Digital Trends in Digital Healthcare2014 was a banner year for digital health for a host of reasons. Here are just a few of the most notable strides made last year:

  • According to digital health accelerator, Rock Health, digital health investment surpassed $4.1 billion—more than the total of the last three years combined.
  • Technology giants like Apple, Google, and Samsung entered the digital health game.
  • Widespread adoption saw telemedicine moved into the mainstream.
  • The FDA made its health data available for public access and use.

This year is expected to be even better in terms of innovations and developments in digital health. Building on Rock Health’s 2014 estimates, we’ve already witnessed more than $2 billion in digital health funding in 2015.

We’re sure to see advancements in those trends already making waves in the healthcare landscape—mobile apps, telehealth, wearables and so on, but there’s more.

“The growth in business cases for new models of healthcare delivery and integration of digital health technology is reaching the point of convergence — creating powerful synergies where there was once only data silos and skepticism,” wrote Ryan Beckland, CEO of Validic, a healthcare IT company in The Health Care Blog.

So where is digital healthcare headed? Which trends are shaping the industry’s future? Let’s explore some of them.

Smart Clinical Devices

Diagnostic tools and heath devices that are connectable and able to communicate data to other devices are becoming better and more cost-effective. We are beginning to see innovative new products like smartphone case devices that can quickly provide an ECG or a DIY blood test, and contact-free flash thermometers. These cutting edge products are likely to replace more traditional clinical devices because of their reasonable price points, reimbursement benefits, and the ability to collect real-time patient data, enhancing both treatment and patient outcomes.

Additionally, digital health organizations shifting to value-based care models will encourage the use of wearables and smart devices, allowing even faster access to valuable patient data.

Improved Clinical Trials and Research

Increased access to health data will allow healthcare companies and clinical research institutes to accurately analyze clinical trials and perform superior research.

Continuity of Care via Telehealth

Telehealth will continue to grow. It is estimated that 65 percent of all interactions with healthcare facilities will happen over mobile devices by 2018.

New telehealth solutions like “Doctors on Demand” are less expensive and more effective alternatives to traditional healthcare. Brands like Walgreens and Google are increasing their involvement in telehealth through their virtual meeting platforms.

And, the US Department of Veterans Affairs, under intense pressure to provide better service to its military veterans, uses both Synchronous (Real Time Video) and Asynchronous (Store-and-Forward) Telehealth, in order to maximize the level of care they are able to deliver to their patients.

Consumers also use telehealth to find support groups, monitor their own vital signs, and access educational information specific to their own health issues. At home patient monitoring for serious illnesses like congestive heart failure or advanced stage diabetes will also allow people to remain at home and out of the hospital for longer periods.

The development of specific devices that prompt the patient to monitor their pulse, oxygen level, and/or weight empower people to be actively involved in managing their own healthcare. This should lead to fewer doctor and Emergency Room visits, and the ability to remain vigilant for complications that may arise.

More consistent monitoring and communication with caregivers, as well as decreased cost, also means less stress for patients, which in itself is a health benefit.

Telemedicine and Video Conferencing

Telemedicine and video conferencing are fast becoming more effective substitutes for treatment of critical diseases. For instance, Telestroke is a popular piece of telemedicine equipment, developed in the UK, and designed to help doctors provide a faster diagnosis, and therefore faster administration of proper drugs, in order to prevent, manage, and treat stroke. Telemedicine also enables patients to manage chronic diseases by themselves, without having to frequent clinics and/or hospitals as frequently.

According to the Telehealth Index: 2015 Physician Survey, nearly 80 percent of surveyed doctors believe telemedicine to be a better way to manage chronic diseases.

The emergence of low-cost and HD quality video conferencing is significantly improving the scope and benefits of telemedicine and remote monitoring.

The practical uses of videoconferencing for healthcare are limitless, and The American Telemedicine Association has developed practice guidelines specifically for using videoconferencing in the treatment of mental health.

In mental healthcare specifically, the timeliness of care is essential, and giving patients who are suffering instant access to professionals is groundbreaking. Telemedicine can be used for assessment, follow up care, therapy, diagnoses, and to manage the overall mental health of the patient, and all can now be done remotely.

Telehealth and videoconferencing is making the biggest impact in medical care on those in more isolated settings. As well, medical professionals can continue to develop their education and gain access to peer support via videoconferencing. Not only will the level of service increase, rural areas that have a difficult time attracting medical professionals due to their isolation may have an easier time recruiting as telemedicine shrinks the global medical community.

New Reimbursement Models

New reimbursement models in telehealth and mobile health are driving both interest and investment in digital health. This trend will allow doctors to provide cost-effective treatment through value-based and relationship-driven care.

With unlimited opportunities in digital health yet to be tapped, we have only reached the tip of the iceberg. As these trends continue to evolve, the future of digital health looks bright, exciting, and full of promise.

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