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Brief Outlook on Digital Health: Industry Challenges and Evolution

Out of all digital health stakeholders, pharmaceutical companies have both the biggest opportunities and challenges when it comes to mobile technologies. Even though the customers and providers in the digital health industry are now divided, with the latest advances, a global shift has begun towards one another.

Oddly enough, digital health is fighting an uphill battle; as social media, mobile web development, wearables and video communications are becoming a must for each and everyone of us, patient trust becomes important as never before. Here, the industry encounters a problem: healthcare companies are often not as trusted as physicians or even insurers!

The vast majority of folks won’t be uploading vital health stats to their doctors in 2015, however an emerging market of consumers will be increasingly familiar with connected devices throughout the day, increasingly comfortable with embedded sensors tracking their locations (and their data points), and will be using different (and more) devices than they presently are,” – says Mark Bard co-founder of Digital Insights Group.

According to a recent survey by Deloitte, top-trusted entities are companies like WebMD and then… Google search. At the very bottom are pharmaceutical and payer companies. The worst part of it is that these companies actually provide the largest amount of health info. Read more about mobile application development now. “The solution is taking that info and getting those apps in a method they can believe it and trust,” – says Deloitte physician Harry Greenspun.

The digital health industry has been evolving mostly in the aspects of patient engagement tools, medication adherence, prescribable digital therapies, and next-gen types added by sensors for diagnosis and monitoring. Let’s go through each of the aspect in more detail to see where the industry is on its evolution timeline and what are the main challenges companies are to overcome.

Patient Engagement Tools

No doubt, patient engagement is one of the most important trends in healthcare and health IT. At the same time, that’s one of the largest challenges. For centuries doctors have been seeking ways to make the patients more involved into their care. Utilizing new engagement tools like electronic medical records, patient decision aid apps and others allows for deeper collaboration, more fruitful patient-doctor partnership, and, as a result – better health.

Medication Adherence

Getting patients to actually take the drugs is one of the most evident focus areas for medical companies. Brands like Johnson&Johnson and the likes have tackled this issue; at the end of the day – all the effort have the same goal – get the patients to take the medication prescribed, which ultimately results in them filling their medications more frequently and leads to sales boost for the company.

Prescribable pharma-digital therapies

While medication adherence is a big digital health opportunity, prescribable mobile-integrated therapy products are currently on the slow but sure rise. In the foreseeable future these are likely to take the form of a pharmaceutical therapy and a companion digital tool. Tracking apps, wearables, custom sensors, smartphone-connected digital health devices – or all at once. These complex solutions can then be prescribed by doctors to their patients.

Please read our interview with psychiatrist Dr. Eiring Øystein, Head of Department of Knowledge Support at Innlandet Health Trust, about their innovative eHealth app to empower patient decision making and facilitate medical research in Norway.

Sources: Medical Marketing & Media, 2014; Deloitte, 2014

Vik is our Brand Journalist and Head of Online Marketing / PR with 11+ years of international experience in IT B2B. He's also a guest blog contributor to Business2community, SitePoint, Journal of mHealth, Wearable Valley and other IT portals.