Connected health – technology-enabled care solutions that facilitate communication between patients, providers and caregivers – is becoming more prevalent in the United States. But, this idea of improving outcomes and patient experience with digital-health technologies is also spreading across the globe. There are a number of examples of countries and companies abroad launching successful and innovative strategies.
For example, an African governmental body recently provided residents of a remote village with smart phones that enable them to monitor their vital signs. Patients are then able to supply that information, which includes blood pressure and heart rate data, to doctors and caregivers – who, in turn, can respond with treatment advice. Connected technology makes it possible for this population to receive much-needed clinical care remotely, which saves the men, women and children from walking for days to visit the nearest healthcare facility.
In the United Kingdom, clinicians are monitoring patient's lifestyle data – such as sleep, exercise, diet, weight, blood pressure and blood-glucose levels – to then leverage real-time video consultations with patients. And, in Australia, a company is leveraging digital-health devices to monitor and manage the health, wellness and nutrition of members of the Australian Rugby team in an effort to ensure that these elite athletes are in top physical condition for key competitions.
With trailblazing initiatives in place abroad and at home, digital health is truly transforming traditional healthcare delivery, efficiency and access on an international scale. But these programs are just beginning to gain momentum. The move toward connected health is expected to continue to grow as:
- Countries strive to create the healthcare infrastructure required to support growth. Many countries are working to find solutions to serve more patients while simultaneously dealing with a shortage of available clinicians. In these situations, a connected-health strategy can play an important role. Leveraging these digital-health technologies for remote patient monitoring and telehealth initiatives makes it possible to cost-effectively and time-efficiently serve larger populations.
- The aging population is quickly expanding. People are living longer throughout the world. As a result, this is creating larger populations of people in need of more extensive healthcare services – as these individuals are generally at a greater risk for developing chronic diseases and complications from acute illnesses. Digital health programs help to address issues related to this increase in patient populations, and in turn, demand on providers.
- Technology innovation accelerates while costs come down. For quite some time, government entities, health systems and other stakeholders have recognized the need for advances to be made in care delivery and management, as well as new diagnostic and treatment options. They have also long recognized technology as a key means to achieve this increased efficiency. Cost, however, has always been a hard-to-clear hurdle for these healthcare entities. But today, the increase in sophistication of these technologies – combined with lower manufacturing costs and higher adoption rates – has enabled providers and patients to tap into these innovative solutions without the burden of a high price tag.
- Cost-reduction pressures continue. Providers, health plans, life-science companies and governments are all under mounting pressure to keep healthcare costs down. As cost becomes an issue globally, stakeholders are turning to digital health as a means to keep overall healthcare costs down.
As so many connected-health programs come to fruition across the globe, healthcare organizations that are thriving are leveraging a "one-to-many" data platform, like Validic, to enable patients to passively collect their digital-health information, such as from wearable and clinical in-home devices. For healthcare organizations, this means they are able to access, integrate and analyze accurate and actionable patient data via a singular, integrated platform. Doing so provides many opportunities for healthcare organizations to enhance the overall care experience, improve the health of populations and reduce per capita healthcare costs – all goals of healthcare systems globally.
And, while this article addressed some of the drivers of digital health, future articles will discuss the innovations and challenges that organizations are encountering as digital-health programs unfold across the globe.