Digital health refers to the use of information and communications technologies in medicine and other health professions to manage illnesses and health risks and to promote wellness. Digital health has a broad scope and includes the use of wearable devices, mobile health, telehealth, health information technology, and telemedicine. Digital Health has been gaining momentum because it is envisioned to:
Improve access to healthcare
Reduce any inefficiencies in the healthcare system
Improve the quality of care
Lower the cost of healthcare
Provide more personalized health care for patients
There is some evidence to show that the use of digital medicine allows patients to better track their own health and wellness. For example, the use of digital devices like the smartphone not only helps with communication, but these devices now have a huge number of apps that can help monitor blood pressure, record blood sugars, ensure compliance with medications, and track the amount of physical activity
Function and Goals of Digital Health:
The objectives of digital health products and services are:
•To improve the quality of outcomes of care and service
•To improve population health
•To improve the patient experience
•To improve the physician and other non-physician provider experience.
•To address health disparities
Categories of Digital Health Products and Services
Digital health means different things to different people. Here are the main subcategories:
•Remote sensing and wearables
Telemedicine and health information
•Data analytics and intelligence, predictive modeling
•Health and wellness behavior modification tools
•Bioinformatics tools (-omics)
•Medical social media
•Digitized health record platforms
•Patient -physician-patient portals
DIY diagnostics, compliance, and treatments
•Decision support systems
Issues in Digital Health Design, Validation, Testing and Deployment:
There is a difference between an industry and a market. Those companies that provide products and services comprise the industry. •The customers who use those products and are looking for ways to get a particular job done are the market.
•Like all investors, digital health investors are looking for the highest rate of return with the least amount of risk. Given the foggy legal, regulatory, and reimbursement atmosphere, it is difficult to determine which tools will be supported by industry and users.
•Most digital health technologies have not been validated clinically. Clinical trials may be necessary to validate the digital tools even before stakeholders decide on the best technology.
•The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to offer periodic guidance documents and regulations that contribute to a level of uncertainty.
•Given the multiple stakeholders in healthcare, for example, payers, providers, patients, business associates, partners, and others, it is hard to target any one customer. Several stakeholders need to see the value of any given product or service.
•The industry is new, and there is not enough research to know which customers, patients, or other stakeholders will adopt a product and why.
•Scale trumps innovation. The single most important characteristic of those companies that have received substantial follow-through investments is that they have scaled their customer rate rapidly by at least 70% per year.
•Doctors may not have the information they need to prescribe or use a given digital health technology.
•Most doctors don’t get paid to use digital health technologies, they disrupt workflow, and there are nagging behavioral and emotional barriers to adoption by both patients and their families and their doctors.
•There are significant confidentiality, security, and data privacy issues that are still not addressed.