Digital Healthcare in 2017: Prepare for Good News

December 28, 2016

2:20 pm

Disruption of the healthcare industry is at a level that many predicted but few understood. Yet, here we are facing 2017, with more amazing news. Moving to a more value-based model has meant greater focus on preventative medicine, patient-centered and patient-powered care, and reduced costs. Much of this is the result of new technologies within hospitals and surgery centers. But a great deal of it comes from wearables, remote monitoring, telemedicine, and a revolution in EHR — Electronic Health Records. Here’s what’s changing.

Digital Monitoring

Wearables exist for the purpose of monitoring everything from blood sugar levels, to blood pressure, to medication, to weight and levels of activity. From small devices to patches, healthcare providers can receive a steady stream of data that can be used to evaluate a patient.

And the entire medical device industry is exploding financially. Recent research reports that the medical device industry market totaled about $5.1 billion in 2015 but will probably triple by 2020, as healthcare providers embrace the concept. Even with these monetary numbers, remote device monitoring decreases office visits and hospitalizations, as potentially harmful conditions are caught earlier, and costs are reduced.

Clinical Trials

Another promising use of medical devices is in the monitoring of patients involved in clinical trials for new drugs and other therapies. When pharmaceutical companies run trials, they often do not have the ability to monitor study participants on a 24-hour basis. If devices can be used to send electronic data around the clock, these trials will be far more conclusive far sooner.

Recently, Validic, a digital device enterprise, conducted a survey of researchers and clinical trial managers, regarding the use of monitoring devices for clinical trials. The survey participants included 166 industry researchers and tech professionals in the biopharma and life science industry. Results show that the use of devices for clinical trial data collection is clearly on the rise:

  • 60 percent of respondents have used digital devices in clinical trials already
  • 97 percent stated that their use of digital devices will increase through the next five years.
  • Mobile apps and in-home monitoring devices are the most common collection methods.

Using patient-generated data which is streamed directly to the clinical trial managers means that information is accurate and in real-time, as opposed to relying on periodic visits and patient memories.

Lowering Costs

No one would argue that the cost of healthcare in America is one of the biggest economic issues we face. New technology, however, can lower costs in the following ways:

  • With better monitoring, including devices and occasional home visits, patients can avoid hospitalization – a huge cost savings.
  • Physicians can use real-time data to alter medications/mediation amounts remotely, saving time and money for doctor’s visits.

A study that was recently conducted by CVS Health Research Institute included 1.2 million patients with high cholesterol or blood pressure and/or diabetes. These are expensive chronic illnesses. The study found that, by deploying remote monitoring devices and using the data be more proactive in treatment, the savings could run as high as $63 million per 100,000 patients.

Consumer Use of Digital Health

Consumers are becoming much more aware of prevention, responsibility for their own health and health records, and the need to monitor their own health more. They are making use of digital technology in much larger numbers than before.

Rock Health, a venture that invests in health-related startups released its annual survey recently, regarding consumer trends in healthcare. This one surveyed 4,000 individuals from all age, gender, and geographic demographics. Here is a synopsis of the findings:

  • 56 percent of respondents are using at least three forms of digital health. This may be in the form of wearables to monitor physical activity or sleep, devices prescribed by healthcare providers, or telemedicine, to include such online activities as consulting with physicians. Only 19 percent were placed in this category in 2015 – a huge increase.
  • 10 percent are considered to be avid users of digital health options – wearables, telemedicine, using electronic access to their medical records, etc. this represents a 2 percent increase over 2015.
  • Only 20 percent reported no use of digital health technology
  • The largest demographic using digital health was the age range of 25-34 – no surprise there.
  • The vast majority of respondents (86 percent) indicated that they had both the right to their health care records and the right to determine who those records would be shared with.
  • Millennials still dominate the digital health market, 25 percent of them having downloaded a health app within a month of the survey being taken. Compare this with only 7 percent of baby boomers.

What’s in store for 2017? Clearly, a continuation of the disruptions we have seen in 2016. One area that has not been addressed sufficiently is security of data. Health care providers and patient medical records are valued prey for cybercriminals, because there is much personal and financial information to be had. As we move toward more digitized use of devices and records storage, security will become another trend in 2017.

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Dianna is a former ESL teacher and World Teach volunteer, currently living in France. She's slightly addicted to apps and viral media trends and helps different companies with product localization and content strategies. You can tweet her at @dilabrien

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