Digital health: The future is here – are you?

by Venky Kulkarni

I recently had the opportunity to attend and speak at the mHealth and Telehealth World Congress 2014. Stakeholders presented and discussed advances and trends in mobile and telecommunications health care.

One of the most exciting things about the conference was the glimpse of things to come. Tomorrow’s digital health developments are going to have a big impact on how we provide and receive care – and employers and benefit providers should start to plan now.

Virtual patient care

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Researchers say about 60-70 percent of all health care visits could be performed virtually by leveraging technology.

As more apps and platforms are developed – health continues to partner with technology developers – digital care programs are going to become more common for providing timely and effective treatment and maintenance of health issues. Today’s technology has the potential for some of our in-office doctor’s visits to take place digitally in our homes, work and anywhere else we can imagine.

So is an increase in patient care at home – and less physical visits to the doctor – a good thing?

For the patient it can mean better accessibility and more consistency in monitoring a condition before it escalates to a more serious issue – especially if they live in a remote area. For the health care industry – including benefit plans – it can also mean sustainable costs with more focus on prevention and intervention-monitoring and identifying an issue before it escalates.

Mobility is key to patient self-management

The rate at which mobile health care capabilities are introduced into the app stores of the world is accelerating very quickly. According to the latest industry data available, there are presently 31,000 health, fitness, and medical related apps on the market today.

Doctors these days are even prescribing certain apps as a means to help patients monitor their health issues. As apps and mobile usage continues to grow most doctors and hospitals will begin to further utilize the wealth of data being created as a way to know more about patients. This type of data and usage can have an impact on employee wellness when integrated with similar mobile technology used for benefit plan management

Customer engagement and quality of care.

In recent years, the interest of health plans in digital tools has been driven by their ability to improve the health of their members. With other sectors adopting digital approaches to care there is great potential for data and care collaboration. The end result? Better coordination, navigation and communication between all health care touch points. Members become more engaged in their health because they are active participants in the management of their benefits, care and health costs.

Give the people what they wantDHBlogphone_E3

Impressive advancements in our digital health capabilities can sometimes overshadow the true purpose of these tools – the health care user. It’s important as we embark further down this road of digital health management and delivery we recognize the importance of utilizing feedback from end users to implement newly designed digital capabilities that keep consumers engaged and interested.

For example we just released Medavie Mobile V3 which includes new functions that are a direct response from our customers’ feedback and include finding a health provider in their area and a drug cost compare tool.

Looking Ahead

Technology can play an important role in transforming the way health care is delivered, while improving outcomes and managing costs.  I left the conference feeling confident our industry is making progress and has significant potential ahead. Investing in digital health today is smart planning for benefit providers – and employers – to be in line with tomorrow’s health care system and patient expectations.

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