We live in very dynamic times. Changes, both awaited and unexpected, are all around us. Well, the new isn’t always good, but it’s always a driving force that makes us evolve.
Let’s travel back in time.
Cold War. The U.S. and Soviet Union struggle for gaining a larger piece of global influence. People live in fear, a lot of them strike, countries go to war, but on the other hand, science thrives. The phenomenon later described as space race results in sending the first man to the Moon.
Now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, digital health is on everyone’s lips. Will the history repeat itself and the crisis will contribute to beneficial changes again?
Coronavirus has spread to every continent and practically every state, limiting traditional health systems’ activity to test, track, contain people with suspected infection and emergencies. Meanwhile, people are still getting ill - not only with COVID-19 or heart attacks.
Many countries are waking up to the limitations of their analog healthcare system, realizing that the answer they seek has been there for a long time. To continue functioning, national healthcare systems had to undergo a substantial transformation, orchestrating an immediate shift to video consultations and telemedicine.
Yet, there is much more to digital health than this. Keep reading to find out 7 reasons why it is our, hopefully, near future. As Churchill once said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste”.
Table of contents
Rising demand for digital health
There is no doubt, the COVID-19 has triggered an unprecedented demand for digital health technology. But the groundbreaking possibilities and technologies have already been there for a couple of years.
Now, due to the extraordinary way in which medical facilities operate, people focus mainly on solutions that give remote access to medical assistance, such as live chat or video consultations with the medical personnel. Not everyone realizes this is only a very small part of digital health. It’s potential that can really make a difference lies in remote devices that enable home diagnosis and disease prevention.
But let’s come back to the present. We are not able to predict the exact results of the coronavirus crisis, and we won’t give it a try. Yet, there is one thing that we all can be certain of - the world is never going to be the same place.
Another fact: People’s behavior and habits are changing. There is a considerable probability that once patients realize the potential of digital health, they won’t like to give it up.
Already today, as many as 7/10 of Google’s searches are related to medical issues, which demonstrates that patients are ready for digital solutions. But let’s leave their expectations for a brief moment. The coronavirus crisis has clearly shown that they not only want but need them.
We were speaking about it more during STATE OF FEMTECH+ | Shaping the Future of Digital Health with Reenita Das from Frost&Sullivan, Maree Beare from Wanngi, and Debra Bass from Nuvo Cares. Watch the entire live video:
Digital means mobile
We tend to postpone doctors’ appointments. We live in a rush, trying to reconcile career and private life, taking form both as much as possible. And health? We are still young, it can wait.
Although it can’t and doesn’t have to.
The whole idea of digital health is to make healthcare more accessible, meaning convenient and safe. In many cases, there is no need for a traditional medical appointment to conduct an examination, get a diagnosis, or simply enhance health. It all can be done in the privacy of your home or any other place you’d wish.
Here’s an example:
We are incredibly proud of working on Elvie Pump, the world's first silent wearable breast pump. The pump is designed to be worn in a standard nursing bra, making it truly hands-free. This enables women to pump during a conference call, playing with kids, cooking, or simply enjoying some peace and quiet at the home.
Prevention before treatment
Modern healthcare is not only about treatment. It is also about education and prevention.
But who today has the time for regular medical examinations? I believe that it is already apparent that thanks to digital solutions no extra time needs to be devoted. A patient can take care of himself when watching Netflix or even at work.
In this place, I have to mention Elvie Trainer, the kegel exercise tracker. The device helps women improve their pelvic floor muscles, alleviate strain due to childbirth, sports injuries, or aging. Of course, they can benefit from it wherever they want, using a mobile app to operate it.
Curbing long-term healthcare costs
This paragraph is very related to the previous one. The reason for that is obvious - disease prevention is much more cost-effective and less burdensome than their treatment.
What’s more, digital health solutions can help with the challenge of overloaded hospitals or lack of medical staff. Owing to advanced devices it is possible to detect diseases at an early stage, when hospitalization isn’t required, or completely eliminating them thanks to already mentioned prevention.
Where is the catch? It will come true provided that digital health solutions are commonly used. Today, unfortunately, they are still exceptions.
You go to the clinic and have an examination. You leave and wait for 7 workdays for the results. After another 3 days, you go to the physician to collect and interpret them.
During these 10 days, your condition could have gotten worse or maybe disappear, which means that suggested treatment could not be effective or needed.
Digital health solutions provide you with real-time data. Have you heard about wearable devices that monitor your heart rate? That’s probably the least complicated example. And sure thing, you may not always know how to interpret the results - but anytime you can contact a doctor who will do that for you, e.g. via live chat.
Here I can mention Proov - the first and only FDA cleared test to confirm ovulation at home. It delivers 99% accurate results in just 5 minutes.
Access to data
Data has become a buzzword lately, but it is not why I’ve decided to write another paragraph about it. It’s the problem of access to it and its centralization, which is an important step towards holistic medicine rather than curing separated diseases.
Let’s face it. Nowadays, the medical record is stored in some secret archives or in a better case on your doctor’s computer. And no, it doesn’t mean that every hospital or medical facility has access to it. So when you are on a holiday and something bad happens, a doctor may not know that you are allergic to paracetamol.
Sounds like the previous century? Well, in many cases it’s the present, but fortunately not in always. We have a solid back-up for the statement that access for medical data can be much more convenient.
Let’s start with Sweden’s national eHealth vision, which aims to provide all residents aged 16 and above with access to all health-related information documented in county-funded health and dental care by the end of 2020.
Time to move to Germany. The county’s health ministry aims to bring electronic health records to all insured patients by 2021, with a focus on data privacy and security as the government will also introduce a law regarding electronic health records protection.
And if it’s the privacy you are concerned about when reading these words, Denmark has the answer. The Danish National Genome Center stores only one copy of each patient’s genetic data, which cannot be downloaded, copied or removed from the genome database.
Health is not only about conditions
It’s also about all the little things that make up a person’s general wellbeing. To properly evaluate one’s health, there is a need for taking into consideration such factors as:
- physical activity
- interpersonal contacts
- place of residence
It’s the context that matters. Digital health solutions help track, collect, and analyze it.
Time for mention Wanngi, an app that allows you to track and manage all of your symptoms, injuries, medications, allergies, immunisations, fitness progress, and goals all in one secure place. In other words, it’s your private (and digital) health assistant that you can carry around in your pocket.
At Untitled Kingdom we believe that digital health is one of the changes that truly make the world a better place. It may sound cliché, but many projects we have developed really have been improving people’s lives. That’s why healthcare-related solutions have been our main focus for the past several years.
Healthcare has been always a challenge. When the companies have switched to remote work, patients have switched to digital health. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the deficiencies of national healthcare systems, while at the same time demonstrating the potential for digital health.
There is one more thing we would like to emphasize. Digital health is not only a pandemic strategy - it is the essential course of development of modern healthcare.