big Data comes the need for high levels of intelligent analysis so that we have better information on which to make our healthcare intervention decisions. With Internet of Things technology, sensors, and real-time analytics, doctors and researchers can then more accurately understand patients and provide better care. 

  1. IT Apps

Mobile and integrated applications have exploded in recent years, particularly as the penetration of both smartphones and tablets has become so far and wide. In healthcare this means that there are already over 100,000 apps in the online stores to purchase, with the potential for much more development. This development will be in both the B2C space in helping patients to better access the services that they need, but perhaps more exciting, will also be heavily in the B2B space, helping healthcare providers to better collaborate an coordinate their efforts.

  1. Access to Care

What is now called “telemedicine” or “telehealth” has become a more and more common way for individuals to gain access to a clinician in a way that minimizes the need to arrange transportation and appointments, saving time, hassle, and money. Some healthcare providers have already made good use of this technology, but we are only at the beginning of the changeover. Not only will telehealth penetration grow quickly in the next few years, but the platforms to exchange information will evolve substantially too.

  1. Medical Education

Medical education for doctors has changed much in over 100 years, and training for nurses not much changed in over 60 years. Technology calls for new philosophies and approaches; the move to  digitally-based health analysis and solutions means that curricula must substantially change, both in content and delivery. In addition, we’ll need much more that just traditional doctors and nurses. These roles will have new specializations and new clinician roles will evolve and be educated in a variety of ways, integrating technology to grow the reach and concept of the medical college. 

  1. Wellness

In very recent years, financial incentives to get people to be healthier, stop smoking, and exercising more have been offered by healthcare insurance companies and larger employers. We anticipate this trend will grow quickly, with digital fitness trackers and health apps of all kinds playing their part on this change. This will motivate individuals to take action which can prevent diseases, lessen ailments of all kinds, and in doing so, reduce the overall cost of healthcare.

  1. New Models for Health Insurance

The Affordable Care Act has ensured that many more people in the US are now insured, even if they choose have a high deductible policy. Technology has been used to give people policy comparative choices and to start selecting what services they want and what they might want to pay privately for.

  1. Health IT Growth

Most hospital administrators and physicians running healthcare provider organizations believe that healthcare information technology will improve the quality of care provided for all patients in the long term, especially when organizations can get beyond the many problem of transitioning from paper records to electronic ones. The main area of interest here is the so-called electronic health record; making it not only easily accessible to the patient but truly transportable across multiple healthcare providers. Open systems with full interoperability is the ultimate goal of electronic health records.

  1. Bionics/Human augmentation

Although it seems like science fiction, people have been benefitting from bionic body parts and physical augmentation using modern technology and electronically driven medical devices for many years already. This is most impressive in the realm of prosthetic limbs, which have moved from clunky plastic appendages to highly sophisticated electronic devices capability in giving much more freedom and flexibility to individuals, and even enhancing capabilities in some cases, such as Exoskeletal fitments for seniors so that they can stand and reach objects not possible to them without this technology.

In summary, all of the technology and digital health-based solutions described above will have a huge impact on healthcare in the next few years and will alter the way that care is rendered substantially. Although we will have some “teething problems” with its use in the short-term, in the longer term it will undoubtedly drive costs down to a fraction of what is currently being spent.

Read RX4 Group’s Bloomberg BNA Feature: Health Information Security


Dr Jon WarnerDr. Jon Warner

CEO-RX4 Group-The Business of Healthcare

Connect with Jon on Twitter, LinkedIn and Medium

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