5 Digital Health Concepts You Need to Understand
Humanoid robots, commercial space lines, and artificial organs… The list of technological advancements that have shaped today’s society is mind-blowing. Therefore, it’s not surprising that the incredible and fast technological evolution has changed medicine by giving birth to a new creation: digital health. So here are the top five digital health concepts and trends you need in order to understand the true nature of digital health.
Telehealth: Where’s the Human Touch?
The world around us is beautifully diverse and telehealth is a vital part of it, one of the main concepts in the digital health field. Telemedicine or telehealth is defined as any medical treatment delivered by technology. The field of telehealth includes home health, counselling, chronic disease management, education, and much more. The technological modalities used to deliver these services are also diverse: from medical apps to educational videos, tech tools are designed with the purpose to help professionals and patients.
In fact, the definition of telehealth given by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) states:
“The use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration.”
Actually, remote patient monitoring (RPM) is one of the most important modalities of telehealth. It helps individuals stay healthy without leaving their home, cutting costs of commuting and readmission.
Thus, telehealth can be extremely helpful for elderly patients. Remote monitoring, sensors that detect falls, or simply information online – when trained, elderly people can benefit from digital health. This age group is vital as, according to data, there will be an increase in the population. It’s expected that the number of people will rise by one billion by 2025, and 300 million will be over 65. So, telehealth needs to help people of all age.
M-health: A Market Full of Apps
M-health or mobile health is another basic concept in the colorful spectrum of digital health and telehealth, in particular. Providers and experts are highly interested in the usage of mobile devices and other tech tools that can facilitate research and improve patients’ well-being. That shouldn’t come as a shock. In a world where people shop, work and even date online, mobile phones and other devices should be implemented in crucial aspects, such as medicine.
By using a mobile device, medicine and healthcare services can become more patient-friendly and personalized. Technological devices and social media channels can be applied to monitoring one’s well-being and also, to improving healthcare outcomes. On top of that, digital health and m-health, in particular, make healthcare services more accessible and cost-effective.
Numerous m-health apps are available on the market, for both providers and patients. The number of healthcare mobile apps is growing. Figures from 2016 revealed that the number of mHealth apps reached 259,000 apps. It’s believed that only in 2017, the digital market will reach $26 billion in revenue. The wide variety is more than impressive: Apple, Google, and Microsoft, in combination with fitness apps such as Fitbit, help people drink water on a regular basis, run marathons, and take their medication. The main aspect behind mHealth is the level of accuracy of such apps to help patients’ well-being.
Online Therapy: Human Problems Resolved by Machines
Technology has pushed AI devices forward, which in a way makes futuristic predictions from sci-fi films and novels real. We already have humanoid robots like Sophia and Erica. Perhaps soon androids and humans will mingle in one society.
For now, chatbots have replaced humans behind the screen and have become a major factor in digital healthcare. AI-based assistants dominate the market. Your.MD is an example of a sophisticated system that helps users collect medical information. Virtual nurses like Sense.ly provide monitoring, especially in chronic illnesses. Other platforms and AI-powered physicians can answer a specific question and provide medical information.
Not surprisingly, something sensitive and personal as counselling and talking therapy has also been influenced by technology. Online counselling is preferred by many as it’s cheaper and more confidential. For instance, email-based counseling is a popular practice. What’s more, chatbots, such as Woebot and ELIZA, provide psychological services. Can AI replace human touch? Let’s wait and see. If you are interested in a behind the scenes look at chatbots check out our interview with Medilad’s CEO who developed a female health chatbot.
Virtual Reality & Real Life
Of course, we should explore the concept of virtual reality. It’s not about gaming, though. Nowadays, virtual reality and medicine go hand in hand. Medical training is crucial and in fact, passing knowledge onto the next generation makes our world spin. Virtual reality and simulation, such as Medical Realities, can help experts learn and improve in real life.
Virtual reality is cost-effective and safe. Companies, such as VR HealthNet and zSpace, are creating solutions and apps that can foster knowledge acquisition.
On top of that, virtual reality simulations have been used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and phobias, and even pain in burn victims and phantom limb pain. Bravemind is one of the programs that help doctors expose their patients to traumatic stimuli. The main effort is to create a patient-centric approach.
Cybersecurity: Turn Off Risks
Among the labyrinths of people’s creativity, the Internet is one of the greatest inventions that give people the most precious gift ever: free and transparent information. With a lot of sensitive information online, cybersecurity is becoming one of the main concerns of businesses and individuals. Hack attacks, international information leakage, and stolen identities: people, organizations, and governments need to make sure information is collected and stored effectively and most of all, safely.
Data shows that 74% of funders and 79% of providers in the digital health sector say they plan their work around personal data protection. However, figures show that when it comes to cybersecurity, digital health falls behind other industries.
In fact, a study conducted in the U.S. revealed that 99% of participants feared their mental health notes had been shared with other parties without their consent, 90% – their prescriptions, and 80% – their chronic condition data. Thus, cybersecurity is one of the main concepts developers, experts, and sponsors need to understand to help digital health succeed.
To sum up, digital health is full of provocative concepts; and trends are changing rapidly. One thing is for sure: medicine and technology should merge in one in the name of better physical and emotional health.