digital health

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella remarked earlier this year that the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic saw ’two years of digital transformation in two months‘. As the world moved to working, shopping, and socialising online, necessity drove many aspects of healthcare to being delivered remotely too. With vaccines being rolled out around the world and some countries already administering booster shots, it’s time for us to start thinking about post-COVID health care. Where should digital health go now — and what innovations and lessons from COVID-19 should we keep going forward? There’s no doubt the pandemic has accelerated digital health. Although there’s plenty of exciting digital advances, every step forward brings with it new questions for us to tackle. What role should wearables have in diagnosis? What’s next for long-term arrhythmia monitoring? It’s time for us to embrace a new era in digital health. However, for new innovations to truly work for both physicians and patients, we have to help provide answers on everything from diagnostic accuracy to managing workload. Embracing digital change A lot of the digital health changes we’ve seen over the course of the pandemic are probably permanent — especially if, as seems increasingly likely, the virus becomes endemic and never goes away completely. A different state of ‘normal’ will continue to drive ongoing digitalisation. For the most part, I view this as a good thing. To use an example from my native Australia, although we’ve had telehealth for a long time, obtaining reimbursement had been difficult for about ten years. COVID-19 quickly made it a necessity. Now doctors and patients say it’s convenient and leaves them no worse off. It’s especially useful for patients with mobility challenges, such as those whose family members may find it difficult to drive them to follow-up appointments or those living...
As the old saying goes, making predictions can be difficult – especially about the future . If you need evidence of this, think how you might have answered the question ‘Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?’ if you had been asked in 2016. But while the pandemic has delivered a harsh lesson in humility for forecasters and futurologists, it has also been a catalyst for fulfilling some of the predictions about the innovation-fuelled evolution of healthcare delivery which had been slow to take hold. The obvious example is in the use of digital tools. For years, those of us with an eye on innovation were excited by the potential of communication technologies to revolutionise everything from doctor-patient consultations and healthcare professionals’ training to wearables and mobile diagnostic apps. I’m sure I am not alone in having experienced a degree of frustration in the slow pace of change in healthcare. While digital technologies have transformed financial services, travel and entertainment, health systems often showed little appetite for disruption. As we reflect on a turbulent year, this is also a good moment to look ahead and ask what the next five to ten years may hold. I expect this to be a question that will trigger a lively discussion at the MedTech Forum where the perspectives of patients, health professionals, economists and industry will come together. Accelerating positive change Before looking ahead, let’s first take stock of where we are today. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought us immense challenges. Our social lives, our economies and our work have been radically shaken up. Our health systems, many of which are still under considerable strain, have also been turned on their heads. While many health professionals have responded with admirable agility to keep services running where possible, some are exhausted by...
This blog is part of a blog series that showcases the medtech role in the different phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read here more COVID-19 related blogs. More info on MedTech Europe's info hub . This time last year, I wrote an article on digital technologies for MedTech Week, focused on the importance of digital diagnosis. I have always been a keen advocate of digital and combining my passions for medicine and engineering is what led me here. Last year’s article was from a pre-COVID world and no-one had any idea what was around the corner. We are now in a completely different place and I wanted to relook at this and how digital tools, such as remote management, have come into the spotlight and even accelerated in use. Considering the increasing pressure on healthcare systems everywhere, digital was already becoming a mainstream solution. Who could have known just how great the need would become to keep vulnerable patients out of hospital and away from COVID? Remote management has been part of our offering for some time and key to what we do. Alongside the excellent data and very positive feedback from doctors, we’re seeing an increased demand for use. One of our diagnostic tools allows physicians to detect the risk of heart failure symptoms worsening up to 30 days in advance, so patients can be contacted and provided with support on how to manage symptoms to keep them out of hospital. Which is more important than ever for vulnerable people with long-term chronic conditions such as heart failure. When the storm began in March, there was a lot to think about as we adjusted to lockdowns, social distancing and new ways of working. We all had to think about how to adapt and most importantly, how to support customers?...
