Why Digital is so important to Health

May 23, 2020

If you work in health the chances are you are very well aware of how digital is entering the sector and the potential it has to improve outcomes.  It feels like there’s a goldrush in the sector with 1000’s of health startups entering the sector.  We are also seeing the world’s biggest companies entering. Take Apple whose watch can take an ECG and soon blood pressure; or Amazon who are selling their own medicines; or Google who we all turn to first for our health advice, long before we go to a pharmacist or our GP.  Alphabet, the company who owns Google and is the US’s 3rd largest company, makes 90% of its revenue from digital advertising today, but by 2022 expects its health arm Verily to make more money.

The biggest healthcare companies in the future are more likely to be Apple, Amazon or Alphabet, than GlaxoSmithKline, BUPA or Boots, because they are thinking DIFFERENTLY and are not held back by how things are done today.  But more importantly they are DIGITAL companies and DIGITAL offers amazing opportunities in HEalth.  But why?

Firstly, for any health intervention to work a person must concord with it, or agree that it's the right solution for them, and they must comply with it, be willing to take it if it’s a medicine or do it if it's a lifestyle solution.  Digital helps in both of these.

Digital helps concordance as a person can see their own data, and they can see often how it is personalised to their own needs.  Compliance can be tracked digitally and even gamified to encourage use.

Technology can be used to quantify many aspects of health to create a quantified self state.  This can be used to build a digital twin so that we can understand our health status, and share information with our physician.

AI and machine learning can be used to automate health to constantly react to changes in status.  This also makes the system very easy to deploy to improve access and also give very fast advice, which can be acted on and early intervention is often key to good outcomes.

Telehelath can make it very easy for us to get medical help, a classic barrier to seeking help.  It also allows it to be done in a highly discreet manner, which again can be an issue for embarrassing conditions.

Robotics, mixed reality, sensors, wearables, smart pills, 3d printing….it’s hard to think of a digital technology that can;t find a user case in health.  Indeed they are all in some way looking at health.  As technology progresses, which it does very quickly all the time, we will see it used ubiquitously in our everyday lives and when we interact with healthcare professionals.

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