3 Burning Questions in Digital Health

Sarah Pollet
February 15, 2013

What is digital health?
Digital health is mainframe turned mobile, and it hit its cardinal stride in the crosswalk between technology and medicine. Now, it’s everywhere.

From sensors to apps to platforms, most of the wireless tools that aim to make you healthier fall under the digital health umbrella. Sometimes referred to as mHealth, mobile health, eHealth, telemedicine, connected health, telehealth, health IT, wireless health, and health 2.0, the categories that best and most comprehensively define the digital health domain are:

  • Personal health tools and tracking
  • EMR/EHR
  • Hospital Administration
  • Data / analytics
  • Consumer health engagement
  • Telemedicine

What is the goal of digital health?
The digital health charge is to use modern technology to improve population level health outcomes by solving clinical and systemic problems. This objective can take many forms, from addressing inefficiencies in the healthcare system to refining the patient/provider interfaces with health information systems. The long-range goal is to connect disparate components of the healthcare establishment in an effort to improve clinical quality and safety while also expanding the reach of preventative health outside of traditional healthcare settings. As medicine moves beyond its relatively siloed clinical walls and extends itself into consumer smartphones and tablets, patients are increasingly accessing health information and managing their health from the comfort of their homes, cars, and workplaces. With smartphone penetration at an all-time high, this shift presents a rich opportunity to touch patient lives in unparalleled ways.

Who drives the digital health movement?
Digital health finds and leverages talent beyond academic medical centers and hospitals. A successful digital health business requires a collaborative approach, with expertise lent from the likes of clinicians, designers, data scientists, investors and entrepreneurs.

Those who make early investments are reaping the rewards by endowing startups and developers with the resources necessary to disrupt the stagnant parts of healthcare. This industrious venture model pairs entrepreneurs and investors, leading to idea execution that is both principled and profitable.

The incubator is a prime example of where and how this union becomes extraordinarily fruitful. This may just be the decade of the digital health accelerator. These programs are cropping up all over the world as powerful engines for change. They provide expert support–helping entrepreneurs create and execute business plans, teaching companies how to gain consumer traction and engage patients, and introducing startups to investors who believe in their team and vision.

Digital health is the true frontier. It’s not about wants or desires – it’s about meeting needs in a market where innovation is the only relevant currency.