From obesity to cardiovascular disease, chronic illnesses significantly impact the lives of individuals, and add trillions to annual health care costs. In 2014, Forbes reinforced what anyone paying attention already knew: the high cost of medical care and overuse of specialized medical services are two of the largest contributors to total spending. Fortunately, 2014 was a big year in digital health, and experts predict it to get better in 2015.
Health Technology Prevails in 2014
Last year, there were definite shifts as a greater investment in digital health solutions became evident. More than $3 billion was invested in digital health last year, a number expected to grow in 2015. The following developments in 2014 were the most notable:
- Top tech brands adopt digital health initiatives. Tech brands will no longer appear only on your phone; expect giants like Apple and Samsung to continue to spar in the realm of digital health. Apple’s Health app tracks both health and fitness data, while Samsung’s S Health transforms any device into a health-tracking tool.
- Effective use and publication of statistical data. Data is being collected all the time, but not all of it is being used or analyzed properly. One of the latest digital health initiatives to correct this is openFDA, a public database of information designed to inform care. So far, the database features adverse event data, recalls and labeling features.
- Outcome-driven technology. Chronic diseases, like diabetes, affect millions of Americans each year, and outcome-drive technology is being developed by top brands to improve upon current treatment provisions to enhance outcomes. Google’s partnership with Novartis is one of many unions intent upon removing treatment barriers and gaining richer insights into the nuances of symptoms with the development of glucose-sensing contact lenses. Meanwhile, substance abuse and suicide are getting a lot more online attention due to major news stories, such as the death of Robin Williams.
Though only a handful of the changes that occurred in 2014, these examples offer insight into the future of digital health.
Companies to Watch in 2015
A Deloitte survey questioned more than 1,000 professionals about their attitudes and opinions on digital health with surprising results. While three in 10 professionals believe wearables will become more popular in 2015, there are concerns about widespread adoption. Furthermore, many of those surveyed lack confidence in technology’s ability to improve outcomes. A few companies aim to assuage these concerns by creating digital health solutions that produce results, including Tidepool, BrainBot and CareLogger.
Innovation and Communication Define the Future of Health Care
An interview with Michael Blum, director of the Center for Digital Health Innovation at the University of California San Francisco, revealed that a primary focus of innovation in health care will be wearable technology. While current technology allows for basic goal tracking and monitoring of vitals, future wearables will take digital health to the next level by providing more complete diagnostics and analysis.
Another major shift to come aims to enhance communication between providers and improve coordination of care, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. A challenge that has waned some since the widespread adoption of electronic health records, consistent communication among members of an individual’s treatment team improves outcomes and reduces unnecessary procedures.
Optimally, digital health in the decade to come will eliminate communication, service and financial gaps in health care, and 2015 promises to be a game-changing year.
Scott Huntington is a writer and health enthusiast from central Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington.