Digital Health – the sector to watch?

Tue, 01/08/2017 - 09:47
Digital Health

What is digital health? It can be thought of as the convergence of digital and genomic technologies with health, healthcare, living, and society to enhance the efficiency of healthcare delivery and make medicines more personalised and precise[1]. It spans a vast array of technologies and applications, including patient monitoring, virtual reality rehabilitation, machine learning to model medical outcomes, clinical decision support, personal metabolomics services, wearable medical devices and many more.

From this small selection of examples, it is easy to see why these applications have captured the imaginations of the public. But it is not merely the public who are excited by the potentials of digital health. Last year, a report by The King’s Fund detailed 8 technologies that will change health and care, giving examples of innovative technology-enabled care that are already being deployed in the NHS and internationally. These include:

  • Smart phone apps: EG: - A depression programme, in which people track their own mood, which is combined with data collected from the sensors in the smartphone about their movements, social app or telephone use. 
  • Smart assistive technology: Assistive devices to help people perform tasks or activities made difficult by a disability or condition. Verily (formerly Google’s life sciences arm) has invested in a tremor spoon already on the market for use by people with Parkinson’s disease, for example
  • Implantable drug delivery: EG: An implantable device with hundreds of tiny, sealable reservoirs that open when a small electric current controlled by an embedded microchip is applied is under development at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)[2]. The device could automatically release doses for more than 10 years from a single chip.

This enthusiasm is reflected in digital health investment. The latest Rock Health report, released July 2017, found the digital health sector enjoyed unprecedented levels of deals and funding in first half of 2017. In Q1-2, $3.5 billion was invested in 188 deals involving digital health companies, exceeding all previous records. This success is made more shocking by the wider circumstance: healthcare is navigating one of the most uncertain periods in its history, and yet digital health investment has seen its strongest quarter yet.

What does this tell us – get involved in Digital Health. It appears this sector is going from strength to strength, and has significant public support. We look forward to seeing what the second half of 2017 will bring.​

[1] Bhavnani, Sanjeev P.; Narula, Jagat; Sengupta, Partho P. (7 May 2016). "Mobile technology and the digitization of healthcare". European Heart Journal. 37 (18): 1428–38. PMID 26873093. doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehv770.