Digital Health - Using technology to manage wellness
- 8 mins read
Published on Wednesday 11th December 2019
Could the solution to some of the world’s health and wellness issues lie with digital health technology? Digital transformation for pharma and health companies is essential. An ageing population, a rise in chronic health conditions and increasing costs of healthcare are putting unprecedented pressure on the healthcare system in the UK and across the world. The convergence of health technology, mHealth and mobile communications is increasingly part of the solution to many of the challenges facing the health and wellness sector. Healthcare providers and pharmaceutical companies can harness this opportunity to create better outcomes for patients. Developments in personalisation, and patient engagement can make a real difference. In this article, we will explore how healthcare providers are tackling today’s issues through technology, and how this innovation is changing lives.
Digital experience in healthcare
The prevalence of better digital customer experiences across many different industries is raising expectations in healthcare too. People are expecting healthcare to be delivered on their terms in the right channel. The patients digital experience today is crucial in comparison to historical patient to healthcare provider interactions. Technology can help healthcare enterprises maintain ongoing experience-driven relationships with customers, and help pharmaceutical companies create relationships with healthcare professionals in ways that were impossible in the past. The user experience is paramount.
For patients, mHealth can deliver:
Better communication with healthcare providers
Instant access to information on symptoms and medical conditions
Improved access to healthcare
Access to health records or medical test results
Help with treatment compliance, with reminders to adhere to therapy
Increased confidence in managing conditions
For healthcare providers, mHealth can help to:
Promote patient independence and empower the patient to have more control over their health
Minimise use of services for small ailments, allowing customers to get information online when needed
Reduce costs, admin and paperwork time
Reduce missed appointments
Remote monitoring of patients and allow nudges to adhere to treatment or therapy
What is connected health?
Connected health tools allow patients and their healthcare providers to interact. The evolving connected health technology ecosystem includes wearable technology, apps, telehealth, AI, VR, remote patient monitoring and more. Traditional healthcare insurers need to innovate to meet the requirements of those who have already been interacting with digital health start-ups. Connected health technology supports patients to personalise their health and manage their wellbeing. Health insurers are aiming to deliver better customer experiences and deliver better health outcomes.
Frost & Sullivan predict there will be 80 billion connected devices by 2025 and that increase will positively impact healthcare. In particular they expect an improvement in efficiency and patient engagement. Connected health is already helping people better manage their health and wellness with some life changing outcomes.
Here are some examples of connected health innovators and the brilliant outcomes that they are creating:
Beddr tracks sleep, it records data while attached to a users’ forehead and the information it records is sent to a smartphone. The data collected, when combined with Bedd'rs forthcoming telemedicine and coaching, can be used to improve sleep without having to visit a sleep clinic. The device measures breathing quality, oxygen saturation, sleeping position, heart rate and more. The purpose is to bring better quality sleep for users.
Babylon Health is a UK based subscription health service that has been growing rapidly. The number of subscribers they have are already in the hundreds of thousands and they plan to expand across the world. Subscribers can contact virtual doctors and other medical professionals via video consultations where they can address medical concerns. Patients connect with high-ranking specialists and have the ability to rate their interactions with their Doctor using a ratings system. In a similar way that you might rate your Uber ride. The Babylon app has a personalised dashboard of users health stats, these can be acquired using Smartphone exercise data. Babylon can also supply users with blood testing kits for testing liver and kidney function, thyroid function, cholesterol, vitamin levels and more. The results of the tests are then incorporated into the users’ app settings. Their mission is to make healthcare accessible and affordable to all.
Cognetivity - Integrated Cognitive Assessment (ICA)
Neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease begin long before any symptoms become apparent. Patients can use Cognetivity to find out if they have early symptoms simply by taking a test on an iPad. Participants are asked to categorise images in a series as quickly as possible. The results can indicate if the patient is at risk of developing dementia, allowing them to start earlier treatment.
The Freestyle Libre system reads glucose levels through a sensor attached to the back of the arm. This removes the need for patients to take routine finger prick blood tests. It captures real-time glucose levels through smartphones and it’s currently available on the NHS. Abbott, the company who produce the Freestyle Libre system have partnered with Novo Nordisk to collaborate. They share data from their insulin pens to provide better knowledge that they believe will result in life-changing outcomes for people with Diabetes.
Ginger.io is one of the many companies tackling mental health. They provide text-based behavioural health coaching. Hundreds of thousands of people have access to Ginger.io through their employer provided health plan. They provide access to expert coaches, therapists and psychiatrists via an app powered by AI.
In the pharmaceutical industry, many continue to experience challenges around patient trial and adherence. Wearables and mHealth apps can allow users to participate in clinical trials from home, which can help them to comply to trial requirements. Getting new drugs and treatments ready for clinical trials can also be a time-consuming and expensive process. HealX develops new drugs and treatments for rare diseases using artificial intelligence. HealX analyses existing drugs and looks to repurpose them to help cure rare diseases. HealX was able to develop a drug for Fragile-X disorder and get it to clinical trials in less than 18 months. Healx says their database documents interactions between rare diseases, patients and previously used drugs.
Having a collective view of medical history is a major problem for both patients and healthcare providers. In fact, Frost & Sullivan state that the NHS budget includes £1 billion for connected health, that will go toward integrating patient records across healthcare and social by 2020. Embleema is starting to tackle this problem. Its blockchain network allows patients to access their consolidated medical records and share them with researchers and Doctors if they wish. Those that use the platform can be paid for sharing their data. Embleema allows healthcare to be managed securely by a group of healthcare stakeholders.
Traditional Pharma and healthcare providers need a technology roadmap for the future.
More than 50% of healthcare providers do not have a healthcare IT roadmap, but they recognise the importance of digital health in increasing efficiency and delivering better outcomes for patients in the future. In Pharma, connected health can offer better adherence to trials and medication. These developments along with shared records and better clinical information systems will continue to shape healthcare and pharma services around the needs of patients. Moving forward, it’s important for pharma and healthcare providers to put patients at the centre of everything they do and continue to work toward digital transformation.
At Graphite, we’d love to chat with you about helping your teams run design sprints, UX research, digital technology review and enhance digital experiences for patients. In 2020 and beyond, putting the patient first is necessary as there are already several disruptors in the healthcare market that are doing just that. Please contact us if you’d like to find out more.