Healthcare Technology Featured Article

November 29, 2017

4 Trends in Digital Health to Keep an Eye On in 2018

Digital health technologies are changing healthcare for good. The sector is of interest to healthcare professionals and investors alike. According to Rock Health, the first half of 2017 has seen a record-breaking year in terms of digital health investments. During the first half, $3.5 billion was invested in a range of digital health companies from health insurance companies to service providers.

With investment boosting innovation, what can you expect from the sector next year? Here are four trends in digital health to keep an eye on in 2018.

Data to become better integrated and analysed

Big data continues to dominate the discussion around industry changes and the digital health sector is no different. There has already been a dramatic shift in how much data we gather about our health and with what products. Smartphones are used to capture a range of data along with wearables. This technology will continue to get more sophisticated in 2018.

However, the data has largely been fragmented in the past. But in 2018, it’s likely data will become better integrated and analysed. Health insurance companies can monitor patient health more closely and offer tailored insurance products. Doctors and other professionals will use this big data to make diagnosis quicker and easier – preventive care will improve, leading to healthier and happier patients.

The focus won’t just be on the patient’s personal medical history but data from other similar patients – this collective data analysis is likely to lead to breakthroughs in dealing with chronic conditions and finding more about different diseases. It has the possibility of spilling over to discovering new cures and possible even new conditions to treat.

Using big data to conduct digital health interventions

The use of big data will lead to an important practice of digital health interventions. This means not just monitoring patients but intervening in possible problems before they even become a problem. Because so much data will be available, doctors can prescribe medicine and help the patient make lifestyle changes before issues are actually showing signs of becoming a real problem.

This kind of early intervention is going to lead to improved success rates but also reduce the cost of treatment. End of care treatment is often much higher in cost than early intervention – certain conditions and diseases can be prevented simply with free lifestyle changes such as better quality sleep and nutrition.

Interventions are also not just going to be about the use of big data. Technology will also mean some interventions are digital in nature – actual digital products will be used to improve patient care. Already things such as gene therapy and monitoring implants are used to administer drugs and help cure disease. The use of these types of technologies is likely to increase in 2018. This sector is developing rapidly and it encompasses a range of things so analysing it further is difficult in advance. However, technology has the real possibility of improving human health.

Insurance to start focusing on behavioural health

One of the most notable things in 2017 has been the shift in dealing with mental health issues. Numerous campaigns around the world are trying to reduce the stigma associated with problems such as depression. There has also been recognition that mental health problems can have devastating consequences to society as a whole, especially when these issues go unsolved. Companies understand they shouldn’t just focus on employees’ physical health but also treat the mind – it can help improve productivity and talent retention.

This enhanced focus on the behavioural health is likely to spill over to health insurance. Health insurance companies are starting to offer products that specifically allow people to treat mental health issues with their insurance. Digital technologies can help in diagnosis and treatment; meaning innovation in the sector is likely to increase next year.

Health insurance companies to change insurance model

Overall, digital health technologies are changing the health insurance sector. Traditional insurance companies have to compete with new innovative start-ups that are breaking into the insurance sector. Technology, especially the use of big data, is making it easier to offer different insurance models to consumers and to shake the existing strategies used by traditional companies.

The new health insurance companies are able to utilise technology and manage cost effectively. Technology and data help improve decision-making and improve patient experience – transparency and understanding of the situation are more prevalent.

This birth of new health insurance companies will not mean the old traditional companies are done. In fact, 2018 will likely witness increasing investment in technology by traditional insurers. It wouldn’t be a surprise if there are major consolidations in the insurance business as well over this subject.

As the above shows, there is plenty to expect in 2018 in terms of digital health innovation. With investment rising, the sector will likely see plenty of exciting developments and some of these will be difficult to predict. Only time will tell how the industry will change next year. But the above four ideas are definitely going to be at the core of it all.

Edited by Mandi Nowitz
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