First, I will define digital health/healthtech/health 2.0 as products and services that rely on using the Internet and digital data (versus paper or physical contact/in-person consultations), to better the overall physical or mental health of an individual. This does not include medical devices or pharmaceutical.
The major trends for 2017 include using information technology and Internet, of which mobile is a significant component, to do the tasks that patients and physicians or other service providers would ordinarily do, but at a faster, cheaper, and larger scale i.e. to reach a global network without incurring added costs of time and money. Unlike in other industries, healthcare does not allow immediate and ground-breaking leaps in the use of information technology to do new and powerful things that were otherwise not already possible, for example, offering a treatment or diagnosing using the Internet.
Healthcare does not allow immediate and ground-breaking leaps in the use of information technology.
A few years ago, as an early stage startup investor in Boston, I came across technologies that proposed to use video games to treat Attention Deficit Disorder, or rely on patterns in mobile phone usage to diagnose and manage depression, or leverage the iPhone camera to send images to ophthalmologists to diagnose eye infections in rural India, or attach monitors to cell phones as an electrocardiogram device.
These innovations tread on diagnosing and treating, and must be tempered by regulation and clinical trial validations before adopted use. This is beyond what digital health/healthtech/health 2.0 can reasonably promise to deliver, as the intricacies of the healthcare and legal landscape intervene.
The success of such innovations, measured by adoption and use in the clinical world, is yet to be seen.
However, leveraging technology to improve performance of products and services that already exist, and that improve healthcare delivery as it exists today, is a fair game for digital health/healthtech/health 2.0. This can be boiled down to some key trends.
Let’s look at the first one:
Trend #1 – Increasing access to expertise
There are only a few hundred or few thousand experts in any given clinical indication/disease. These experts are limited to a few expert centers usually in large cities in the developed world. Using digital transcription of clinical information and medical reports, and the Internet via email and mobile application, these experts can provide their opinions to patients around the world.
My company, Navya, provides one such avenue for cancer patients to receive online expert opinions on the next best step in the management of their care. So far patients from 42 countries, including 20 developing countries in Asia and Africa, have availed the service.
Technology systems and online service enable the bridging of access to world leading experts who today provide opinions locally but can now also provide opinions to patients in Fiji, Mozambique, Russia, China, and in any corner of the world.
I will discuss another trend in the next post.
– Gitika Srivastava
Online Expert Opinion: Navya.Care