What's the Big Deal About Digital Health? Understanding This Revolution in Healthcare
With technology reaching just about every aspect of our lives, one can no longer deny that the digital revolution is already well underway. As our population’s healthcare needs evolve and our technological capabilities make great strides, the emergence of digital health should come as no surprise, either.
Digital health is shaking up the healthcare industry, affecting patients and healthcare professionals alike. It seems big changes are on the horizon, and some of them are already being felt. With all the buzz around digital health, you can’t help but wonder what everyone is so excited about.
It’s time to learn more about digital health and the tidal wave of technological transformations to come. Keep reading to hear from experts in the field about what it means for healthcare professionals and patients.
Why is everyone so excited about digital health?
First off, what exactly is digital health? Digital health is the range of services and technologies that allow patients to seek help without physically going to a hospital or clinic. In the relatively slow-moving healthcare industry, these changes have been a long time coming.
“Healthcare is often thought of as a laggard compared to other industries in the adoption of technology. The increased adoption of technology is an exciting shift that will catapult healthcare into the digital age,” says Ryan Mughal, CEO and founder of OptioSurgical.
Digital health is an umbrella term. It’s the convergence of people, connectivity, technology and information. All of these elements come together to improve healthcare operations and patient outcomes. Digital health also includes a handful of subcategories, such as health information technology, wearable devices, personalized medicine, telehealth, telemedicine and “mHealth,” or mobile health.
All of these adapted technologies comprise digital health. Together, they’re reducing costs for patients and providers, increasing efficiencies and improving the bottom line—the care patients receive. That’s precisely why digital health is exciting for so many in the healthcare community.
Digital health’s big and small effects
Digital health has the potential to shake up a lot of the healthcare industry. These changes can be felt in big and small ways. First, take a look at the small-scale improvements digital health can make.
Digital health has the potential to make waves on a small scale for patients. One major benefit is that it greatly improves access for patients. Digital health can remove many of the barriers that keep individuals from seeking professional care.
“People are busy and don’t want take time out of their day to drive to a doctor or therapist’s office unless they absolutely have to. Digital health should ultimately make access to doctors easier and less of a hassle without added drive time, the need to find a babysitter for their kids or having to leave work early,” says Heidi McBain, MA, LMFT, LPC, RPT.
Not only is this a convenience factor, but it can also help serve patients out of necessity. Some patients may not live close to many providers. They may live in sparsely populated areas with few specialists. Digital health will be especially helpful to them.
“Digital health opens up services so people are not stuck seeing doctors and therapist within their five-mile radius from home or work. They can now potentially see any doctor within the entire state where that professional is licensed,” says McBain.
This can be especially impactful for individuals living in rural areas with few healthcare options—particularly for specialized care.
Digital health also holds the potential to produce change on a larger scale for entire populations.
“The digital shift in the healthcare industry is an important trend that will impact every person in this country. Digital health has the potential to increase access to care, lower the cost of healthcare and even save lives,” says Mughal. “Digital health enables us to curb costs, improve outcomes and help millions of people.”
Digital health could cause a fundamental shift in how patients are treated in the United States—a country great at treating acute illnesses, but not so much for chronic illnesses, says Mughal.
“Digital health enables patients to take control of their treatment and catalyzes the shift toward consumer-driven healthcare. It is an important step in transitioning from a country of sick care to a country of healthcare,” Mughal adds.
This monumental shift to preventative care holds the potential to change healthcare as we know it. If digital health could shift healthcare from reactive to proactive treatment, that alone could yield an impressive array of improvements in the healthcare system, benefiting patients and providers.
“Digital health is already having a huge impact on healthcare. It has a stronger focus on preventive care through the use of digital tech devices to track health, heart rate, blood sugar, etc. These devices reduce emergency room visits and detect when a patient should go visit their provider. The use of these devices is reducing healthcare costs for patients and in turn reducing cost of care for hospital systems,” says Alexandra Bohigian of Enola Labs Software.
Some of these changes are already underway, but don’t think of this as a passing trend. Digital health is here to stay—and only more adoption of technology can be expected in the coming years.
“I expect more digital technology such as telemedicine to be incorporated into care plans in the future, and I believe this will help reduce costs for patients and increase their compliance to post-op protocol, such as medication compliance. This would make patients healthier and less prone to expensive emergency room visits, and will allow doctors to spend more time in-person with patients in need,” adds Bohigian.
Stay up to date on digital health trends
Digital health is here to stay. It’s already shaking up healthcare as we know it, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon. There’s no telling how expansive the technological advancements will be and to what extent they will alter healthcare. But one thing’s for certain: The digital revolution for healthcare is here.
You’re just beginning to learn about the possibilities of digital health and all the changes to come in the industry. Stick along for the ride and check out our article, “Keeping Up with Technology in Healthcare: 10 HIT Blogs Worth Following,” to learn more about the advancements happening in healthcare today.