Many are probably already familiar with “Biomarkers”. This is a term usually used to describe a molecule or gene that indicates a change in a person’s health or risk of disease. As technology take’s its innovative course in healthcare, Biomarkers are going digital. Digital tools, such as smartphones, wearables and fitness trackers, continually collect health data from users. This information can offer actionable insights into the biological state of the individual, potentially offering opportunities to change behaviours or initiate treatments that can improve outcomes. I believe that Digital Biomarkers are the future of precision medicine and is offering real-world evidence of patient outcomes. This evolution is fuelled by the transition to value-based healthcare. Incentives are aligning to support continuous, proactive care across the healthcare industry. To unlock the full potential of Digital Biomarkers, it is vital that we leverage digital medicine, genomics, data science, informatics, and artificial intelligence, while tracking symptoms of disease progression, and medication adherence. Transforming this data into actionable insights can drive measurable results, and accurately predict outcomes of treatment. Real-World Value Regulators and payers are increasingly interested in the insights yielded by Digital Biomarkers. From their perspective, they can generate meaningful evidence of safety and efficacy, support marketing claims and inform reviews of clinical utility and value. Through extensive research, I have seen critical advances in machine learning, artificial intelligence, algorithm development, and statistical data modelling, which can identify useful digital surrogates. Specifically, a sub-field of machine learning has emerged with algorithms that have unprecedented representational power and the ability to discover patterns that humans are unable to find or describe. These techniques have the ability to monitor and predict personalized health outcomes for individual patients, as well as overall trends of health and disease states for patient populations. As with traditional Biomarkers, my experience is...
Medical technology companies have a lot to consider when developing new products: a successful device must address an unmet need, deliver value to users and the health system, meet regulatory standards, and so on. But many companies are neglecting a key issue which is becoming increasingly essential – digital technologies and connected devices must be compatible with existing systems. For too long, interoperability was a secondary consideration. Sometimes it was not a consideration at all. In future, this simply will not be a viable approach. I believe interoperability must become a core element of medtech product design. If your device does not connect seamlessly with other systems, you will be trying to sell a fax machine that doesn’t connect to the phone line. For users – patients, health professionals and healthcare providers – the idea of digital and connected devices that cannot sync with others is becoming unthinkable. One-off solutions are off the menu. If it doesn’t connect, it cannot scale. If it cannot scale, it doesn’t work. Avoiding duplication and errors Think about it from a patient viewpoint. They want unified access to their own data, and EU legislation makes this a right. People expect to be able to collect data from multiple organisations and multiple devices, including apps and home monitoring tools. From a health system perspective, interoperability is fast becoming a ‘no brainer’. Failure to combine data sources means missed opportunities to derive insights from artificial intelligence, for example. Worse than that, it leads to inefficiency and leaves the door open to errors. If patients, health professionals or administrative staff have to manually re-enter data, we have needless duplication which implies avoidable costs. But it also risks human error: typing mistakes can have serious consequences and some data may not be transposed at all. For European consumers,...
Back in 2018 the UK signed up, alongside thirteen other nations [1] , to the Global Digital Health Partnership (GDHP). This global network brings together governments, digital health agencies and the World Health Organization to support the use of digital technology in healthcare. The UK is pushing hard to digitise the delivery and management of healthcare. Some surveys show promising results with the UK well into the top half the league tables, although lagging the leading group – not bad for a country of 60 million people, given that most of those above the UK have relatively small populations. The government claims the National Health Service (NHS) is currently undergoing the largest digital health transformation programme in the world, with investment of more than £1 billion a year nationally (plus more from local budgets). Recently, significant funding has been announced: £160m investment to develop new diagnostic tests using AI, £250m for a new “AI Lab”, and a further £130m for new tech to tackle key disease areas. So, it wouldn’t be hard to think that all the indicators are positive. Yet despite this investment, the NHS has been accused of living in the ‘dark ages’, and ‘lagging far behind other industries’ where ‘phenomenal leaps’ towards digitisation have happened. It’s easy to compare health to retail and banking and ask why the health system lags behind other sectors. I have done it myself. However, the comparison is, of course, not straightforward. This was a hot topic at a recent gathering with senior NHS representatives during which it was outlined that the duty the NHS has to ensure that inequalities are not introduced through digitisation, alongside the low tolerance to risk, have a braking effect on developments. Nonetheless, we need to shift how care is delivered. Through new modes of communication, this...