Digital Health: It’s On


In the past you would go to the doctor’s office and when they saw you, they would carry a mess of papers documenting your medical history. Now doctors have all these medical records on tablets where they can easily access any patient’s information with a few touches on a screen. This is one of the many ways that digital health is changing our health care system.

The pressures on the practice of medicine are numerous.  From healthcare reform to the tsunami of clinical information and data, today’s providers are looking for ways to care and to cope.  Technology is an essential part of the solution.  And digital health is a central part of this equation. For the past view years some early technologies were released to begin dealing with these issues and have been growing ever since. Now investors believe that it is the time to get on board with digital health as they see in the next few years the market for digital health will explode in size. Just as many other aspects of our lives are already converted to the technology we have, so will the way we receive health care.

Paul Klingenstein, a founding partner in healthcare venture capital investment firm Aberdere, said their latest investments stand in contrast to the way Aberdare and others investing in healthcare have been doing it for years. Klingenstein explains it as a shift away from investments in companies that lead to more expensive, incrementally better healthcare to companies that provide ‘transformational technology’ that ‘tie together to drive efficiency in care for the system, for the individual, and for payers. For example information tools to help people take their drugs, information tools to gather data in doctor’s office, sensors that communicate with systems to perform analytics, and information tools to help people do clinical trials to discover drugs better.

Will Pharma Follow or Lead?

The digital health movement is growing rapidly. Almost every day we hear of new technology, apps and ideas that bring the promise of improved medical care, health and wellness. From hand-held ultrasound devices to smart phone arrhythmia monitoring, the digital health movement isn’t only about expensive pedometers and the ‘gym elite’ but about key areas in health and wellness that will have a direct impact on medical care. Pharma–for better or worse–has a seat at this table.

Yet there seems to be a bit of a disconnect between pharma and many of the innovations that are emerging. Perhaps it’s the very nature of these innovations that conflicts with the conservative pharmaceutical industry.  Perhaps it’s still a period of ‘watchful waiting’.  Or even, it could be yesterday’s brand managers, sales reps and administrators who, while caressing the piles of pills that define an industry, are just missing what many define as the next revolution since the personal computer. Whatever the case, there are many compelling reasons for pharma to embrace digital health.  If not for today, certainly in the not so distant future.pic5

Whatever the cause, pharma needs to take notice. The cases studies and talking points that drive a traditional brand detail must be rethought and redefined in the context of tomorrow’s clinical reality.  A reality that’s actually happening today.


6 thoughts on “Digital Health: It’s On

  1. This article reminds me of the info that I found for my blog post about Google Fiber. Google Fiber may be a large contributing factor to this very phenomenon that you mention in your post about improving healthcare in ways we’ve never seen before, such as video conferencing doctor’s appointments. But one thing that worries me about this phenomenon that tech could take over the pharmaceutical field is the demographic that many frequent pharmacy consumers are: the elder population. The amount of different pills and medications that my grandparents need to take each day still astounds me, and if they were to start receiving alerts via tech devices that would be a great improvement. But this elder population is the very group that seems to struggle most with technology. So would the tech really make that much of a difference if many of the consumers wouldn’t even know how to use it? Great blog!!

  2. Thanks for the post! I found the topic super interesting and I would love to keep learning more about how “digital health.” I think that this is where we should be focusing our money and efforts in terms of technology growth. This class has made me fearful of the many social impacts of Moore’s law but what I sometimes forget is that technology can be used in the most amazing ways. I think that it will be interesting to see how this field grows and to track the success of all of these new devices and ideas. Mom donated her kidney two springs ago and the surgery was done laparoscopically. I was amazing but what they were able to do with technology. This post also got me to think in the other direction. How is the growing use of technology contributing to our health? How do laptops and phones effect of body?

  3. This post is very similar to an article I read just minutes ago and one we talked about in class. The article was about a website that now has over 100 million users and it is a platform where people ask medical questions anonymously and licensed doctors answers these people’s questions usually within a few hours. This does not sound like a big deal, but often times is can save a person a trip to the doctor’s office. I agree with you completely that this move towards digital health needs to be exhausted as best it can because it would be economically smart to do so. With medicare and medicaid costing this country so much money, any savings (while not reducing quality) in healthcare would do an enormous amount of good. Like for instance, the VA hospital we talked about in class. If we could have a healthcare reform anything close to 1/10th of what that hospital did then we would be in much better shape. Healthcare will play a very important role for the U.S. in years to come so exploiting digital healthcare needs to be on the forefront of our agenda. Good post.

  4. I really liked that your bog outlined several different examples of health care moving towards the digital world. I also thought you made an interesting point that investment companies need to start changing their investment strategies away from big expensive technologies and instead move toward the more accessible and inexpensive technologies. I agree that this movement would allow technology to make a much larger impact on the health industry. I also agree that health care does need begin to accept digital health for its undeniable advantages and start implementing and developing digital health care very soon.

  5. Great post! I agree that the introduction of technology into the health care world is an extremely effective important movement of this time. This article reminds me of a blog post I read earlier in the semester about Health Care IT. It discussed that a big problem with these new technologies is that people in the hospital don’t know how to work the different technology, leading to inefficiencies. I think that if they focus on both creating these new technologies and helping workers apply them to their every day jobs, it will lead to a more productive health care system.

  6. Excellent post on digital health. There are so many exciting developments in this field in the B2B and B2C space. Telehealth, wellness applications, cloud-based on-demand services are just some of the new fields disrupting how consumer health is managed. I also wonder whether this move to digital will carry over to the pharma industry. Pharma is fairly research intensive, so I think the potential for disruption is less clear. Perhaps industry players should consider some sort of crowdsourcing program to increase their research findings throughput.

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