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What is Digital Health?
Digital health is the merging of digital technologies with health, healthcare, living, and society to enhance the efficiency of healthcare delivery and to make medicine more personalised and precise.
With the rise of cheaper personal electronics and advancements into machine learning and AI to analyse large amounts of data, the Digital Health market is expected to increase nearly six times in size by 2026 to nearly $640 billion.
Digital Health includes both hardware and software solutions and is roughly broken down into three categories: telemedicine, wearable devices, augmented and virtual reality.
Telemedicine is the broadest area of digital health. It covers the digitisation of patient records, remote care, booking appointments, self-symptom checking and many more solutions. Digital and remote clinics are commonly used to provide quick, nonurgent consultations that save both the doctor and the patient time.
Telemedicine also covers online health records. Because both patient and doctor have access to the relevant information at all times, the data can be analysed in real-time using Big Data analysis techniques to create better and smarter treatment plans. This paves the way for a more personalised healthcare system, where patients better understand their conditions and could result in more positive outcomes.
Wearable Technologies come in many forms, including smartwatches and on-body sensors. Smartwatches were one of the first widely accepted wearable devices to promote self-monitoring and were typically associated with fitness tracking. Many of these devices were used to record health-related data, such as body mass index, calories burnt, heart rate, physical activity patterns.
Beyond smartwatches, companies are developing smart-related bodywear, like patches, clothes, and accessories, to administer "on-demand drug release". This technology can expand into smart implants for both severe and non-severe medical cases, where doctors will be able to create better, dynamic treatment protocols that would not have been possible without such mobile technology.
These wearable technologies are able to gather data on patients at all times during the day. Since doctors no longer need to have their patients come into the office to collect the necessary data, the data can lead to better treatment plans and patient monitoring.
Doctors will have a better knowledge of how well a certain medication is performing. They will also be able to continuously learn from this data and improve upon their original treatment plans to intervene when needed.
Augmented and virtual reality
Augmented Reality (AR) technology enhances real-world experiences with computerized sensory information and is used to build smart devices for healthcare professionals. Since the majority of patient-related information now comes from hand-held devices, smart glasses provide a new, hands-free augmented way for a doctor to view their patient's medical history. The applications of this technology can extend into data-driven diagnosis, augmented patient documentation, or even enhanced treatment plans, all by wearing a pair of smart glasses when treating a patient.
Another similar technology space is Virtual Reality (VR), which creates interactive simulations that mimic real-life scenarios and can be tailored for personalized treatments. Many stroke victims lose range of motion and repeated actions and the length of therapy are the two main factors that show positive progress towards recovery.
Virtual Reality technologies can create various 3D environments that are difficult to replicate in real life but are necessary to help patients retrain their motor movements. These simulations can not only target specific body parts but can also increase in intensity as the patient improves and requires more challenging tasks.
The Digital Health Industry
Over the past decade, $33 billion in investment has been given to over 1,200 companies that exclusively focus on digital health and this number continues to rapidly grow.
Of these 1,200 companies, most (73.2%) have a focus on the management of disease, while the minority has a focus on prevention (23.8%) or detection (13.0%).
Wearables and biosensors are the most commonly used specific digital health technology devices. These technologies, first validated to detect or monitor a specific condition, may be repurposed to prevent that condition by identifying early warning signs.
For example, in the past two years, the US Food and Drug Administration cleared medical devices such as wearable glucose monitors that targeted diabetics.
As such technologies become less invasive, they could be validated in healthy people at risk of developing diabetes to identify glucose indicators that predict disease onset, thereby enabling targeted lifestyle and medication prevention strategies.
Top Digital Health Companies
3. Butterfly Network
8. Oscar Health
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