Get Ready for the Digital Health Revolution
By Moiz Kasubhai, MD
After a contentious brainstorming meeting at his new job, John pulls out his smartphone, opens a Digital Health App, and looks at the screen. Within a minute, it informs him of his heart rate, oxygen saturation, blood pressure, stress levels, and other indicators without any wearables. He opens another App and talks into it, and within 20 seconds, it informs him if he has depression or anxiety. Fortunately, all his parameters are well, and he has low-stress levels. However, he has been feeling intermittently short of breath, and the sensors on his shirt inform him that his asthma is acting up, not his heart failure. After a few puffs of his inhaler, he is well again.
When much of the industrial world has been in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, healthcare has lagged. Not anymore, however. The revolution is on, and the vast potential to support wellness and improve our ability to prevent, diagnose, reverse and control many chronic diseases has been belatedly recognized.
What is this Digital Health? Simply put, it the use technology tools for measurement and intervention to benefit our health. It uses wearables, non-wearables, audio/video-assisted diagnosis, chatbots, virtual and augmented reality, and advanced analytics to manage wellness. These tools help patients receive results, for example, blood sugar levels within seconds, and algorithmic results from extensive data not possible to be analyzed by humans, for example, genomic data, much faster. Digital Health places the patient in the center to make informed decisions in collaboration with all stakeholders, such as Physicians, Insurers, and Care Managers for health decisions and Pharmaceutical Industry and Physician Scientists for research.
Why now? Healthcare has been extraordinarily successful in providing evidence-based guidelines with multiple and growing interventions for chronic diseases. Nevertheless, the prevalence of chronic diseases continues to grow, and costs to our citizens are unsustainable in the long run. The missing link in successful prevention has been the patient. Digital Health empowers the patient, providing them the tools and artificial intelligence and machine learning curated data to make their healthiest decisions. With their curated data on their smartphones, they can connect virtually to any global experts or organization for personalized care, correct any medication errors, ensure accuracy of their records, share it with their caretaker, and get virtual second opinions. These technologies will reduce inefficiencies, costs, errors and improve quality.
Your health will soon be literally in the palm of your hands, on your smartphone. Portable for anyone to look at with your permission, it is analyzed, curated, and owned by and for you. With further validation using evidence-based analytical models and 5G connectivity, it will assist you in your wellness, alert you when you are likely to get sick, and how to access the best care, and even better, how the best care can come to you (think drones and virtual robotic surgeries).
With the transparency of data and self-empowerment of patients, there is an ongoing paradigm shift from patients being just recipients of care to now being active collaborators and decision-makers. Digital Health has planted the first seeds of personalized care, and we should all be ready to take it on.