Investing in Digital Health Can Build the Next Great Health Care Companies

January 5, 2017

The goal of digital health is simple: develop solutions that give consumers access to affordable and higher quality care, allow providers to report improved outcomes and lower overall costs. Consumers are increasingly engaging in digital health tools, as shown in a new survey “50 things we now know about digital health consumers.” The survey results, published by RockHealth, show consumers are adopting digital health tools at a record rate with 46 percent of them using three or more categories of digital health tools such as telemedicine, wearables and online reviews. Combine this with management consulting firm Oliver Wyman’s “Ten Digital Ideas” prediction that up to $530 billion in annual health spending can be eliminated if consumers embrace a digital health care model, and 2017 is shaping up to be a big year for innovation in digital health.

What will the digital health tools be that advance the industry and the health care model in 2017? Predictions include the following areas of focus:

1. Wearable and In-Home Devices

Further development of wearable devices and in-home devices that collect consumer data. Consumers can self-monitor with this data to make healthy choices, and providers can use it for analysis and identification of health triggers and risks. For example, a wearable device can give consumers healthy-living prompts such as moving around, drinking water or taking medication. They can also be used to convey important information, such as blood pressure and temperature, that doctors can use via telemedicine consultations. As Redox points out in their "7 Bold Predictions for Healthcare in 2017," just as thermometers were a key part of home first aid kits, accessible consumer-facing devices that give providers clinical-grade information could become just as universal.

2. Integrated Health Care Platforms

Development of platforms that allow multiple technologies to work together to improve coordination of care and increase consumer engagement. According to Accenture's "Digital Health Technology Vision 2016", in health care, platforms have the potential to link patients, providers and health plans for a more connected experience. This could be one central place where consumers can book an appointment, check their electronic medical record or pay an out-of-pocket expense.

3. Disruptive Solutions Outside of Health Care

More health care solutions will come from disruptive solutions developed outside the industry. Redox points to the example of Pokemon Go and how effective a good video game was in motivating people to get up and move. This disruption was in video gaming on smartphones, but its lessons can be applied to health care, which has struggled with making gamification appealing to consumers. “Accenture’s top five digital health trends for 2016” in MobiHealthNews highlights another example of disruptive solutions, pointing to Uber’s disruption of the taxi industry and the company’s potential usefulness in health care in the future. For example, Uber drivers could provide rides for in-home visits or to deliver medicine.

4. Data Security and Trust

Emphasis on building trust with consumers to ensure their data is safe. The growth of digital health tools is dependent on access to data and providers are the source. In recognition of this, the American Medical Association (AMA) recently released guidelines for physicians who use and promote digital health devices. Recognizing that digital health is gaining in popularity, the AMA reminds physicians to focus on tools that are patient focused and promote care coordination, while also ensuring the tools promote patient privacy.

For Cambia, investing in digital health innovation is about using technology to transform health care and deliver value. While digital health tools are hot specifically for the technologically savvy consumer right now, future generations of health care consumers will expect tools that help them manage their health as is evidenced in prevalence of technology in younger generations, as reported by Pew Research Center in “Smartphone Ownership and Internet Usage Continues to Climb in Emerging Economies.”

Looking toward the future, and as demonstrated in the recent collaboration with Mosaic Health Solutions to create Echo Health Ventures, Cambia is supporting creative companies that are trailblazing ideas in digital health. The future of the industry depends on the confident investment in products that personalize health care, reduce costs and focus on the consumer. There are young, innovative companies working in this space that are ready to become the next great health care companies. Echo Health Ventures ensures an accelerated method for identifying and fostering these types of companies and their pioneering solutions going into 2017 and beyond. 

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