By John Sharp, Director, Thought Advisory, Personal Connected Health Alliance, a HIMSS Innovation Company
The connected health marketplace is awash with innovation. This flood of new ideas makes it difficult to identify the “New, New Thing” that will change healthcare. Instead we see a spectrum of solutions with many use cases addressing everything from wellness to chronic conditions. However, a few significant trends stand out:
1. Near Global Access to Mobile Phone Technology
In 2014, it was projected that the number of adults with cell phone in 2020 would be 80% globally. Its recently been reported that 96% have access to cell phones, far beyond expectations a few years ago. And it’s not just wealthy countries with citizens looking at their phones 200 times a day, but in some African countries where citizens use cell phones as a universal payment system. Soon to enhance the mobile phone’s capabilities is the deployment of 5G networks. This level of adoption has the potential for delivering health information and intervention on a massive scale.
2. Behavior Change
The digitalization of the successful Diabetes Prevention Program from the Center for Disease Control has led to growth in digital health companies creating effective behavior change apps supported by virtual coaching and wearables. The application of behavior science to these digital interventions proves itself through the development of real world evidence. Now these companies are moving into other chronic conditions to effect broader management of health conditions.
3. Digital Biomarkers
Due to the increased reliability of wearables and other IoT devices, the field of biomarkers has expanded from blood tests and clinical observation to digital exhaust from devices. The use of these devices is now enabling more effective and efficient research protocols. Also, ongoing monitoring of chronic conditions is becoming more pervasive with the potential to prevent hospital admissions and ER visits by predicting deterioration before it happens.
4. Expanded Use of Artificial Intelligence
While AI and machine learning have been part of computer science for many years, their application to health and healthcare has just hit a fever pitch. Many scholars and research organizations are finding ways to apply AI to clinical decision support, predictive analytics and new treatments. The American Medical Association prefers the term Augmented Intelligence to emphasize how data analysis can assist in clinical decision-making. Others are raising red flags about the potential for harm or prejudice in the use of AI. Government agencies are working on how to regulate this new, fast-moving field. But overall, the applications of AI from improving/assisting radiology interpretation to predicting or diagnosing conditions has greater potential than ever.