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In November 2015, GP Bullhound published an independent technology research report [1] on digital healthcare, presenting the main challenges faced by the healthcare industry and the solutions brought by digital technologies.

The study defines digital healthcare as “the delivery of health services (e.g. consultations, advice, diagnostics, treatment) via digital means or the enhancement of physically delivered health services through the application of digital technology (e.g. enterprise software, data analytics, online)” [2].

It states digital technology as “the key to meeting the challenges of healthcare provision in the 21st Century. Cloud software, smartphone applications, online marketplaces and data analytics are established as key technologies, as healthcare seeks to become more efficient and patient centric” [3].

The following sentences are quoted from the report.

  1. Digital Healthcare Enabled by Rising Technology Trends

Smartphones

The most significant technology trend in digital healthcare has been the unprecedentedly rapid rise of the smartphone, the most rapidly adopted technological innovation in the history of man.

Big Data & Artificial Intelligence

Healthcare data is also accumulating at an unprecedented rate, from sources including electronic health records, genetic and public health data, and research and behavioural information. Such volumes can only be managed by technology, with the ability to cross reference various types of data.

Connected Devices

The explosion in connected devices, with a total of 25 billion connected devices worldwide in 2015, facilitates information transfer and analysis..

  1. Digital Healthcare as a Solution to New Challenges

Digital healthcare technology is a key part of the solution to the demographic and economic challenges societies are facing:

  • Ageing population: the global share of those aged over 60 will increase from 11.7% in 2013 to 21.1% in 2050.
  • Development of emerging countries: a developed country typically spends 10% of GDP on healthcare vs. 5% for an emerging country.

In consequence, the total healthcare spending worldwide was $7.2 trillion in 2013, accounting for 10.6% of global GDP and forecast to grow at >5% annually to 2018.

.Healthcare spend a percentage of GDP.

  1. Emerging Digital Trends

Digital Telemedicine

Mobile apps and websites address challenges of cost, availability and convenience by delivering consultations and healthcare from a distance through telecommunication and information technologies.

Telemedicine has traditionally consisted of:

  • ‘Store-and-forward’ (acquiring medical data and transmitting it to a physician for assessment);
  • Remote monitoring (particularly useful in the management of chronic conditions in a cost effective and convenient way), and;
  • Interactive (real-time physician consultation and assessment).

A number of digital healthcare companies are pursuing interactive models based on video consultations with GPs.

This solutions can for instance improve the efficiency of care and treatment for those suffering from chronic conditions and have the potential to eliminate some of this waste. Web and mobile apps inform patients, remind them to take their medication and also provide a data feed to the patient’s doctor, enabling intervention where required or simply making regular appointments more efficient.

Digital treatment & diagnostics

Digital treatment and diagnostics is the ability to go beyond virtual consultation to actually deliver diagnosis or treatment remotely as good or better than those achieved through traditional methods.

Other applications for digitally delivered treatment provide, for sufferers of dementia or multiple sclerosis, personal therapy plans around brain training programmes designed to slow degradation, or for those recovering from a brain injury to support recovery.

There is also the potential for solutions to be deployed preventatively, as with smartphone apps which measure the impact of stress and provides feedback or recommend exercises to combat it, reducing stress and increasing resilience.

Digital Marketplaces & Networks

Digital healthcare gives access to websites connecting individuals with medical personnel, businesses and their peers, simplifying the patient journey, enabling access to medical information and providing support.

For instance, it can help patients to find a local doctor or dentist within their insurance network, review feedback from other patients, book an appointment and fill out the relevant paperwork online.

Whilst marketplaces focus on bringing together patients and medical practitioners, online networks serve to bring together those with particular health conditions by providing helpful information online and enabling peer interaction and support..

Conclusion

In many ways the wider healthcare sector has still some way to go before it catches up with technological innovations.

At the same time new healthcare technologies are emerging which have the potential to revolutionize the way we think about medical treatment and relationships between pharmaceutical companies and healthcare professionals.

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[1] http://www.gpbullhound.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/GP-Bullhound-Digital-Healthcare-Nov-2015.pdf
[2] http://www.gpbullhound.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/GP-Bullhound-Digital-Healthcare-Nov-2015.pdf
[3] http://www.gpbullhound.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/GP-Bullhound-Digital-Healthcare-Nov-2015.pdf
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