Digital health – what it’s all about!
Since the invention of the mobile phone and digital watches, technology has developed a lot. They have become smartphones and smartwatches. These technological accessories can far more then display the time, call and write text messages. We are actually wearing small little high performance computers.
In the near future these devices will also change the healthcare sector. Today there exist over 100 000 single use health apps and wearable fitness, activity tracking devices and can more than just count steps. These devices and apps help us to reach goals, remind us on daily activity, analyse sleeping habits, help us to lose weight and even can execute a mole scans with the smartphone camera.
Furthermore social connectivity encourages people to get active physically and reach their dream weight. People compare their activity with others, which helps them to stay on track and keep the motivation. Sharing their training session data and achievements on social media gets them approval from friends and other users, which in return fuels the need to keep going. Gamification and competition based apps motivate people to meet their goals and share them with friends or other users.
The number and different types of wearable devices are increasing. The so-called bio-sensing wearables include fitness bands to measure the heart rate, digital hearing aids, blood pressure monitors, and ingestible smart pills that monitor medication intake behavior and body response. Recent innovations include clothing impregnated with sensors. What seems to be in a science-fiction movie is slowly becoming reality and influencing and disrupting the healthcare industry.
The increasing demand of these technologies is also driven by the focus on personalized and precision medicine. Pharmaceutical companies use this information for research purposes and provide a more holistic service to patients.
There has also been an increase in online patient communities, using social media to exchange experiences with patients and carers, about treatments, overall care service, work professionalism and connect via app or internet.
Patients are empowered by these technologies to take responsibility and control over their health and social care needs. This reduces the dependence on healthcare providers for information about their health. These technologies help to improve self-management through education, remote monitoring and treatment adherence. Furthermore, they tackle areas of social taboo conditions like mental health issues and support the development of online patient portals and patient communities. The most important thing is that the balance of power will be shifted and revolutionaries the relationship between patient and healthcare professional. The use of digital technology to educate and instruct is an important driver of patient engagement.
Not only will the patients benefit from the technology evolution but also the healthcare professionals. Technologies can improve efficiency and help to deal with time consuming organizational challenges. For example, text and email appointment reminders, online appointment manager, teleconsultations to reduce the number of unnecessary face-to-face appointments, which will reduce costs and leave more appointments for serious problems.
With the help of the generated data by the technical devices, healthcare providers can statistically analyze possible causes and tendencies for health conditions and carry out preventive examinations before the occurrence of various diseases. By using this information to their advantage, they can improve healthcare services and disburden emergency services from unnecessary visits for instance.
Healthcare providers could be connected with their patients and accelerate small operations like the renewal of a prescription or a follow up call on blood or urine test results, which in return saves money and time.
Digital health includes, mobile health, health information technology, wearable devices, telehealth and telemedicine and personalized medicine. These new developments are used to reduce inefficiencies, both on healthcare provider and patient sides, improve access to health care for people living in rural areas, reduce costs, increases quality and make medicine more personalized and accurate for the individual. The use of such technologies as smartphones, social networks and internet applications is not only changing the way we communicate, but is also providing innovative ways to monitor our health and well-being and giving access to information that has been unavailable until now. This industry is only in the early stages of development and will grow fast. The future will tell what surprises digital health has to offer.
Although key to this change is the embracement of these new technologies from both, patients and professionals. The patients seem to have a bit more adapted to use digital help for healthcare issues. The healthcare providers are struggling to adopt the changes, because they are afraid that it is too difficult to use these new technologies and the loss of power over the patients, will change their way of working. Still the increased use of health technologies on the patient’s side and the empowerment of patients to take responsibility for their own health will drive healthcare providers to adjust to the change, which has become an inevitable reality.