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News & Press: Digital Health Observatory

Trends in Digital Health for 2018. A quick view of what’s is going on in the digital health world

15 January 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Heather Smith
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Trends in Digital Health for 2018. A quick view of what’s is going on in the digital health world

By Joan Cornet Prat, Non-Executive Director at ECHAlliance


Traditionally, innovation in healthcare has been introduced mostly by two big industries, pharma and medical devices. A big and highly regulated market for a very old industry, with massive companies that struggle to innovate from inside, and the reason therefore why so much money is being invested externally.  Why is so difficult to implement digital health innovations?  What must happen to speeding up? How far regulations and personal data laws could hinder the consolidation of the digital health market? These are the three main questions for 2018.


Source: Deloitte


1. A dark cloud on the horizon:  Policies and Regulations can threaten Innovation

We do not know yet the impact of net neutrality’s repeal announced by U.S. Federal Communications Commission, simultaneously time Food and Drug Administration pushes to speed digital innovation. This scenario will cause uncertainty during 2018.

Some of the potential negative impacts of net neutrality’s repeal on digital health include:

– Fees for Access to Stored Data Could Increase: Health organizations are already paying fees to store EHR data, and these costs could increase if they are charged higher rates to access this information.

– Remote Patient Management Could Become More Difficult: Patients who need reliable, high-speed Internet for remote monitoring, teleconsults and service delivery could face bottlenecks.


On the other side of the Atlantic, 2018 is the year for implementing the EU General Data Protection Regulation, bringing changes to how personal digital data of EU citizens is collected and managed. Because this regulation must be adapted and approved by the Member States, there is a danger of adopting substantially different rules, fragmenting the market in digital health


2. Digital Health becomes an insider in the clinical processes

Health is data. Digital health makes it possible to circulate this data safely, monitoring patients out of hospital, improving everything from sleep patterns to patient treatment. Both chronic or acute patients can be empowered and improve their health outcomes. At the same time is more safer, synchronised, saves time and avoids routine doctor visits or hospital stays.

Insurance companies have realized the value since they can reduce the amount of patient re-admissions, improve success rates for adherence and promote better health life styles.

It will take more time, but public insurers will follow suit, considering budget shortages and the increasing pressure of chronicity and aging population.

A cultural change is necessary, in order to understand that digital technologies are not a replacement for health professionals, on the contrary,  these technologies aim to increase the quality of care, with greater safety in patient follow-up.


3. Digital Health Transformation at your doorstep

Solutions in this space are looking to reduce the documentation workload and allow for a streamlining of documentation practices that will allow doctors to give their full attention to patients. It is not only about “paperless” or to have nice and powerful computers, it is about clinical processes and medical routines.  Digital transformation means transformation of the way healthcare is delivered. There is no lack of technologies, there is a lack of vision, willingness, sometimes financial resources, and ultimately, a lot of risk-adverse organizations.

It will take some time to realize the full potential of healthcare technology. Until then, it's up to the healthcare community to push for change and increase awareness of the incredible solutions out there. After all, the more we know about what tools could be at our disposal, the more we can advocate for their use.


4. Mobile Health going wild

Mobile Health is one of the main phenomena in the last decade. Despite many definitions and sometimes antagonistic concepts and opinions its, nonetheless becoming a set of strong tools focused on patient engagement, compliance, data monitoring, clinical trials and other areas.

This field is currently in its infancy, in a way it is still a “Wild West”. There are more than 250.000 health apps. Most of them without clinical validation. One of the main problems is the lack of health professionals and patient’s involvement with developers in designing and producing health apps. The truth is most of physicians and nurses have no training in mobile health or digital health, taking distance when patients approach them asking for advice about using health apps. To a certain extent, mobile health has become an intruder in clinical practice.

In 2018 looks like that there will be an official EU mHealth Hub, promoted by the European Commission, under the responsibility of WHO and ITU. This initiative could be a big step forward to a single digital health market, with knowledge transfer among countries and regions, health professionals capacitation and training, more tools to promote  the right use of digital health solutions, and making available some kind of rules or guidelines for clinical validation at European level.


5. Empathetic Health Interfaces Mature

Advances and convergence in artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Voice and related technologies accelerate the development of technologies that are more responsive, empathetic and human-like, which benefit elderly care, mental health and other areas.


6. Big Data & Analytics is delivering practical solutions

Two examples:

Dynamic Risk Stratification.”

A patient might be identified as being high risk for a certain procedure based on a history of heart disease, and we can reach that conclusion by looking at thousands and thousands of cases of similar patients. And while that data is important, it’s only part of the puzzle.

Patient-Generated Data Comes of Age

The rise of passive biometric and digital tracking technologies, improved data analysis tools and related innovations transform patient-generated data into a high-value resource. Still the main challenges are the quality of health data and a right stratification of the analytics.


7.      BLOCKCHAIN is going to happen…in healthcare

Blockchain technology is expected to benefit patients interacting with healthcare systems by reducing their waiting times and avoiding repetitive registration processes. It will reduce manual paperwork and overheads and underlying costs by providing transparent and immutable personalised healthcare records that can be accessed from anywhere in the world, Universal EMR. It’s hoped that blockchain will become the most innovative healthcare technology ever by creating a trusted peer-to-peer network for sharing information and value.


8. The Traditional Insurance Companies Model is fading away…

The enterprise-centric business model that for centuries served the industry so well is proving to be its albatross, yet most carriers seem unable to see the threat. Consumers, aided by innovative technologies and abetted by new competitors from other sectors, are insisting on a new deal. It’s a stark choice that confronts insurers: embrace and help define the new order, or eke out an existence while clinging to an increasingly underwhelming value proposition.

Banking is a good example. If you want to have a competitive edge, you must change your organization and really be consumer oriented. How long will it take to have personal insurance services from Amazon? In a world of millennials is more attractive a flexible, for short term, personalized and cheap insurances at the tip of your fingers on the smartphone.


Finally, two transversal trends you will hear a lot about in 2018…

There is a change in the business mindset. A new paradigm is taking place with a silent and quiet mood. The digital transformation is becoming a reality, in all industry sectors. Healthcare organizations won’t be the exception. Most of the public and private insurers are becoming more aware of this. Still will take some time…


9. INDUSTRY X.O. The power of digital in action

Digital technology erases business silos. Artificial intelligence, Big Data and Analytics, cloud computing, robotics, 3D printers, genomics, etc, interact and enhances new ways of delivering products and services.

The right technology combinations will vary across industries, and will change over time as technologies evolve. What’s more, the mix required to lower costs differs from that best suited to driving top-line growth. In a way it is relearning how to work and how to learn new skills.

Digital Health transformation will make the most of the experience from other industries. 


10. Customer Experience (CX).

Refers to a customer’s experience with a company or brand, at all touchpoints. A touchpoint is any way by which a customer can interact with a brand, such as when purchasing or using a product or through seeing commercials featuring it. CX design focuses on creating an optimal experience for customers at all such touchpoints.

To succeed, you must design outstanding experiences and the ecosystem to deliver them, demonstrate the business value of customer experience as a discipline, and lead its adoption across the organization.

Does customer experience sound familiar in healthcare services?


11. The most important: Don’t worry, and enjoy life in 2018. Be healthy, be digital…





Joan Cornet Prat, 

Non-Executive Director