What exactly is digital health and why is it important?
Relatively speaking, digital health is a basic enough idea — utilizing technology to aid people in improving their health and well-being. However, this definition fails to fully justify the large and rapidly expanding sector of digital health. To put into perspective just how large and varied digital health is, the following are just a few examples of its applications: wearable devices to sensors that you can ingest, mobile health applications to A.I., robotic caretakers, and digital records. The software development companies which specialized in healthcare software made a breakthrough in this industry.
All these innovations bring a digitized edge to the healthcare industry via disruptive technology and changes in healthcare culture. Overall, preventing illness, helping individuals monitor and manage their chronic illnesses, reducing costs attributed to healthcare, and developing medication that fits the needs of the individual’s requirements are just some of the aims present in the sector.
The most interesting thing at the moment is that the aforementioned aims may aid not just patients but also healthcare providers. By gathering more information on health indicators such as levels of activity and blood pressure, digital health applications would allow people to make their lives better and keep leading healthy lives longer, needing fewer trips to their physician.
What are the major trends in digital health and what are the problems that they are focused on?
Digital health technologies can also help in the early diagnosis of new illnesses or the monitoring of current ones. By letting medical professionals intervene at the beginning stages of an illness, digital health technologies can lessen the severity of the disease or relieve specific symptoms before they become severe. Additionally, digital health enhances people’s standard of living, and it can also lessen the overall cost of people’s healthcare throughout their lifetimes, saving money on the health costs for all parties involved.
The rise of wearable monitoring devices and mobile health applications has fueled the consumer aspects of digital health to a large extent. Wearables like the Apple Watch are credited with kick-starting the digital health revolution. The technology made it simple for consumers to track their daily activity levels, generally in terms of steps and duration of exercise. In addition, the mobile app environment that built up surrounding them expanded the myriad of options that information could be analyzed and examined.
Individuals may keep, examine, and share key indicators related to their health and well-being for the very first time. Soon after, software developers and gadget manufacturers began to broaden the scope of what customers could track, from sleeping to sexual health.
Most applications and equipment have thus far concentrated on lifestyle health indicators; soon, as technological capabilities improve and additional sensors and capabilities are introduced, those measurements are expected to be more medically inclined. For example, consider being able to monitor blood sugar or blood pressure, cardiovascular health, and medication levels, and adverse effects.
Once applications and accessories begin to collect all of this data, it is just a question of when before businesses will start to investigate what they could do with it. There are many factors why digital firms are focusing on health: it is a large, economic downturn-proof market; it is also a costly one, with providers seeking innovative and cheaper options as demand grows. One method to achieve this is to move away from treating illnesses and instead shift towards preventing them altogether.
Many disorders that are becoming more common — type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol, among others, may be avoided or treated to a considerable part via lifestyle changes like eating a nutritious diet and being active. This is exactly where digital health wearables play a major role by allowing individuals to measure their weight, activity, and other factors. Digital health gear can improve people’s health.
Digital health may also assist with more than simple lifestyle-centered medicine, as an environment is emerging that will progressively provide tools for individuals with chronic ailments to effectively monitor and control their diseases. Although digital health can provide consumers with the skills to conduct lifestyle healthcare with only a phone and an application, adding an accessory or two might help with disease management.
Everyone with hypertension, for example, can use a generic connected blood pressure cuff to see if their blood pressure is rising or falling and thus identify not just which changes are effective, but also which treatments can help the situation. Similarly, by measuring blood sugar over time, linked glucose monitors may help diabetic patients get a grasp on their food and how successful their medicine is. Even more and improved data on such parameters may be gathered using digital health technologies, and communicated with doctors so they may analyze the findings and alter their care appropriately.
Although it is comforting to believe that these technologies were created with the noble objective of helping individuals stay healthier for longer, the main objective for utilizing digital health to handle chronic diseases is to save money for providers by limiting the number of medical visits, hospital visits, and even hospitalizations that individuals with such diseases require.
The digital health sector is also expected to witness a merging of what has traditionally been termed consumer or public and medical-grade or professional digital health technology, pushed by firms on both parties. Take, for instance, Apple’s latest development of an ECG-like component to the newest Apple Watch: with the new version, a consumer gadget could recognize undiagnosed cardiac problems like atrial fibrillation in such a way that could be extremely helpful to not only the person wearing but also their physician.
Likewise, medical gear is becoming more digitally capable: for example, Medtronic has developed an app that allows individuals with internet-connected pacemakers to exchange data with their doctors through their smartphones.
With the barriers separating civilian and medical-grade or professional digital health technology and software eroding, it is no wonder that consumer’ technology companies are pursuing the business healthcare market more aggressively. Amazon, for instance, seems to be working on a health equivalent of Prime, while Apple has launched a health records service that allows consumers to see data from their doctors, such as office visits, lab results, and immunization records, using just their phones.
What are the hurdles of digital health?
To become as effective as practicable, digital health must be utilized by as many individuals as feasible, regardless of age, race, racial or genetic origin, wealth, medical ailment, or lack thereof. Nevertheless, people who use digital health devices, especially wearables, are much more likely to be healthier, richer, and also aged between 20 to 40, though developers are currently addressing older users, so this is likely to alter over time. At present, data collected by digital health instruments are limited to a tiny subset of society.
Likewise, it is now assumed that individuals engaged in digital health are individuals who do not have long-term concerns but want to maintain excellent health.
Because of its rapid encroachment to mainstream usage, digital health will inevitably have its fair share of mistakes. For example, those who are identified with sickness by an erroneous technology and then go on to have an unneeded hospital appointment and lab work; likewise, people who are assured they are OK by a wristwatch or fitness band and so do not go to their physician when they really ought to.