Understanding Digital Health – what’s included in this term?

The pandemic has caused technology and medical experts to take a curious look at the Med-tech market. Remote medical services or diagnostics have proven to be not only necessary but also a driving force for the further development of this industry. We can already see a clear change in health care due to the digital transformation of health care and the increasing popularity of the term Digital Health.

However, what is Digital Health?

This term is very broad and multidisciplinary, covering a concept at the intersection of technology and healthcare. The goal and idea of digital transformation are to produce various software, hardware, tools, and services to support healthcare. Based on a number of studies by specialists who deal with this topic on a daily basis, the elements that make up the term Digital Health stand out.

These are:

Innovations in the technologies mentioned are expected to save time, improve the accuracy and efficiency of care, and connect and improve available technologies. The health debt to society continues to grow, but there is a good chance that modern diagnostics will translate into better diagnoses and treatments. Personalized Medicine will become the standard, which according to studies improves the quality and duration of patients’ lives.

Digital Health Elements

1. Mobile Health App

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), mobile health apps fall under the definition of “medical devices are additive to standard medical devices or turn a mobile platform into a standard medical device.” In the COVID-19 era, when we as a society were forced to keep our distance and stay in our homes, mobile health apps came to the rescue. In many cases, they provided a sense of security and supported healthy habits. It is worth noting at this point that there are two different types of health apps. The most important thing is to understand the differences between them and who they target and what they aim to achieve. These are Health/Wellness and Healthcare/mHealth apps.

  • Health/Wellness apps – are typically used by the consumer as broad health improvement/monitoring tools.
  • Healthcare/mHealth apps – are used in collaboration with healthcare professionals to offer advice/assistance diagnosis and/or recommend prescriptions

The most popular categories of Health/Wellness apps are:

  • Sports and fitness activity tracking
  • Diet and nutrition
  • Weight loss coaching
  • Medication tracking
  • Sleep cycle
  • Stress and relaxation
  • Meditation
  • Menstrual period tracking
  • Pregnancy tracking
  • Hospital selection and appointment tracking

Examples:

  • Sleep Cycle App
source: Sleep Cycle App
  • Flo App
source: Flo App

You can find out more useful apps in this article: Med-Tech mobile apps!

Healthcare/mHealth apps are used to:

  • Provide education and awareness
  • Assist with diagnostic and treatment support
  • Enable remote data collection
  • Facilitate remote monitoring
  • Enable telemedicine
  • Support chronic disease management
  • Support medication compliance

Examples:

  • Medical ID
source: Medical ID
  • Baptist Health Care App
source: Baptist Healthcare App

These apps have a wide variety of functions, but all of them have a strong focus on the patient/user, which creates the effect that he/she cares about – the feeling of being cared for. 

More about functionality and app design in this article: How to create the perfect healthcare app – 4 key things you can’t forget!

2. Wearable Devices

Awareness about the human body and health is increasing in educated and wealthy societies, so the trend for monitoring personal health has been born. The desire to get better at sports, lose weight or take care of proper blood pressure has launched the era of “wearable devices.”

What are wearable devices and how do they work? 

Wearable devices connect with people using sensors that track movement as well as biometric data. The devices typically send the collected data via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or mobile data to the smartphone or computer. It is assumed that future innovations in this area will continue to improve the way wearable devices monitor our health. 

A major challenge for the industry is the issue of their authentication capabilities. It’s possible that more biometrics-based functionality will emerge in the future. Some innovators are even considering smart tattoos that, when scanned, transfer the relevant identifying information to the mobile device. Another danger is the desire for self-diagnosis – it is important to remember that many of these devices are not medically certified and may serve as an aid to maintaining a healthy lifestyle or treatment, but they will certainly not serve as diagnostic tools.

3. Telehealth & Telemedicine

These are two terms that are commonly confused among many people due to their close proximity.

  • Telemedicine is the practice of medicine that uses technology to deliver care at a distance. A doctor in one location uses telecommunications infrastructure to provide care to a patient in a remote location. It refers specifically to remote clinical services.
  • Telehealth refers broadly to electronic and telecommunications technologies and services used to provide care and services at a distance. Telehealth may refer to remote non-clinical services.

In a pandemic reality, the development of Telemedicine has noticeably accelerated. Projects that some time ago seemed a distant future today are a reality. Particular developments can be seen in these three areas:

  • Telediagnostics 
  • Remote health monitoring, 
  • Virtual emergency room

Many experts estimate that the global telemedicine market will grow every year – while telemedicine itself is the future of healthcare.

4. EHR and EMR

What are they?

EMR – (Electronic Medical Record) is a digital version of the patient record for individual facilities. An EMR file includes a patient’s medical history, diagnoses, and treatments performed by a specific doctor, nurse, specialist, etc.

EHR – (Electronic Health Record) is also a digital version of the patient record. How is it different? It is much more accessible. The EHR can be shared with other medical facilities, allowing authorized individuals to immediately access a specific patient’s extensive medical record.

The benefits that EHRs and EMRs offer are very different.

source: https://synappsehealth.com/pl/articles/i/elektroniczna-dokumentacja-medyczna-systemy-emr-i-ehr/

The key features of both systems that have made them currently so popular are:

  • ensuring the safety of the patient’s records and archives, through data encryption
  • putting all the necessary information about a particular patient in one place (this also makes the work of specialists easier)
  • easy access to the desired information and a significant increase in the readability of the documentation, which reduces the risk of mistakes

Both systems introduce huge beneficial changes in health care. They significantly increase the efficiency of medical facilities, while reducing costs.

5. Personalized medicine

Digital health technologies enable patients to make important decisions and controlled and systematic prevention. The tools that are emerging during the digital healthcare transformation are capable of facilitating early diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of chronic diseases outside traditional healthcare facilities. Such solutions are increasingly being used around the world, as effective prevention is the key to staying healthy for longer. This is how personalized medicine, which takes a patient’s specific case, is booming before our eyes.

The notion of creating a personalized treatment plan for every patient seems impossible today – but medicine has already shown more than once that the term “impossible” does not exist. The future of personalized medicine lies in full digitalization and the development of fields such as AI, Big Date, etc.

Conclusion

The Global Market Insights report shows that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, (which in a way forced many people to use digital solutions in medicine) – the development of Digital Health has significantly accelerated and the data predicted in 2018 regarding the fact that the market for digital health technologies will exceed $379 billion by 2024 – is significantly understated. 

Just a few years ago it was difficult to imagine such a scenario.  Today we know that Digital Health solutions have already entered the healthcare system and our daily lives on a permanent basis.

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09.11.2022

Maciej Marczak

UX Designer

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