Digital Health and the Healthcare paradigm shift

In a nutshell, we can define Digital health as the use of technology in Healthcare.

Until recently, medicine was a patriarchal science, and patients were mostly passive in receiving care. Nowadays, technologies allow the patient to be in the center of his medical journey.

Digital health and the rise of holistic Healthcare

The 17th century British Philosopher Francis Bacon, first stated that “Knowledge is power.” Today, Big Data is the ultimate path for medical practitioners to consider the patient holistically. The new medical journey doesn’t come without challenges. An excessive amount of data can impair the diagnostic and let the disease pin get lost in a haystack of information.

Artificial Intelligence is one of the keys for efficiently sorting the tsunami of data doctors are currently faced with and deciphering early signs of disease. In that sense, wearable devices are both a curse and a blessing.

Algorithms are only as good as the training sets they have been built onto. AI algorithms, especially in imaging and early-stage cancer detection, cannot be expected to perform better than their training data. It is critically important to label the data at levels that exceed standard assessment by using further stages of diagnostic testing.

Social Determinants of Health and Aging as limiting factors

When assessing digital health, great care should also be put on the access inequalities. Economics and education and two critical components of the Social Determinants of Health. Smartphones and connected medical devices play a crucial role in Digital health, but just 59% of the elderly own one. In the world, the number of aged over 80 is projected to triple by 2050, from 150 million will reach 426 million. Digital care is posed to improve care for the elderly, but the digital tools needed to support healthy aging should be accessible to all.

Healthcare progress is always driven not only by the clinical benefits for the patients but also by economics. While Telehealth holds the promises of better treatments for chronic patients, it is not a “silver bullet.” The cost-effectiveness of the Telehealth was assessed by Henderson et al. (2013) for COPD patients in the UK and prove not to provide significant benefits. When considering Telehealth, it is critical to consider the big picture and to factor as well as non-fiduciary factors such as the wellness of the patients and productivity gains for the practitioners.

Electronic Health Records as a threat and an opportunity

The digitalization of medical records is a fundamental component of Digital Health. The ultimate goal is to break the siloed systems and to provide a coherent framework. Here again, the avalanche of data should not come at the expense of both the quality of the treatments for the patients and the comfort of use for the physicians. High-quality machine learning algorithms are especially critical in qualitatively sorting the data and providing only clinically relevant feedbacks to the clinicians.

Privacy has been and is still a significant hurdle when dealing with EHR. Recently, blockchain technologies gained tremendous traction in offering ways to secure the data of the patients.

Digital Health is not limited to, Healthcare companies, hospitals, and doctors. By putting back the patient at the center of the medical eco-system, Digital health offers not only a paradigm shift but better treatments and drug discovery tools that will ultimately benefit society as a whole.