Digital Health

What is Digital Health, and Why is it Important?

A broad, multidisciplinary concept called “digital health” or “digital healthcare” includes ideas from the point where technology and healthcare converge. Digital health integrates software, hardware, and services to bring digital transformation to the healthcare industry.

Mobile health (mHealth) apps, electronic health records (EHRs) and electronic medical records (EMRs), medical communication services such as an after hours medical answering service, wearable technology, and telehealth, are all included under the term “digital health”.

Patients, healthcare professionals, researchers, application developers, medical device manufacturers, and distributors are some stakeholders in the digital health field. The importance of digital healthcare in the healthcare industry is rising. Let us discuss it;

What is Digital Health?

It’s not a novel idea to use the information and communications technology to offer digital health interventions that reduce the risk of illness and enhance the quality of life.

However, digital health platforms, health systems, and related technology continue to gain significance and develop in response to global concerns such as aging, child illness and mortality, epidemics and pandemics, high costs, and the effects of poverty and racial discrimination on access to healthcare.

New advancements in digital health have also been made possible by government health insurance programs, such as the U.S. Affordable Care Act (ACA). Despite initial technical difficulties, one of ACA’s goals was to use technology to raise the standard of healthcare. This included, for instance, raising the standard of EHRs and using computer modeling to monitor healthcare spending.

Healthcare informatics is the application of technology and data to enhance patient health and care quality. This makes it possible for medical professionals to evaluate new initiatives, search for opportunities for sector improvement, and incorporate cutting-edge technology into practice.

The ongoing digital transformation in healthcare has been further fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has contributed to fanning the flames of change. The most influential COVID-19 technologies, according to Forrester Research, include patient-facing tools like online symptom checkers, patient portals, remote patient monitoring devices, and telehealth.

Why is Digital Health important?

Digital health, in the words of Deloitte Insights, “uses more than just technologies and tools; it also views radically interoperable data, artificial intelligence (AI), and open, secure platforms as central to the promise of more consumer-focused, prevention-oriented care”.

Digital healthcare is undergoing significant change as a result of developments in artificial intelligence (AI), big data, robotics, and machine learning (ML) technologies. Additionally, the landscape of digital healthcare is changing as ingestible sensors, robot careers, and tools and apps for remote patient monitoring emerge.

Apparently, from Deloitte: “Major scientific advances made possible by AI will hasten the development of new treatments and disease-fighting vaccines. Digital therapeutics powered by AI and individualized recommendations will enable users to stop health problems before they start.
Diagnoses and treatment options will be influenced by AI-generated insights, resulting in safer and more efficient treatments. Additionally, intelligent manufacturing and supply chain solutions will guarantee that the appropriate interventions and treatments are given at the precise time the patient requires them.”

According to Precedence Research’s prediction, the global market for digital health will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27.9% from 2020 to 2027, when it reaches $833.44 billion. The increase in the number of healthcare apps, claims the Ottawa-based market research company, is driving this growth.

Due to factors like a growing elderly population, a high rate of smartphone adoption, and a push to create apps and digital healthcare platforms to cut costs, North America holds the lion’s share of the global market for digital health.

Benefits of Digital Health

  • While assisting patients in monitoring and managing chronic conditions, digital health has the potential to prevent disease and reduce healthcare costs. Additionally, it can modify medications for specific patients. The development of digital health can be advantageous to healthcare providers as well.
  • Digital tools give patients more control over their health and significantly increased access to health data, giving healthcare providers a comprehensive view of patient health. As a result, productivity is increased, and patient outcomes are enhanced.
  • According to the US Food and Drug Administration website, “Digital technology has been driving a revolution in health care, from artificial intelligence and machine learning to mobile medical apps and software that support the clinical decisions doctors make every day.
  • The use of digital health tools has the potential to significantly improve individual patient care by enhancing the accurate diagnosis and treatment of disease.”
  • Additionally, new ways for patients to monitor their health and have greater access to information are made possible by technologies like smartphones, social networks, and internet applications.
  • According to the FDA, “Together, these developments are fostering a convergence of people, information, technology, and connectivity to enhance health care and health outcomes.”
  • The FDA claims that digital health technologies assist providers in lowering inefficiencies, enhancing access, lowering costs, raising quality, and personalizing medicine for patients.
  • Digital health technologies also make it possible for patients and consumers to effectively manage and track activities related to their health and wellness.
  • While medical professionals can streamline their workflows using AI-powered systems, technologies like virtual reality (VR) tools, wearable medical devices, telehealth, and 5G help patients receive better care.

Challenges of Digital Health

  1. A number of issues that affect patients, medical professionals, technology developers, policymakers, and others have been brought up by the digital transformation of healthcare.
  2. Data interoperability is a continuous challenge due to the enormous amounts of data collected from numerous systems that store and code data differently.
  3. Additional difficulties stem from issues with data storage, access, sharing, and ownership as well as issues with digital literacy among patients and the resulting unequal access to healthcare. These worries then give rise to concerns about privacy and security.
  4. What happens, for instance, if employers or insurers want to compile information from employees’ direct-to-consumer genetic testing results? What if medical equipment is compromised?
  5. Concerns about technology and ethics are also present. For instance, who is accountable for surgical errors when medical robots are used: the hospital, the company that developed or manufactured the technology, the physician who used the robot, or someone else?

Bottom Line

Digital health technologies can help patients, and consumers better manage and keep track of their activities related to their health and wellness.

Smartphones, social networks, and internet applications are changing how we communicate. Still, they enable us to monitor our health and well-being in novel ways and expand our access to information.

These developments bring together people, information, technology, and connectivity to improve health care and health outcomes.

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