Industry Trends: Digital Health

Industry Trends: Digital Health

As the world gets more connected from a digital technology perspective, the promise of improving health by multiple devices means continues to bring hope that we can change our health habits and change the trajectory of acute illness through improved wellness behaviors.

While ‘how we use’ this digital health technology continues to evolve,  in the near future people may gain access to individual health records that incorporate a modern medical record that compiles information from multiple sources, including electronic health records, pharmacies and medical claims,  to help support physicians in care delivery through data sharing and evidence based medicine.

Below are some digital health strategies employers, employees, and wellness innovators should consider:

Real-time information – One big advantage of digital resources, such as apps or websites, is the ability to provide real-time information, both to consumers and healthcare professionals.  This can help improve the wellness and care plan for patients.  Allowing more customized recommendations based on personal health histories and a patients specific health plan.  New apps are enabling physicians to know which medications are covered in a person’s health plan and recommend lower-cost alternatives before the patient leaves the office.  The ability to access real-time information, and take action can be critical in the effort to use technology to employer healthcare providers.

Small behavior change – part of the power of this digital health age is the ability to give people actionable information about people’s health status and behavior patterns.  Some digital health programs are demonstrating an ability to encourage daily ‘behavior change’ that over time, may contribute to improved outcomes and lower costs.  These changes can be small and simple, but have long lasting benefits.  For instance, wearable devices with walking programs remind people to move and stay active throughout the day, while offering metrics that show activity patterns, sleep patterns, and ideally reinforcing positive habits to support ongoing change.  Technology that encourages small healthy habits each day have been shown to translate into meaningful improvements. 

Financial incentives – everyone wants to be healthy, but sometimes (many times) people need a push to take that first step toward wellness.  To drive engagement and get people going down the right path, financial incentives are becoming more widespread by employers and health plans.  These rewards must be set up to be specific and targeted, and more important, achievable to be most effective.  Again, mobile apps have broken ground with comparison shopping for healthcare services.  In particular, one app encourages expectant mothers to use a website to follow recommended prenatal and post-partum appointments, financial incentives can range in nominal amounts (via gift cards), to more substantial amounts.  If a member is in a qualified High Deductible health plan, deposits to a personal Health Savings Account have been proven to be valuable rewards.  Marketing and educating your population with digital health based resources with financial rewards is a great way to getting and keeping people engaged in health and wellness.

Although it feels as if we have ample digital health support via apps, websites, and other equipment and technology, this market will continue to grow with estimates that the industry could exceed $379 billion by 2024.  We need to embrace these new innovations and be sure we are finding the optimum opportunities to engage our workforce to take initiative for their own health and wellness.