What is Digital Health – Healthcare Industry Transformations of 2021

Digital health uses artificial intelligence, mobile computing, wearables, and health informatics to improve efficiency and quality of care and offer more personalized services. It’s a quickly growing and evolving sector that spans telemedicine, telehealth, and mobile health, utilizing advanced tools to prevent and treat disease and restore, promote, and maintain public health. Patients expect their healthcare to match the experience of websites and apps they use every day, like Google, Amazon, and Apple. Healthcare systems can now connect with patients whenever and wherever they are – expanding access and improving the overall patient experience.

What is Digital Health?

Simply put, digital health boils down to using technology to ensure continuity of care, improve preventive care, and contribute to enhanced longevity. Digital health solutions include smart technologies such as electronic records, virtual assistants, 3D printing, drone-delivered medical supplies, and cancer-diagnosing artificial intelligence. Such tools can improve the quality of human life, increase life expectancy, and drive innovation and advances in clinical diagnostics and treatment.

The Role of Technology in Healthcare

Technology offers multiple benefits for both physicians and patients, from helping people manage and prevent chronic conditions to reduce avoidable mortality rates, prevent disease, and provide personalized care. Technological advances help develop cures, improve diagnostics and treatment, and facilitate health team collaboration and care coordination.

Technology Trends Driving Healthcare Transformations

In light of the pandemic, artificial intelligence and automation gained significant traction and transformed healthcare, helping to ease the administrative workload and provide individualized care at scale. This solution translates into a more patient-centric approach and caring for patients in a more responsive way to their values, requirements, and preferences.

Rising insurance costs are another market driver as organizations suggest employees use wearable devices to monitor their health and drive down healthcare costs. A relatively recent phenomenon, the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), refers to a collection of applications and smart devices that measure glucose levels, blood pressure, temperature, and other health indicators. The IoMT market is expanding quickly, with more than 500,000 devices available, from ingestible sensors and connected inhalers to depression and mood monitoring apps, smart pill-dispensing devices, and connected contact lenses. 

The role of telehealth is growing and is likely to continue in 2021. The 2020 U.S. Telehealth Satisfaction Study shows that patient satisfaction with virtual care has reached 860 points measured on a 1,000-point scale. An analysis by McKinsey also reveals that 46 percent of consumers used virtual channels for assistance in 2020, up from 11 percent in 2011. The number of patients using telehealth has also increased to 175 times, with total revenues of healthcare providers estimated at $3 billion. 

Problems that Digital Health Providers are Solving

Preventable health issues such as high cholesterol and blood pressure, type II diabetes, and coronary heart disease continue to grow worldwide. These diseases exert considerable pressure on healthcare systems due to shifts in societal behavior, rising life expectancy, and population aging. Technology, like conversational AI, can help mitigate these health issues and direct patients to the proper care venue.

• Improving outcomes taking the guesswork out of the process by streamlining triage and care navigation

• Expanding patient access by creating a single entry point for all digital patient journeys, patient receive the context and personalized assistance necessary to navigate their case

• Lowering cost with conversational AI decreases call center volume, support staff overhead, and physician burnout by helping patients virtually engage with healthcare anytime, anyplace

• Providing a more consumer-friendly patient experience with an empathic interface empowers patients to interact on their terms, resulting in a more personalized, tailored experience that builds trust with your patients.

Growing urbanization also contributes to more people adopting a sedentary lifestyle, increasing the risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and obesity. The more limited availability of public spaces, poor air quality, and road traffic density make exercise and physical activity more difficult in urban areas.

Changes in lifestyle such as getting more exercise and maintaining a healthy diet can help manage, delay, and prevent chronic diseases, and this is where digital health solutions enter. Wearables like biosensors, blood pressure monitors, ECG monitors, and smart health watches make it possible for people to monitor and improve their health. By measuring parameters such as body temperature and mass, ECG, heartbeat, and step count, and computing data, wearables can help healthcare professionals to improve treatment and diagnosis.

Innovative technologies not only improve the patient experience and diagnostic processes but save hospitals money. The Growing Value of Digital Health study illustrates that the use of apps for pulmonary, cardiac, asthma, and diabetes prevention could save US hospitals $7 billion per year in healthcare costs. If we utilized more technology applications, this could translate into $46 billion in savings. Smart technology solutions can save money and improve efficiency range from in-home virtual assistants and web-based interactive programs to clinical trial information collection tools. 

Practices and hospitals benefit from these technologies to provide more personalized, convenient, affordable, and efficient care to patients. Front door solutions benefit providers, from enabling patients to interact with hospital staff and improving clinical decision making to streamlining administrative processes while boosting revenue recovery. AI-powered virtual assistants help with task management, medical record navigation, information search, and patient–provider communication. AI care navigation assistant guides users in finding the right level of care. It’s connecting patients with condition-appropriate forms of care, 365/24/7 virtual concierge assists with symptom screening, triaging, finding a healthcare provider or specialist, scheduling appointments, and answering questions.

The Future of Digital Health

AI technologies help us move into an era where healthcare is convenient, efficient, and more personalized than ever before. While the healthcare industry is slow to change, the pandemic forced hospitals to adopt new technologies, like AI, quickly. The next normal is digital, and care providers are beginning to realize the necessity of tech-powered solutions, from virtual therapeutics and telehealth to wearables and digital front door technologies to serve patients better and minimize costs.

AI technology solutions are expected to recover revenue and drive growth in healthcare.  With these technologies becoming mainstream, hospitals and physicians will provide more coordinated and efficient patient-centric care that is comprehensive, personalized and delivers better outcomes.

Learn more about how AI technology transforms healthcare with a digital front door. Watch Bright Spots in Healthcare’s Innovation Debate: The Virtual Front Door in Healthcare, featuring GYANT co-founder and CEO, Stefan Behrens»

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