There’s an old Buddhist maxim, “what you look upon grows.” In the past eight years, everyone in the tech industry has looked upon digital health, and boy, has it grown. Indeed, it has actually begun to disrupt the last industry to be disrupted by digitization — health care.
The Health 2.0 Conference, which I’ve attended every year since it started, has grown from one room in a small San Francisco Hotel, to the Santa Clara Convention Center. In 2007 the startups were companies like Diabetes Mine, Patients Like Me, MedHealth, and Healthline– blogs and social networks for patient empowerment started by desperate patients or geek doctors. They were the pioneers with the arrows in their backs, and no hope of funding.
Though those pioneers are still ongoing, we’ve gone way beyond them. Health 2.0 companies are still defined as adaptable,focused on the user experience, and focused on improving the patient experience. But there are now also data utility layers,from Microsoft Health Vault to RunKeeper.
Today there are at least 3000 funded companies in the digital health space all over the world. Although most are still consumer-facing, there are quite a few provider-facing as well, and some patient—provider communications and b2b administrative tools are starting to take hold.
Here are some major trends that have come into existence over the past five years.
Self-tracking goes mainstream. Consumers are getting engaged because they’re mobile, and sensors are embedded in 1.5b smartphones, enabling the continual passive accumulation of data. The Internet of Things, with its connected scales and refrigerators, will accelerate that data aggregation. Even this early, large minorities of people are using tools for tracking themselves (about 25%). This pressures the health care system to harness this data and make it useful, and the aggregation of patient-generated data is being introduced into the patient-provider discussion.
Augmented Reality is a Reality. Building a more effective health system involves adopting practices and procedures once inimical to health care: convenience for the consumer. Uber has demonstrated that making a micro-change in convenience makes macro changes in consumer expectations.and startups are beginning to say they are trying to be “the Uber of Health Care.” Customers are expecting the Uber experience, which presupposes seamless connection with providers, and diagnoses and examinations via smart phone. New tools like Smart Vision Labs can examine your eyes over the phone or use one tube of drawn blood to diagnose hundreds of diseases.
Health Systems Are Opening Up to Patients Traditionally, consumers were not given access to their medical information, but this is slowly changing through secure medical portals and EHRs with consumer interfaces.
Unmentionables Expand the Definition of Health: Many things that impact your health are not usually talked about in health visits. But now, it’s becoming common to speak about the role of such unmentionables as stress at work, drugs, and sex in personal health. Factors outside the common clinical realm can now be factored in, like whether the patient lives in a food desert, or a city whose pollution can be correlated with the incidence of heart disease.
Federal Interest Opens up New Markets . The biggest health care payer is the government. Seeking to drive costs down, it has become increasingly responsive to patient empowerment and to new tools for patient communication.
It’s not about innovation anymore; it’s about integrating what’s already out there. Fifteen year old eClinical works, a pioneer in the provider space with its cloud-based EHR, has now released a patient-facing solution under the name Healo. Healo is an app that aggregates the data from your wearables, the prescriptions from your doctor, appointment reminders, prescription reminders,and even televisits from doctors and coaches.