digital health

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...
A new class of therapies known as "Digital Therapeutics" is predicting and transforming measurable outcomes for the future of medical care. It is reshaping the structure and management of treatments for a complete set of chronic diseases that adhere to medical interventions driven by software and delivered by medical devices, service, and medication, while collecting, analyzing, and applying real-world evidence and product performance data. Digital Therapeutics, a subset of digital health, is evidence-based therapeutic interventions driven by high-quality software systems that prevent, manage, and treat a medical disorder or disease. Digital Therapeutics often employs strategies rooted in cognitive behavioral therapy. Digital Therapeutics harness technology to supplement or potentially replace traditional clinical therapy. Various devices complement traditional treatment by helping patients manage their condition. From my experience, Digital Therapeutics tend to fall into a variety of groups, Cognitive-Behavior Therapies (CBT) that help patients change behaviors and develop coping strategies around their condition, target lifestyle issues and or a combination with existing medication or treatments, helping patients manage their therapies and focus on ensuring the therapy delivers the best outcomes possible. One of the areas that I find most interesting is that Digital Therapeutics will augment drugs by wrap-around services and data analytics to improve overall patient outcomes. I have found that Digital Therapeutics value is to target conditions that are poorly addressed by the healthcare system of today, such as chronic diseases or neurological disorders. In addition, the delivery of Therapeutic Treatments reduces the demands on clinicians' time. The treatments frequently require a prescription and can target prevention or management of a range of conditions, often chronic diseases, while collecting emerging real-world evidence that demonstrate their value in clinical terms. Today's remote advanced technologies have provided many opportunities for healthcare organizations to enhance the overall care experience, improve the health of...
Digital health has the potential to make healthcare better for patients and for healthcare professionals, as well as to accelerate the shift towards more efficient and cost-effective ways of delivering care. It promises to make healthcare better, safer, and more centred on the patient. Yet, despite this great potential, the people I speak to – including policymakers, experts, payers, patients, healthcare professionals and of course our member companies – have a shared sense that progress is too slow. There is a growing frustration that, in some instances, we have technologies that can solve pressing problems, but we are not putting them to use. So, what’s holding us back? One of the answers I hear most often is the lack of interoperability – the capacity of information systems, devices or applications from different vendors to connect and send or receive data. In a recent MedTech Europe member survey on digital, our members identified the lack of 'common standards for interoperability and connectivity' the single most important issue to address. Interoperability in practice would mean that digital health technologies could ‘talk to’ one another; they would securely share data in ways that optimise the health of patients and populations, and make care more efficient. They would, for example, enable patients with chronic conditions to send their data to their general practitioner (GP), rather than having to go to the doctor’s office; or hospitals and GPs to access the same health record to coordinate care for a given patient; or health systems to aggregate data from different sources to derive insights and enable research. Sadly, often technologies and systems cannot connect and share data. For example, hospital staff might not be able to access information held by their patient’s GP. Two hospitals cannot exchange medical records because they run on different IT systems...