Whilst conducting my weekly google search to find out the latest in digital healthcare, I came across an interesting article entitled “Predictive medicine is the new frontier in health care”, by Laurent Marini hosted on The National.
In the article, he talks about the upcoming World Health Day, which this year will be focusing on Depression. With a nod to digital health, Laurent then goes on to discuss how new health technology, in particular, the use of data could impact the diagnosis and treatment of diseases like depression.
The advantages of digital technology on healthcare are numerous. Not only does it empower the patient, it leads to faster diagnosis and more effective treatment; improved access to treatment and helps reduce the cost of medicine. This intersection of genomics and digital technology is making Personalized or Precision Medicine a reality. Largely thanks to the ‘Precision Medicine Initiative’, started by President Barack Obama in 2015, the idea of individualized medicine is now at the forefront of research, and also the patient’s mind.
Genomics and Precision Medicine
Genomics and the idea of Precision (or Personalized) Medicine have ignited research and investment in healthcare.
What is Genomics?
Genomics is the study of genomes. This interdisciplinary discipline of molecular biology looks to study the structure, evolution, and most importantly, the mapping of genomes. This mapping builds up a unique picture of an individual’s DNA.
What is Precision Medicine?
“Precision medicine is an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle for each person.” — National Insitute of Health
Essentially Precision Medicine is looking to treat a patient as an individual, based on their genomes.
What is truly exciting about Genomics and Precision Medicine is the quantity of data that we now have at our fingertips. According to the American Medical Informatics Association, the volume of health is likely to increase 50x between 2012 and 2020.
This data has allowed us to understand the human genetic code at an unprecedented level. It has opened up new fields of drug therapy, like Gene Therapy, which has given hope to many. The data has also impacted the marketing and customer service of the healthcare industry, forcing a customer-centric transformation as the on-demand patient becomes more empowered.
All of this research has led to the potential of Predictive Medicine.
What is Predictive Medicine?
“Predictive medicine is a branch of medicine that aims to identify patients at risk of developing a disease, thereby enabling either prevention or early treatment of that disease. Either single or more commonly multiple analyses are used to identify markers of future disposition to a disease.” — Nature
The impact of data will have the most profound effect in medicine. The potential to be able to identify at-risk patients before the presentation of symptoms, will not only impact the individual and their loved ones but also help lower costs.
Why is the Future of Medicine Digital?
Thanks to digital tools, we are able to leverage this incredible pool of data. Digitization and mobility are revolutionizing healthcare. The NIH defines Digital Health as:
“Digital health is defined as the “use of information and communications technologies to improve human health, healthcare services, and wellness for individuals and across populations.” — NCBI | NIH
As individuals, in recent years thanks to technology like the Apple Health App or FitBit, we are now empowered to monitor our health. According to the Digital Health Consumer Report of 2015, undertaken by Rock Health, digital health technology has been adopted by 80% consumers. This equates to around 4.5 billion people worldwide! Known now as mHealth apps, this technology has empowered the patient and facilitated the collection of an unprecedented amount of data. Big Data. By smartly using data analytics healthcare providers will be able to target, attract, and retain increasingly well-informed patients at the ‘moment of healthcare need.’
Technology has opened up an incredible opportunity for healthcare to follow in the footsteps of more traditional ‘consumer’ based industries and revolutionize the patient experience and therefore, the very practice of medicine itself.
As we enter into the new paradigm of the on-demand patient, health care is shifting focus towards a value-based delivery of service. This is allowing for digital officers in healthcare to focus on improving the patient experience, and use the data to control health care costs such as health insurance premiums and higher deductibles.
Challenges of Digital Health
There are, of course, several challenges facing digital health practitioners. Firstly, the unpredictable future of the healthcare industry as, despite the initial failure of the AHCA, Trump’s administration looks to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
With the implementation of any new technology, comes a period of adjustment. Learning to manage new processes, systems, and structures is never without its difficulties. The integration of new technology always has its pitfalls. For example, EMR technology does not currently talk to telemedicine systems or remote sensing data platforms effectively.
Wireless Medical Devices, Mobile Medical Apps are very clever, and very effective data collection tools. With the wealth of data that is out there, concerns over data protection and cyber security have arisen. This is a particularly sensitive area in the medicine as the data in question is highly personal. The news is often littered with stories of hacking. Healthcare Providers have to find a way to answer the data concerns of the on-demand patient before these tools are likely to be widely accepted.
Relationship with Technology Providers
Healthcare has the benefit of hindsight and can learn from the challenges from other consumer-centric industries who are ahead on the road to digital transformation. One such hurdle is the relationship between the technology provider and the end-user. Healthcare providers need to be central to tech research and development from an early-stage. Tech entrepreneurs need to forge partnerships with local health systems, to connect with healthcare leaders to ensure that their technology answers the needs of the industry. With healthcare eagerly seeking new opportunities to tackle chronic disease, digital health offers a range of potential solutions.
It’s not possible to discuss health care without mentioning regulation. As the most heavily regulated industry (for good reason), the emergence of digital tools will force the FDA and other regulatory bodies to rethink their current policies. The FDA and CDRH have already established the Digital Health Program to encourage innovation in this area and provide regulatory clarity.
Who will Pay?
Who will pay for all this innovation? Digital healthcare has the potential to drastically reduce costs. Predictive Medicine will further reduce costs, by pre-empting disease. Health insurers have begun investing in the digital health space. From 2011–2016, over $900 million was invested in digital health startups. Both healthcare providers and payers are behind digital health. Health plans do cover some of these digital advancements, for example, Telemedicine is seen as a cost-effective solution.
ABOUT HEALTHCARE PAYERS TRANSFORMATION ASSEMBLY
The Millennium Alliance is pleased to announce that application for our biannual Healthcare Payers Transformation Assembly is now open. North America’s most prominent IT and business leaders from the Healthcare Insurance industry will be gathering on May 15–16, 2017 at The Biltmore Hotel in Miami, FL, to discuss how to adapt to the industry’s customer-centric makeover.
Technological advances in genomics, personalized healthcare, AI (and more!), coupled with consumer demand for greater price transparency, have changed the face of healthcare in North America. The need for the Healthcare Insurance industry to adapt has never been greater.
Join industry heavyweights like Henry Chao, Retired CIO & CTO, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services across a series of executive education roundtables, keynote presentations, collaborative think tanks, educational workshops, and networking sessions offering insight into industry-specific topics and trends, helping you stay one step ahead.
This is not just another “Healthcare” event. Spaces are reserved for the best in the business. Enquire about attendance here!
Our agendas and attendee lists are for Millennium Members only. Apply today for access!
PAST HEALTHCARE PAYERS TRANSFORMATION SPEAKERS INCLUDE:
Aetna CEO, Aetna Better Health of Illinois
AmeriHealth SVP & Corporate Chief Medical Officer
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Chief Technology Officer
Blue Shield of California VP, Chief Innovation & Clinical Care Officer
CareOregon President & CEO
Cambia Health Solutions VP, Cloud & Consumer Technology
Humana President, Small & Large Markets
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center UPMC Chief Information Officer