Move Over Digital Health

The future of health care is not a device or a drug yet to be discovered. As the market for digital health technology continues to expand, trailblazing hospitals are preparing for digital medicine instead. Here are a few of the latest ways digital health is changing.

Demand for new positions

The health care industry’s shift toward electronic health records has spiked demand for new positions and teams. Many progressive hospitals are building clinical innovation teams called upon to apply the same rigor of evidence-based health care principles to digital medicine. That means doing no harm, delivering effective and patient-centered care, and doing so in a timely and efficient manner while incorporating digital tools and capabilities. Other hospitals are hiring nurse informaticists, a role that combines a nurse’s traditional skill set with expertise in systems, analysis and design. Why? Because engineers and IT professionals just don’t have the clinical expertise to introduce and manage these systems, not to mention prevent potentially life-threatening technical errors. The future of health care will be counting on these staff members to actively test data to make sure accuracy and transmission between devices and systems is working properly.

Evolution of recordkeeping

More and more providers are taking the leap to offer patients digital access to their information – it’s happening partly due to pressure from technology companies and patients’ rights groups, but it’s clearly a growing area of interest (and concern) for the medical device industry, medical professionals, patients and lawmakers. In fact, some hospitals have attracted the interest of big tech companies with their increasing data storage and security needs. But the future of digital medicine will be built on much more than managing, storing, and sharing electronic health records, schedules and workflow. We should anticipate that artificial intelligence, machine learning, and virtual reality will emerge as health care technologies that will become critical to the patient experience. Soon, digital medicine will enable a more efficient clinical practice through decision making software and technologies that assist in making diagnoses and developing treatment options.

FDA looks closer at wearables

We are only beginning to reshape health care with digital health data collected through wearables and apps. According to one estimate, last year there were 165,000 health-related apps available for Apple or Android smartphones. Forecasts predict that such apps would be downloaded 1.7 billion times this year. As connected medical technology develops past step counters and heart rate monitors, partnerships between wearables and medical device companies are on their way to developing products that can become better tools for monitoring and controlling disease. And, data from those devices will be better at informing doctors and patients on how best to treat patients, ultimately improving patient outcomes.

As a result, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plans to build a digital health unit to address the span of digital technology and software being used in medical devices. At last, apps, trackers and clinical decision support software will have the power to expand and transform health care, and consumers will become empowered to make better decisions about their own health, manage chronic health conditions and connect with medical professionals.

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