Digital health is at the forefront of transformation in the healthcare industry. Digital disruption in healthcare has been underway for years, with healthcare organizations trying to digitize operations and processes to maximize efficiency, reduce costs, while increasing quality care. Significant digital health solutions like EHRs, digital therapeutics, telehealth, AI, wearables, and blockchain are the foundation of the industry’s digital awakening. Successful implementation of digital health tools starts with a reliable roadmap that emphasizes shifting staff/patient perspectives and proactive outreach.
Patients with chronic conditions cost more and take up significantly more healthcare resources than those who do not have these conditions. In the U.S., patients with chronic diseases account for 81% of hospital admissions as well as continuing growth in unplanned emergency department (ED) visits. As health systems and providers work to restrict costs and reduce hospital readmissions, digital health tools are essential drivers for delivering on three key consumer expectations: access, convenience, and choice. Remote monitoring is one of the growing digital health tools being implemented into practice. Remote monitoring is also referred to as remote patient monitoring (RPM). The goal of an RPM program is to provide patients much greater accountability in the management of their own health, while also providing vital health information (which may include heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels, and sleep quality).
RPM’s potential is still barely untapped. As RPM tools are more widely adopted and implemented, unnecessary readmissions and appointments can be prevented by only recalling the patient if the real-time reporting indicates a potential decline in condition. As you’ll notice in the figure below, telemedicine and remote monitoring are the digital health tools anticipated to be in the best position to grow.
The Power of Digital Health Tools
Recent innovations will create lasting improvements in healthcare accessibility. As digital health tools continue to be researched, real-world outcomes will be documented and measured, both economically and clinically. Primary care is still the front door to health systems in virtually every community in America. Before COVID-19, a combination of factors was driving digital health, including the transformation of healthcare consumerism, a new reimbursement model, and rising healthcare costs. To develop these integrated workflows, a genuinely collaborative approach is required—one that takes into consideration the needs of the patient as well as the concerns of clinicians and how they can best deliver quality care.
In 2019, researchers in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania began working with NASA to test a mHealth wearable that might someday help astronauts sleep better. Digital health tools have also expanded at-home care options for soon-to-be mothers, new mothers, and their babies. Doctors can monitor babies born to mothers with COVID-19 remotely, with telemedicine carts equipped with tele-stethoscopes and high-resolution cameras.
Digital health tools are crucial for delivering better remote care and improving outcomes. The monetization of patient data is set to be one of the biggest drivers of new business models across the healthcare landscape – and ownership of that data can give patients the power to shape the kind of healthcare they want.
The pace of digital health transformation will likely continue to accelerate on a massive scale for the foreseeable future. COVID-19 has forced us to question what’s possible in healthcare delivery and to challenge our thinking. Patients and providers have offered overwhelmingly positive responses to these innovations, and we should take the best of what we learned during a hard time to continue to provide the best care possible at all times.