Let me guess: you’ve probably been hearing a lot of chatter about digital health recently. It’s a widely-used buzzword in the tech industry, and is growing at an exponential rate—in the past 7 years, annual funding for digital health companies has increased from $1.1 billion to $7.9 billion.
But let’s dig deeper: what does this term really mean? And how can digital health benefit both patients and providers?
Digital health is the use of technological innovations—from smartphones to genome editing and 3-D printing—in the healthcare field. The effects of digital health have reshaped and modernized the healthcare landscape. Already, technology has been leveraged to improve care outcomes and streamline the healthcare process, making processes far more efficient.
We’d like to highlight some examples of the most disruptive forces in digital health. These innovative applications of digital health are living proof of how technology is making healthcare better and more accessible.
Ohio Living Home and Hospice made a bold move in equipping their patients with tablets, but it paid off in dividends. Using software pre-downloaded onto their tablets, patients diagnosed with chronic diseases were able to track their vital signs, receive medication reminders, and more. After seeing the success of this initial program, the living home continued its foray into the field of telehealth by introducing a dedicated telehealth nurse. This nurse is around to monitor alerts, answer questions, and provide emotional support for patients.
Thanks to their efforts in telehealth, the living home reduced their readmission rate to 7.5%, which is about half of the state’s Medicare average. Giving patients 24/7 access to their own data empowered them to take control of their care, as patients were able to ask questions and reach out to the nurse whenever they noticed anything unusual. The telehealth system created a true patient-nurse partnership that yielded great results: the company saved significant money while also improving care outcomes. Hopefully, they’ll lead by example and encourage other living homes to also pursue telehealth as a means of improving patient satisfaction and well-being.
2. Paperwork Reduction
An Atlanta orthopedic practice introduced a digital assistant to take notes for doctors, saving physicians up to an hour of administrative work every day. The assistant, nicknamed “Suki,” is powered by artificial intelligence and is able to process any voice commands. What sets Suki apart is its ability to learn a clinician’s nuanced ways of speaking over time. Eventually, Suki is able to complete notes with little to no input from the doctor.
Suki has been a massive success for AtlantaOrtho. The average note-completion time has dropped from 4.8 to 1.6 minutes per note, saving doctors valuable time: the clinic estimates that over the course of a day, this could save physicians an entire hour. Decreasing the administrative burden on providers is key in freeing them up to see more patients and, over time, reducing burnout.
AtlantaOrtho prides itself on its openness to new technology that can enhance the patient-provider experience, and we applaud their receptiveness to change.
3. Cross-Cultural Communication
New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital serves a diverse population of both New York residents and international patients who flock to the world-renowned hospital. To help providers better understand their patients’ needs, they implemented a new system of language interpretation, integrating a video interface with an app.
Now, the care providers at Mount Sinai can communicate with patients in over 150 different languages, most frequently Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Bengali. Equipped with their new technology, they have the ability and flexibility to provide an Interpreter on Wheels on every floor of the hospital. The tools proved especially handy in the pediatric ward, where many children’s parents did not speak English.
Mount Sinai is using advanced technology to break down language barriers and improve patient access to care, and we are fully behind these efforts!
4. Streamlining EHRs
Vanderbilt University Medical Center developed a voice assistant that helps caregivers more easily retrieve information from the EHR, creating a 15% improvement in task-time savings. Not only is it more efficient, but as a pleasant surprise, it also helps humanize the patient-physician relationship! When doctors aren’t constantly turning away from their patients to search an EHR, they can remain more engaged and present in the conversation at hand.
EHRs have a reputation for being complicated, and let’s be real: care providers don’t want to hunt through EHRs to find the needed information. It can reduce the amount of time they have to see patients, and in the long run, administrative difficulty such as this can increase physician burnout. Vanderbilt’s innovative solution to these problems is a true game-changer.
5. Supporting Health via Apps
There are countless apps available at our fingertips that can help improve patients’ health and well-being. These include Hello MD, Fitbit, Google Fit, My Fitness Pal, Doctors on Demand, Pill Pack, and thousands more. Mobile health apps cover every various points along the entire care journey, presenting a valuable tool to patients and challenging the notion of the traditional medical visit. With an app right at their fingertips, patients can now track their weight loss, check their blood pressure, get medication reminders, track their fertility, and so much more.
MarketWatch projects the global health app market to reach $94.14 billion in revenue by 2023. This growth also reflects how digital health is being used across the world: MarketWatch attributes a portion of this growth to “growing opportunities in developing economies,” showing that digital health is reaching new markets and expanding globally. The implications of this projection are clear: the growth of mobile-centered healthcare is not slowing down anytime soon.
It’s clear that digital health contains endless possibilities. What’s more, these solutions can complement and build on each other, fueling more progress. At the end of the day, we believe that integrating digital health solutions will increase efficiency and ensure that more patients have access to convenient, effective care. Digital health is continuously growing, and we at Luma Health eagerly anticipate and welcome the newest developments in the field.
For more on digital health, head over to our monthly “Healthcare Hot Takes” column for our rundown of the latest advances in healthcare. Or check out our Twitter @LumaHealthHQ, where we share noteworthy innovations in digital health!