The rise of innovative digital health technologies has increased the ease of capturing, using, and sharing Patient-Generated Health Data (PGHD). These digital health technologies can empower patients to capture, use, and share PGHD to better manage their health and to participate in their health care. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) defines PGHD as health-related data created and recorded by or from patients outside of the clinical setting to help address a health concern. Digital health uses technology to deliver care and information to patients and providers that is more convenient, cost effective, and personalized.
In 2018, both social and technological trends will drive the transformation of healthcare, as 2017 proved to be a healthy year for digital health. Growth within the mobile health came in second behind health information management, which became the main area of growth within digital health funding in 2017. Eddie Martucci, CEO of Akili Labs, which makes a video game for assessing and eventually treating conditions like ADHD, thinks that was a significant moment for the burgeoning space.
Naomi Fried, PhD, is the CEO of Health Innovation Strategies, which provides digital health strategy and innovation-program design and optimization consulting to healthcare stakeholders including pharma, payers, and providers. In a recent MobiHealthNews article, she expresses that from the patient’s perspective, digital health solutions come in many forms: digital patient care, education, health and wellness (where we find those trackers and fitness apps), and transactional or administrative functions. Of the many types of solutions, digital patient care holds the greatest promise for improved outcomes and transformed healthcare. Referencing the MobiHealthNews article mentioned above, digital health solutions are made up of four categories that track with a patient’s healthcare journey:
- Diagnosis and Evaluation. Providers can use “clinical-grade digital information” to evaluate and make decisions about patients. This digital health data is collected from or about a patient and acted on by a physician. Physicians can look forward to using a trove of new, highly useful data generated from digital tools to help manage their patients. Examples include digital tools that provide cognitive testing or measure gait for patients with neurodegenerative diseases.
- Virtual patient care. Delivering patient care through virtual, digital means includes telehealth and remote patient monitoring, which allows patients to get care at home, work, or school. The convenience of a virtual visit delights patients. For example, parents and kids appreciate having a pediatric visit conducted via video conference at home, rather than in-person. Within virtual care, remote home monitoring for chronic conditions, such as diabetes and congestive heart failure, is booming.
- Digiceuticals. These “digital pharmaceuticals” are digital therapeutics that are administered through apps, games, or software to treat a patient’s condition or disease. Apps are available to treat depression, attention deficit disorder (ADHD), insomnia, panic disorder, chronic pain, and substance abuse. For more and more conditions, we can now say, “There’s an app for that.”
- Medication compliance. These apps, sensors, games, and even “ingestibles” are next-generation technologies that remind patients to take medications and provide doctors with information about compliance. Digital health will make adherence to a medication regimen easier – and maybe even more fun – for patients.
Innovation is really not about disruption; it’s about collaboration. This is especially true with digital health because the natural flow of data between hospitals, physicians, and patients is very difficult because of the highly secure nature of the network. Connected health tools that enable data tracking of healthy behaviors, combined with incentives and trusted professional support, can help consumers become more engaged in their own care health and wellness. 2017 was an impressive year for digital health investment. In total, MobiHealthNews covered 224 companies’ funding announcements constituting just over $5 billion in investments with fifty-two funding announcements in the first quarter of the year.
While the use of digital health and PGHD promises to benefit patients, challenges must be overcome to realize that potential. Next article we will discuss 3 major barriers of digital health: interconnectability, regulations, and reimbursements.