Digital health: Moving toward a healthcare revolution

Organizations are reinventing care with patient-generated data
By Ryan Beckland
02:03 PM
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Runners were the first to discover the potential of wearable devices several years ago. They started using watches and pedometers to measure steps, location and heart rate. As technology became increasingly sophisticated, early technology adopters and fitness enthusiasts followed suit.

Today, nearly 75 percent of adults are using a fitness tracker. And, it is projected that about 120 million wearable devices will be sold by 2018. The upshot? The eventual future of healthcare is one in which most patients will be hyper-connected to a network of devices and generating an astounding amount of data.

Perhaps more important, though, is the fact that the following emerging trends are transforming the utilization of digital devices from a fad to a meaningful movement that can actually result in improved health:

Devices are collecting a variety of data. Reaching beyond fitness data, many new devices are now capable of tracking and reading muscle activity, measuring the nutrition in food, monitoring breathing and assessing exposure to ultraviolent rays.

Devices are taking on new forms. Wearable and clinical devices are evolving into new device types and styles. Wrist wear, ear wear, eyewear, smart bottles, smart clothing, smart tattoos, smart contact lenses and even digital implants are making it possible to track just about anything.

Devices are becoming more commoditized in the market. Devices that collect digital health data were formerly high-priced and only used by people with significant financial means. Recently, however, devices have become much more affordable, which will make them much more viable for all.

Devices are providing better access to data. Previously, many devices were data locked but are now becoming blue-tooth enabled. This enables caregivers and patients to easily access important data from clinical in-hospital and in-home devices.

With these trends making digital devices more common, valuable, and meaningful to the industry, healthcare organizations are more fully leveraging the health data generated by these devices. The potential of digital data is already being tapped as:
 

·      Physicians are now leveraging patient-generated data to track patients post-hospital discharge in an effort to reduce the risk of infection and readmission.

·      Healthcare providers are responding more quickly to a patient's health status, as they remotely monitor chronic conditions.

·      Health systems are better tracking and engaging entire patient populations by integrating health data into patient engagement portals and EHRs.

·      Health insurance companies are leveraging data to create improved risk management models to better reward members.

·      Pharmaceutical companies are using the data to monitor clinical trials and conduct research studies on prescription drug side-effects.

·      Employers and corporate wellness companies are using verified mobile health data to create more productive and engaging health incentives.

These are just some examples illustrating how digital health data is being used to improve healthcare. As 2015 unfolds, and in the years to come, more healthcare stakeholders will be expected to discover the power of patient-generated data integration and create new innovative models that can truly revolutionize the way care is delivered.