The US healthcare system is facing several challenges, including rising costs, clinician shortages, and the need for improved efficiency and effectiveness. Digital healthcare can help address these challenges by leveraging technologies such as telehealth, remote patient monitoring, health apps, and AI solutions. 

Importantly, digital healthcare can also improve access to care, especially for those in rural areas, by enabling remote delivery of care through virtual platforms. Digital healthcare can also alleviate clinician shortages by optimizing resource allocation more effectively, enhancing efficiency and streamlining processes, leading to cost savings while maintaining or improving the level of care provided to patients. 

Wearable tech, digital therapeutics, and remote patient monitoring (RPM) are driving the transformation of healthcare. Figures from GlobalData show the value of digital therapeutics-related deals have grown by 129% (2018-2023) with companion apps becoming an increasing priority for life science firmsi.  

The future of digital health is expected to involve advancements in precision medicine, GLP-1 drugs (medications that help lower blood sugar levels and promote weight loss) and telehealth infrastructure.  

AI will play a key role in healthcare innovation, from disease diagnosis and screening to drug discovery and development.  

Telehealth will continue to be instrumental in healthcare transformation, with traditional providers and digital health companies building the necessary infrastructure to meet the growing demand for care. 

Wearables, mobile apps and RPM 

Wearable tech, such as smartwatches and sensors, can already be integrated into healthcare to help meet treatment demands and improve patient outreach. These devices enable remote monitoring of patients’ health metrics, allowing healthcare providers to access real-time data and provide personalized care. 

Digital therapeutics (DTx) and mobile apps are also being used to enhance the delivery of remote patient care and increase patient empowerment. These tools provide patients with access to self-management resources, personalized treatment plans, and remote consultations, improving their ability to manage their health conditions. 

Meanwhile, remote patient monitoring (RPM) technologies play a vital role in healthcare delivery, allowing physicians to access health data remotely and provide care without the need for in-person visits. RPM devices, such as wearable sensors, enable continuous monitoring of patients’ health metrics, improving care quality and convenience for patients. 

Will AI be a key driver of medical device innovation? 

According to GlobalData’s Thematic Research: Medical Device Predictions 2024, medical devices, pharmaceutical, and healthcare markets which were slow to adopt new technologies, have seen increased activity over the last few years, with more companies adopting AI as part of their digital transformation strategies.  

GlobalData predicts that in the coming years, AI will be a key driver of healthcare innovation through several applications, and forecasts that the market for AI for the entire healthcare industry will reach $18.8 billion by 2027, up from $4.8 billion in 2022.ii 

AI is already being used across many different areas of medicine and its use is expected to increase. Common uses include medical record data management, especially with the increasing use of electronic medical record (EMR) systems and the vast medical data collected; diagnostic imaging, particularly the use of AI algorithms analyzing medical images such as MRIs and CT scans; diagnostic and procedural AI assistants, such as chatbots that can provide medical information; and remote and robotic surgery, as AI-assisted robotic systems can enhance precision during surgical procedures. 

New and upcoming technology 

Other upcoming technology includes 5G enabled wearables, augmented reality (AR) and blockchain cybersecurity. 

5G technology is expected to improve remote patient monitoring systems, enabling faster and more reliable data transmission. 

Incorporating augmented reality (AR) into mobile health has the potential to meet unmet needs in mental health treatment, chronic pain management, and stroke rehabilitation. AR can even enhance the delivery of virtual therapies and provide immersive experiences for patients, improving treatment outcomes. 

AR can also assist radiologists in reviewing patient scans to identify problems that the human eye alone cannot detect and in creating 3D ‘digital twins’ to provide new perspectives, such as in viewing patient organs without the need for X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and to model medical conditions. 

Cybersecurity tools are crucial in protecting virtual care services and patients’ personal health data from cyberattacks, and as healthcare becomes increasingly digitized, ensuring the security and privacy of patient information is of utmost importance. Blockchain has the potential to be used for hospital payments, clinical trials, patient information, medical billing, and inventory management. 

Huma offer their insights – don’t forget the patient! 

Courtney DeSisto Obecny, vice-president of operations and growth marketing at Huma, the healthcare technology company, tells us that although there are many amazing technologies out there, we must never forget the human aspect, and this is where some previous wearable devices have failed. 

“I think sometimes why they don’t necessarily take off is the amount of interaction and engagement of the patients,” she says. “People don’t want to spend hours thinking about their disease or their health, we have a very busy life. Where (Huma) has focused is around passive technology. How do we collect the information that we need, by asking for as little time as possible (ideally no time at all) from the patient? 

“This is particularly resonant for patients with chronic illness (where they will need monitoring for the rest of their lives). You don’t want it to be the whole focus – it’s not sustainable for the patients. You can have the best technology in the world, but if nobody is going to use it, you are not actually going to get the data (or) adoption.” 

Jessica Cormier-Breslin, director of clinical services for the US at Huma, says that some patients have issues with technology generally. 

“We have a lot of patients for whom technology is difficult or something they’re not used to using,” she notes. “At Huma we are trying to make it easier and accessible for them to understand. A wearable allows passive data to be transferred – so we’re getting heart rate, we’re getting sleep data, we’re getting oxygenation respiratory rates. The battery lasts for a long time…it’s minimal and becomes part of their daily routine.” 

The key to successfully implementing digital technology is incremental but meaningful steps, says Kaushik Gune, head of healthcare for the US at Huma. Transforming healthcare is challenging, he tells us, and you must ensure that you are taking everyone along with you: 

“For patients with chronic conditions, many of their hospitalizations happen because we’re not taking care of their condition upstream. With more data, you can make better clinical decisions, faster.”  

For more information on how digital health is transforming healthcare in the US, download the free paper below.