Digital Health 2020: Time For Innovations To Mature

16 December 2019
Digital Health

Digital health treatments will continue to gain acceptance among employers, insurers, and perhaps even some government programs, and thus become broadly available. Remote patient monitoring will also begin to scale in these value-based programs as a method to monitor chronic conditions on a daily or continuous basis.

John Sharp

John Sharp, Director and Thought Advisory at the Personal Connected Health Alliance, is an adjunct faculty at the Kent State University (Health Informatics Program) and member of the Editorial Board at ICT&Health International.

Digital Health Trends in 2020 will include many patient-facing innovations. Existing trends, which are at the pilot phase, will begin to scale. For instance, virtual reality for pain control now has enough evidence to be recommended as an alternative for many pain control treatments. It could become a first-line treatment and alternative to opioids in some cases.

Digital health treatments, which are already scaling – such as managing and prevention of chronic conditions like Type 2 Diabetes – will continue to gain acceptance among employers, insurers, and perhaps even some government programs, and thus become broadly available. These virtual coaching apps will broaden their scope to many chronic conditions. For example, COPD, asthma, hypertension, and heart disease, especially as value-based care begins to have an impact.

Remote patient monitoring will also begin to scale in these value-based programs as a method to monitor chronic conditions on a daily or continuous basis, and as the data can be summarized in a dashboard for providers and patients.

Telehealth visits will become more widely adopted both for one-off consultations but also for more continuous contact for patients with their healthcare providers. Also, better quality standards will be created and applied for telehealth visits.

Finally, patients will generally be more involved in their care. They will also take a more active role in digital health projects, including becoming active consumers, participating on advisory boards, and the growth of co-design.

Koen Kas

Koen Kas is a Healthcare Futurist and CEO/Founder of the Healthskouts. Koen has published two books. "Sick no more" describes how we will transition from reactive sick-care to pro-active healthcare. "Your guide to Delight" is a roadmap towards Creating health, dealing with change, introducing our personal Digital Twin.

I won’t make a classical list of trends like AI, 5G, VR, and so on. It is the list from me, and my team’s experience working with care organizations, hospitals,  pharma, tech plays entering the healthcare space. From helping start-ups and scale-ups, big incumbents, and governments to absorb and adopt digital health developments in their organizations.

Here are my personal five digital health trends in 2020:

  • Mobile health apps reimbursements will take off. Legislation in Germany got a lot of publicity, but other countries are getting ready as well. There is a vast interest in the certified digital health apps database we curate, for instance. It is now being used in pharma to teach how the emerging digital revolution gets shape. We start to see the number of entries increases beyond linear.
  • First, real-world datasets are supporting the benefits of adopting digital health in the clinic. A good example is a proof that VR can treat acute pain beyond a well-controlled hospital setting. Such data will build trust. I believe that becomes the key trend for 2020
  • I think we’re going to experience a shift from a “push attitude” of the digital health technologies (driven by engineers in startups and tech companies) to the “pull-attitude” (inspired by actual health care providers like physicians, specialists, and nurses). Medical professionals can describe use cases best and know what is needed to remove friction in the healthcare system.
  • As every company is bound to become a health company, the non-obvious, non-traditional plays will speed up the adoption rate of digital health tools, pointing them towards consumers. Think food, beverage, dairy companies capturing consumer mental state to adapt their offering. See how Black+Decker worked with Pillo Health to develop a technology to help adults and their caregivers proactively manage their health at home.
  • 2020 will be the year the concept of a “Human digital twin” will become a thing. A digital twin is a real-time replica of something in the physical world. In healthcare, that replica is the life-long data record of an individual. Digital twins can assist doctors and pharma in determining the possibilities for a successful outcome of a procedure or treatment, help make therapy decisions, and manage chronic diseases. Ultimately, digital twins will become patient/citizen companions to keep them healthy. A bit like Baymax in Disney’s Big Hero 6. Digital twins are fed with data from emerging digital health tools.

Lionel Reichardt

Pharmageek, CEO Pharmageek, Founder of the 7C’s Health. Lionel Reichardt spent the past 15 years working within the pharmaceutical industry. Today he synthesizes these experiences to rethink the customer journey and build new models of promotion and information in healthcare.

The big trend for 2020 is that digital health will be no more trend. It's been almost ten years now that digital health lives at the pace of technology trends and buzzwords. Patient empowerment, connected health, artificial intelligence, blockchain, virtual reality – so many topics to feed the business of conferences and ambient communication. Here comes the time for maturity. The time for institutions to frame digital health and make it possible on a larger scale. The time for scientific publications to relay digital health research and establish the potential and reality of this sector. The time for training to allow healthcare professionals to be able to build, use, and prescribe these solutions. The time for digital therapeutics to target specific issues to improve the health of individuals and populations. The time for patients to be taken seriously in their quest for greater autonomy and better management of their health. Digital health will finally begin to keep its promises and become a reality.