If you are not familiar with the meaning of the phrase “ digital health”,…
you may think it is about being aware of the time you spent on any of your devices and how to reduce the scrolling, TV shows binge-watching, etc.
What digital health is actually about, is the use of technology in order to help people improve their health and wellness.
We live in a world that revolves around an increasing number and kinds of technologies.
It all started with the radio, then television came along, the computer, the smartphones…
After our everyday lives and our relationships even have been digitized, it has come the time for the digitalization of our health as well.
The aims of digital health are not unambiguous.
They include preventing disease, helping patients monitor and manage chronic conditions, lower costs of healthcare provision and making medicine more tailored to individual needs.
These aims may be beneficial not only for patients but also for healthcare providers.
It is hoped that individuals will be able to improve their lifestyle and maintain good health for longer…, if
…they gather more data on markers of their health, such as activity level or blood pressure.
Consequently, fewer visits to the physician will be needed.
Another benefit of digital health tools is the help they could provide in the identification of a new illness or the worsening of an already existing one.
This will also enable doctors to take measures in the early courses of the disease and eventually shorten its length or ease the symptoms before it is too late.
So it can be said that digital health will improve the quality of life of the patient, as well as reduce the total cost of a person’s healthcare.
The leading companies in the IT sector are, of course, aiming to be leaders in the digital health area too.
Their strategies though are a bit different from one another.
It is thought that Google has the most far-sighted strategy.
It is not the only one among its rivals that launched health-tracking wearable gadgets – the Google Wear and the health platform Fit.
Alphabet unites Google businesses and is focused on health.
It has a few companies which are completely devoted to the improvement of quality of life and longevity.
Google is also putting a serious effort into artificial intelligence for healthcare.
It is using it to identify eye disease from scans, which are usually read by doctors.
It already has a platform for health services and apps.
Besides, the functionality of the Apple Watch was expanded in order to make it more health-focused.
ECG detection feature for example.
However, Apple focuses primarily on monitoring.
The company has recently bought a medication delivery company and has plans to change the way healthcare is delivered in the US by building its own health platform.
Last but not least Microsoft and IBM are mostly focused on developing artificial intelligence which can be used to help doctors.
IBM Watson already helps physicians diagnose different types of cancer.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is developing the platform Azure that can help with the precise selection of medicines.
The biggest trend in digital health right now is probably all the wearable gadgets like FitBit, Apple Watch, and other smart bands.
With the launch of such technologies and mobile health apps, people can easily gather data on their activity level.
For example, a number of steps, minutes of exercise.
This data can be stored and compared, as well as shared.
Furthermore, digital health can be used not only to measure “lifestyle health” but to manage diseases as well.
An off-the-shelf connected blood pressure cuff can show the blood pressure levels of its user and identify what changes in everyday life are beneficial.
Also which medications improve the control over the condition.
Glucose monitors are also a thing – this way diabetics can track their blood sugar over time and know-how effective their diets and medications are.
Another opportunity which the further development of digital health can provide is to cut the cost of the appointments with the doctor.
Emergency room visits and even hospital admissions of people with these conditions.
It is expected that companies would want to benefit from all the data they have.
Health is a huge industry and it is an expensive one. Naturally, patients are looking for ways to save money.
This can happen not by treating, but by preventing disease.
Some conditions can, to a large extent, be controlled or prevented by measures taken in everyday life.
Such are high blood pressure, type II diabetes, raised cholesterol.
This is the role wearable gadgets play.
They enable people to track their activities, exercise, weight and have a better overlook on their health in general.
More innovations in the digital health area are yet to come.
But what we have for now – for example, all the wearable gadgets – helps us easily maintain a healthy lifestyle by all the data it gives us.
Suffering from an illness like high blood pressure can also be improved by digital health technologies.
They will surely improve the quality of life of the patients.
It will save them costs for healthcare as well.
But we should never forget that smartphones, apps, or even artificial intelligence can not replace the visits to the doctor.
Like blood tests and the examination devices.
Health is most important and should be taken seriously.
Always, when having worries about it, seek out professional help!
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Author: Ilina Stoyanova