The trends driving digital health’s future

 In Healthcare Trends

Digital health products offer medical professionals and patients enhanced visibility into a broad range of crucial data, delivering opportunities to improve diagnostic testing, prevention efforts and treatment adherence. As fresh innovations emerge on the market, medical devices open new possibilities for capturing those findings and putting them to work. In the years to come, the uses of wearables and other digital products will continue to shift and expand producing major implications for manufacturers and for healthcare outcomes.

Keeping tabs on the latest trends in digital health provides a peek into what the future could hold for new devices and their clinical applications. Healthcare technology offers endless potential for exciting advances and results that could save and improve lives. By building development efforts and a medical design process with an eye toward how the industry will change over the next five or ten years, manufacturers position themselves on the front lines of digital transformation.

Speeding up time-to-market

"The FDA is establishing a new approach to considering high-priority devices."

One change that looks likely to have a huge impact on the future of digital health is a smoother path to approval or clearance by U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The passage of the 21st Century Cures Act in late 2016 was one major step in the direction of making it quicker and easier to move innovative medical products through the review process. That legislation called for the FDA to establish a new approach to considering high-priority devices while establishing that certain types of medical software would not be identified as devices at all.

Since then, the new head of the FDA, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, has indicated in a blog post his plans to institute guidelines that get new digital health products out to patients on an accelerated timetable. The measures he has proposed include setting up a third-party certification program, fast-tracking clearance for low-risk medical devices submitted by firms that have demonstrated scrupulous attention to testing and safety. As it becomes easier to bring new digital health products to market, manufacturers can seize the opportunity to move forward by introducing new functions and improving accuracy. 

Empowering patients and doctors

Digital health devices are providing the means to move toward greater transparency in monitoring, diagnostics and treatment. Simple, elegant medical interface design puts the information providers need at their fingertips in the moment when it matters most. Meanwhile, human factors engineering is becoming an increasingly vital part of the medical design process, resulting in tools that are ergonomic and intuitive.

These advances will gradually enable more collaboration among providers, integrating specialized care with general health services. There are still issues to sort out in regard to protecting patient privacy and meeting requirements for patient reimbursement. However, as the necessary standards and infrastructure go into place, digital medical devices will allow efficient sharing of data that leads to patient-by-patient attention from healthcare professionals.

At the same time, increased clinical use of products like wearable devices could result in patients feeling in control over their own treatment and prevention efforts. With information gathered from their everyday lives outside of the clinic, they may develop a sense of ownership over their own medical data. That empowerment has the chance to bring about stricter adherence to treatment and more successful long-term results.

New possibilities for remote care

Connected technology has already made remote work and education routine parts of many people's lives. Digital medical products will have an important role to play in delivering high-quality care from a distance. According to a report from Berg Insights, over 7 million patients around the world already use monitoring systems in their care.

The majority of the systems are used for either monitoring sleep therapy or cardiac rhythm. However, the applications for such an arrangement will only expand as more devices appear with added functionality and optimized for tracking a variety of health concerns. Products that are already available perform tasks like checking blood glucose levels and reminding patients to stick with their complex medication regimens.

These types of devices are making it more convenient for people to stay on top of their own healthcare needs. Over the course of the next several years, they could be especially important for extending quality services to remote and underserved areas.

Digital health products could enable new insights into diagnostic scans.Digital health products could enable fresh insights into diagnostic scans.

Unlocking the power of artificial intelligence

Almost every industry has been somehow affected by the emergence of cognitive computing as a way of developing systems that adapt to real-world conditions and evolve over time. Medical devices are already drawing on machine learning algorithms, aiding doctors in arriving at diagnoses based on imaging and performing robot-assisted surgery. As the capabilities of artificial intelligence continue to grow, they will take on a more significant role in the everyday use of medical products.

Applying AI to healthcare will lead to greater efficiency in how doctors share data and put together treatment plans. The power to sort through extensive patient records in the fraction of the time it would take a human will offer a huge advantage. Contact between individuals and medical professionals will remain central to consultations and treatment, but AI could make those interactions better-focused and more productive.

Digital health products have a future rich with opportunities for improving people's lives. By staying attentive to current trends in how devices are used for diagnosis, treatment and prevention, manufacturers can take hold of those chances, developing the ideas that usher in a revolutionary new era for connected medicine.

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