Today, everything is affected by the digital revolution – the impact of new technology on improving the health and well-being of individuals, communities, and populations is unprecedented. Recent technological achievements have revolutionized clinical practice, from prevention through diagnosis, monitoring to disease management, and enabled unprecedented public interest and engagement in self-management and well-being.” – NCBI, NIH
The advantages of digital technology on healthcare are numerous. Not only does it empower the patient, it leads to faster diagnosis and more effective treatment; improved access to treatment and helps reduce the cost of medicine. This intersection of genomics and digital technology is making Personalized or Precision Medicine a reality. Largely thanks to the ‘Precision Medicine Initiative’, started by President Barack Obama in 2015, the idea of individualized medicine is now at the forefront of research, and also the patient’s mind.
With the handover of Presidential power, many predicted changes for the healthcare industry. Trump’s administration (a mere two weeks old) has already started making waves. Many are applauding the idea of less regulation, enabling technology and treatments to enter the market faster. However, this is a heavily regulated industry where safety is paramount. This legislation is expected to could heavily impact recently pass laws such as the 21st Century Cures Act, which increased funding for research, addressed weaknesses in mental health treatment and altered the regulatory system in place. The immigration ban and proposed tax changes could also send health care prices soaring. However, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act is not expected to derail digital health.
Why is digital healthcare so important?
“The use of technologies such as smart phones, social networks and internet applications is not only changing the way we communicate, but is also providing innovative ways for us to monitor our health and well-being and giving us greater access to information. Together these advancements are leading to a convergence of people, information, technology and connectivity to improve health care and health outcomes.” – FDA
This quote from the FDA points to 2 of the major advantages of digital healthcare: firstly, the use of technology to monitor our health; and secondly, how it has changed the way we communicate
1. Digitization and mobility are revolutionizing the practice of medicine
“Digital health is defined as the “use of information and communications technologies to improve human health, healthcare services, and wellness for individuals and across populations.” – NCBI | NIH
From the Apple Health app to the Fitbit on your wrist, you, the consumer, are now empowered to monitor your own and your family’s health. According to the Digital Health Consumer Report of 2015, undertaken by Rock Health, digital health technology has been adopted by 80% consumers. This equates to around 4.5 billion people worldwide! mHealth apps have empowered the patient and also led to an unprecedented amount of data. Big Data. Data analytics enables healthcare providers to target, attract, and retain increasingly well-informed patients at the ‘moment of healthcare need.’
This has opened up an incredible opportunity to revolutionize the patient experience and the practice of medicine. Healthcare is having to look to more traditional “consumer” based industries like retail, as we enter into a new paradigm of the ‘on-demand patient’. This shift towards value-based care is enabling digital officers in healthcare to focus on improving the patient experience, and control healthcare costs such as health insurance premiums and higher deductibles.
Brian Ahier, Director of Standards and Government Affairs Medicity and Interoperability & HIE Workgroup, Medicity, HIT Policy Committee and digital evangelist is leading the discussion about technology in the healthcare world. He will actually be joining us at the Digital Healthcare Transformation Assembly, April 4-5 in Dallas, TX to discuss the trend moving From Connected Health to Digital Health.
“I think the overriding concern at a high level is moving into a value based, technology enable, and patient-centered health system that cares for humans not just when they are sick or in a crisis but rather throughout their life with a focus on wellness encompassing all the social determinants of health. Technology geeks can be an impatient lot with the slow pace of ordinary humans and we are ready to move mountains. Specifically machine learning and AI, plus blockchain technologies for the near term future and solidify the great work done in the realms of secure messaging and FHIR.” – Brian Ahier in an interview with HealthcareITNews
Managing the strategy, structure, and technology in this on-demand environment is not without its challenges. The implementation of new technology requires a shift in research, regulatory and clinical practices. The integration of new technology is never without its pitfalls. For example, EMR technology does not currently talk to telemedicine systems or remote sensing data platforms effectively.
With Wireless Medical Devices, Mobile medical apps and more, there is a wealth of data out there. This brings up concerns over data protection and cyber security. Telemedicine is predicted to make waves in healthcare in 2017. Just as an on-demand consumer would expect same-day delivery from Amazon, so the on-demand patient is demanding remote diagnosis and treatment. Telemedicine saves both the patient and the doctor time, by enabling immediate care. This could be particularly impactful for patients who live remotely, or in instances where the doctor is unable or prevented from travel.
