Digital health has become one of the hot topics in healthcare, with a focus on using accessible, digital tools to connect and empower patients and providers to improve healthcare delivery. More recently, the definition for digital health been expanding beyond the focus of personal health monitoring, engagement, and changing the patient experience. These technologies have an impact on the individual healthcare experience, but this is only a fragment of the potential digital health landscape.

Rock Health describes digital health as, “the intersection of healthcare and technology; and not solely in medicine, but across healthcare, including wellness and administration.”(1) Many companies are looking beyond the personal experience, across healthcare to identify new opportunities to leverage technology to drive additional value. Increasingly companies are collecting data around how healthcare is delivered and innovating on the processes that make care possible.  Some examples include optimizing operating room procedures, creating new experiences for medical training and continuing education, and improving logistics for healthcare supplies. Other areas getting attention are the collection, management, and interpretation of patient data in EHRs and improvements on interoperability within and between healthcare systems.

Digital tools focused on supporting the delivery of care are beginning to demonstrate how improving the underlying structures that make healthcare possible can reduce the cost of care and improve patient outcomes. Some of the most interesting opportunities include:

  • Reducing errors through automation and digitization,
  • Minimizing medical device waste through streamlined and accountable supply chains,
  • Data analytics driving treatment decisions,
  • Increasing the speed and efficiency of the OR through improved workflows,
  • Upgrading provider training and access to training to improve the quality of care, and
  • Freeing up providers’ time by creating integrated and user friendly software.

 

What we can’t quantify yet are the solutions and treatments that will be made possible by the wealth of uncollected and unanalyzed data in the value chain. As the public and private sectors increasingly push for the modernization of healthcare, we will see many of these (currently) “behind the scenes” digital health technologies set the stage for the creation of a new type of health care system.

According to their Quora post, The University of Texas School of Biomedical Informatics believes that digital health will play a significant role in “curbing long term healthcare costs, enabling better healthcare outcomes, empowering both the patient and the healthcare provider with real-time data and connections with each other, and enabling the introduction of new contributors to the healthcare ecosystem.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, we agree. And while the advancements in personal digital health are key to improving individual outcomes, it is the supporting technologies that will drive systemic improvements in the healthcare system going forward, creating even more opportunity for innovation.

 

(1) Gandhi, Malay. “What Digital Health Is (and Isn’t).” Rock Health. April 5, 2013. Accessed June 22, 2018. https://rockhealth.com/what-digital-health-is-and-isnt/.

(2)”Is Digital Health the Future of Healthcare?” Quora. March 14, 2018. Accessed June 22, 2018. https://www.quora.com/Is-digital-health-the-future-of-healthcare/answer/University-of-Texas-School-of-Biomedical-Informatics.