The American healthcare system spends an unbelievable amount of money and time helping patients manage chronic diseases. Here’s how digital health could change everything.
Much has been made of the potential for digital apps to revolutionize healthcare. Nearly 50% of the American population suffers from at least one chronic condition, resulting in millions of hours and billions of dollars of investment in their care.
But new research from the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science suggests that we’re on the cusp of a digital health revolution that may change everything about how we manage chronic disease. Here’s what IQVIA’s scientists learned about the growing value of digital health to patients and their care providers alike.
The Convenience and Cost-Cutting of Digital Health
IQVIA’s report took advantage of the growing body of research on the impacts of digital health. The authors collected data on five key focus areas for digital health — diabetes prevention, diabetes care, asthma, cardiac rehabilitation, and pulmonary rehabilitation — and the effects that apps have had on acute care utilization. Their findings were striking; if the apps used in those studies were available to the public today, healthcare providers could save up to $7 billion per year. But if the same level of savings could be achieved across all areas of healthcare expenditure, the United States could save a tremendous $46 billion per year.
The financial picture alone makes digital health worth the investment, but the potential benefits for patients are even greater. Patients could communicate with their doctors remotely, saving time and money on follow-up visits. Add the Internet of Thing (IoT) to the mix, and valuable patient data could be transmitted securely to the patient’s care provider as well. Doctors see the value in this, too; in fact, 85% of them believe that apps have a place in helping patients manage their health.
A Not-So-Distant Future
To see widespread implementation of digital health technology, we need to carry the momentum forward into action. The first step is to identify trustworthy apps backed by clinical research. There are currently more than 318,000 health-related apps on the market, and developers release more than 200 new health apps every day. But the majority of these are general wellness apps, most of which did not need to undergo FDA approval before release. We believe that the future of digital health lies in apps that help patients manage chronic conditions and deliver data back to care providers.
Developers also need to prioritize user experience when creating new health apps. The IQVIA study revealed that overall ratings have increased — 55% of health apps have four stars or more, compared to only 31% in 2015. A continued push for ease-of-use and seamless integration with other technologies will accelerate the development and approval process for these kinds of apps.
Though the age of ubiquitous healthcare apps is still a ways off, digital health will continue to play a larger role as clinical research proves apps’ usefulness and reliability. The implications for doctors and patients are simply too great to go unnoticed, and medical developers should capitalize on the growing interest in and acceptance of this technology.