As has been witnessed by many consumer-centric, digitally transformed industries, the relationship between technology providers and the end-users is often dysfunctional. Healthcare providers need to be central to tech research and development from an early-stage. Tech entrepreneurs need to forge partnerships with local health systems, to connect with healthcare leaders to ensure that their technology answers the needs of the industry. With healthcare eagerly seeking new opportunities to tackle chronic disease, digital health offers a range of potential solutions.
Regulation will also need to change, although regulatory bodies such as the FDA are pro-digital. Many are concerned that regulation will hinder innovation. In fact, the relationship between innovation and regulation is a key storyline for the new ABC medical drama ‘Pure Genius’. However, The FDA and CDRH has established the Digital Health Program to encourage innovation in this area and provide regulatory clarity.
And the final challenge – who will pay? With the potential that digital healthcare has to reduce costs, health insurers have been investing in the space. From 2011-2016, over $900 million was invested in digital health startups. Both healthcare providers and payers are behind digital health. Health plans do cover some of these digital advancements, for example, Telemedicine is seen as a cost-effective solution. Terms such as digital health, connected health, and mHealth are currently only vaguely defined, so at this time are not clearly laid out in most health plans.
2. Shifting to digital channels to market to healthcare consumers: the growth in mobile and tablet apps, social media, and digital ads
The US healthcare industry is unique, as it markets direct-to-consumer or direct-to-patient. Digital marketing technology has enabled healthcare marketers to talk directly to consumers in a new, more engaging way.
Digital platforms enable healthcare companies to adapt to the changing demands of the consumer. Not only that, but it also enables healthcare marketers to target needs as more and more people are looking to the internet for answers to health concerns. According to Pew Research, a third of Americas have gone online and searched symptoms, in an attempt to diagnose a medical condition. Consumers are also using the internet to look up information about healthcare professionals, and facilities.
Because of this, digital marketing channels are overtaking traditional ones. This is true of every industry and underlines the importance of digital transformation for businesses looking to stay relevant. This shift to digital channels has seen an increase in the use of digital ads, in particular on mobile apps and social media.
Healthcaresuccess.com took a deep dive into the changing face of healthcare marketing towards the end of 2016. In their article, a Periscope on 2017: Healthcare Marketing Trends, they identified 10 trends to watch in 2017.
Firstly, the use of social messaging apps such as SnapChat and Facebook Messenger. These platforms enable real-time conversation with the consumer. These new marketing opportunities are not limited to the healthcare industry. In fact, ChatBots are featuring heavily in this year’s Super Bowl with advertisers like Kia supplementing their commercial with ‘NiroBot’.
Inbound and content marketing are not new. as more and more patients are searching online to answer medical queries, savvy healthcare marketers are using these tools to get their companies on page 1 of Google.
Digital marketing channels enable marketers to conduct more sophisticated, targets campaigns by identifying trends to enable the delivery of timely, personalized content. That’s not all. It also enables marketers to think location. Location-based marketing further permits the marketer to adapt to individual’s preferences and target messages effectively.
Mobile is still a huge trend in digital marketing. EVERYTHING needs to be optimized for mobile and tablets, whilst not disadvantaging the desktop or laptop user. “Healthcare marketing needs to think of the mobile screen first, and budget for and adapt that message to other options.” – Healthcare Success
Video and virtual reality are predicted to be huge for marketers in 2017. Microsoft is among the first in healthcare to jump on this. Check out their fantastic new website, complete with VR homepage >>
Patients have never been so informed. The marketing battle for the new on-demand patient has only just begun!
Digital Diary is headed to Dallas. Join us April 4-5, 2017 to discuss the latest in digital health at Digital Healthcare Transformational Assembly featuring the panel discussion From Connected Health to Digital Health, moderated by Brian Ahier, Director of Standards and Government Affairs Medicity and Interoperability & HIE WorkgroupMedicity, HIT Policy Committee.
Key Discussion Points:
- How digital technology is transforming health and social care.
- Tailored and interactive text messaging to engage and activate patients.
- Tailored mobile engagement strategy can help hospitals, health systems, health plans and other organizations positively influence healthcare consumer behavior and reduce costs.
- The increasing role of smartphones and apps in digital health.
- How digital health technologies will improve personal health.
- Mobile Health Computing – Artificial Intelligence – HIPAA, HITECH ACT and ACA.
- Consumer Facing Digital Health Technology.
- Tools, tactics and strategies to make the promise of the digital revolution a reality
- Understand what role digital health can play in revolutionizing the delivery of healthcare services.
Other top sessions include The New Era of the On-Demand Patient: How Technology and Data Shape Digital Marketing in Healthcare, Digitization and Mobility are Revolutionizing the Practice of Medicine and Embracing the Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Digital Officer Relationship.