The Digital Health Revolution Has Arrived

original_69316This is the first in a three-part series looking at how digital health is transforming healthcare.

Digital healthcare holds the promise of saving a staggering $305 billion, according to a recently published report from Goldman Sachs. The report predicts the technology revolution will come from increasing access to diagnostic, treatment, and preventative care, coupled with dramatic cost reductions. In particular, they see significant opportunities for digitally-enabled telehealth, behavioral modification and remote patient monitoring, while much of the savings will be generated by the elimination of redundant and wasteful spending in the area of chronic disease management.

They are right, and here’s why. Digital technology has already transformed a multitude of industries including banking, travel and retail by aligning provider and consumer. Almost every aspect of our lives is being touched by digital technology; we are more ‘connected’ than ever before. Concurrently, a number of factors are driving a similar transformation in healthcare: increased consumer demand for better, more convenient, and more cost effective care; changes in reimbursement and the shift to value-based care; and of course, the availability of tools such as smartphones, tablets, wearable sensors, and portable diagnostic equipment. Thanks to a digital health ecosystem that brings it all together, the relevant data becomes available through streaming analytics, clinical decision support tools, and immediate communication back to patient and provider via mobile devices, when appropriate.

The Goldman Sachs report points to the following three specific opportunities: telehealth, behavioral modification, and remote patient monitoring. Today we dive further into this first topic: telehealth.

Telehealth applications are being driven both by consumers and providers, and are rapidly changing the way healthcare is practiced. I am seeing this with my own patients, who have busy schedules and a desire for convenience. They are asking for easy and efficient alternative methods such as secure texting and videoconferencing to connect with me outside of the traditional office visit and receive medical guidance. This model of care has gained significant traction, as evidenced by Teladoc’s 11 million consumers and its recent, very successful IPO.

There is another important and exciting aspect of telehealth: clinician-to-clinician communication. Telehealth tools enable me to reach out to fellow physicians and specialists rapidly to share and view secured, real-time patient information. This collaboration expedites my workflow and enables me to make quicker, data-driven management decisions. I have no doubt that these models of care will continue to expand and become, as the Goldman Sachs report states, a ‘viable component in daily healthcare practice.’

Check back next week to read more on other transformations in digital health.