The future is now. AI-based diagnostic tools, IoT devices, blockchain technology, and remote patient monitoring are changing today’s market at a dizzying pace. If you’re wondering how technology can help you grow your business, save time and money, attract new customers, and significantly improve the quality of your patients’ health, this article is for you. Let’s take a look at the biggest digital healthcare trends for 2023!
A digital approach to healthcare
The pandemic has forced the digital health industry to grow and change its approach to service delivery. A trend that not long ago was a troublesome necessity is now a convenient standard for users and providers.
According to Statista, in 2019 the digital health industry was worth $175 billion, and in 2022 its value exceeded $334 billion. This rapid growth is an indication to entrepreneurs that investing in digital healthcare solutions is a way to reach new customers and strengthen their market position.
According to Google, more than a billion queries a day, or as many as 7% of all searches, are related to health-related topics. Technology support has become inextricably linked to health concerns, and the market offers many tools to make accessing digital health services as easy as possible.
The 7 most important digital health trends for 2023
Worrying symptoms should always be discussed with a doctor during a visit to a clinic, but many forms of medical assistance can be carried out effectively and conveniently remotely. Renewing a routine prescription, writing a sick note, consulting on combining different medications, or discussing test results are procedures that can be successfully carried out by contacting a medical professional over the Internet or by phone.
Telemedicine gained tremendous popularity with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic because hospitals were overcrowded and people didn’t want to risk getting infected in waiting rooms or coming into crowded facilities.
This form of digital health support helped reduce clinic queues and speed up appointment times, which is why it continues to be eagerly chosen by people around the world. According to the CDC, the national public health agency of the United States, in 2021 as many as 37% of adult patients used telemedicine at least once.
Many healthcare organizations such as Teladoc Health, Amwell, and HealthTap, as well as local clinics and city hospitals, offer telemedicine to provide their patients with the best digital health solutions.
2. Remote patient monitoring
Remote patient monitoring, i.e., observing the well-being of people outside medical facilities, is a great support for regular health check-ups. This solution saves time for patients who don’t have to travel in person to the medical center and allows doctors’ busy schedules to be planned optimally. With the support of technology, medical facilities can also optimize the time and budget needed for regular digital health monitoring and fully focus on emergency care. The effectiveness of this model results in it being increasingly used in hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes. Research and Markets estimates that the value of remote monitoring will increase to $31.3 billion in 2023, and according to Goldstein Research it will reach $48.5 billion in 2024.
Mobile and desktop apps allow patients to regularly and conveniently update their health information such as glucose level, temperature, or weight. The apps can send users reminders to take their medications or measure blood pressure. They can also transmit data for analysis by a specialist and allow patients and doctors to exchange messages. An interesting example of a mobile app for remote monitoring is PCL Health, where users can track parameters such as blood pressure, heart rate, sleep time, mood, physical activity, etc. The tool also allows users to consult with a doctor via chat or video call.
Remote monitoring software is a type of healthcare software that enables the collection and analysis of patient health information from a variety of sources, such as IoT devices, mobile apps, and tests performed at other facilities. One provider of remote health monitoring software is Prevounce. Thanks to this tool, each specialist, after logging in and uploading their patient’s data, has access to their results and medical history, as well as the latest data collected from monitoring devices. The system reports a patient’s health status in real time and sends emergency notifications if intervention is needed.
3. Medical IoT devices
IoT devices connect to the Internet and automatically send the information they collect to a specific database, such as at a hospital or clinic. They help with remote patient monitoring and diagnosis, improving workplace safety, and even maintaining sanitary conditions in medical facilities.
IoT devices include:
- Devices that monitor basic vital functions like heart rate and temperature in patients with cardiovascular disease. For example, Kardia’s smart devices support regular health monitoring for people with heart disease.
- Smart glucometers measuring glucose levels in diabetic patients, like Guardian Connect developed by Medtronic.
- Wristbands to track location to help people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. A smartwatch with location sharing is a big help when a patient gets lost.
- Monitoring bands to report symptoms of people with Parkinson’s disease. An example of such a solution is the PDMonitor
- Smart inhalers for people with asthma collect data on inhalation frequency and technique to help take the drug more effectively and even predict the risk of the next attack. Healthcare organizations such as Sensirion and Findair offer such devices to their customers.
- Devices that monitor body tension to help prevent overload and injury in blue-collar workers. One example is a smart safety device from Kinetic.
- VRET, or Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy, involves the use of virtual reality simulation to improve mental health. A growing number of studies show the effectiveness of this method in treating post-traumatic stress disorder and phobias. Dedicated software for VRET is offered by Psylaris.
4. AI-based diagnostic tools
According to a study by BMJ Quality & Safety, up to 5% of patients in the United States are misdiagnosed. This means that in a year, as many as 12 million people can’t get the right treatment despite being tested!
One of the biggest digital health trends for 2023 improving the accuracy of diagnoses is the development of diagnostic tools based on artificial intelligence. Such software uses algorithms and machine learning to analyze test results and symptoms experienced by the patient and identify diseases based on repeated patterns. Solutions using machine learning in diagnostics are offered by healthcare providers such as ButterflyNetwork (ultrasound in clot detection), Arterys (4D flow MRI in imaging blood flow in the heart), CaptionHealth (early disease detection), and Cleerly (coronary computed tomography angiography).
5. Digital health platforms
A massive step in the digital transformation of healthcare is the transfer of patient medical history information to dedicated software. Hospitals and clinics have long used digital databases, but patients until recently had to collect paper test results, prescriptions, and certificates to track their treatment.
To provide people with a transparent view of their medical history, more and more companies are offering advanced patient portals or applications where logged-in users can view appointments made and scheduled along with dates and names of doctors, prescriptions prescribed and filled, tests performed, and recommendations made.
An example of such a solution is the Internet Patient Account (IKP), a government application available for free to every Polish citizen, where users can access their complete medical history and remotely sign up for tests and vaccinations. Complementing the portal is the e-Recepta application, which allows patients to receive and fill prescriptions based on a unique code they receive, without the need to go to a medical facility to pick up a physical document. Patient portals have been implemented by telemedicine center Dimedic.eu, as well as private healthcare providers Luxmed and Bupa.
6. Medical e-commerce platforms
The rapid growth of the e-commerce sector has also brought new opportunities to the healthcare industry. Until recently, online medical stores only offered over-the-counter drugs, supplements, and medical equipment. Today, they are the mainstay of the digital health industry.
Customers can remotely buy packages of tests and services tailored to their needs. In addition to physical products, clients have access to sets of examinations tailored to a particular condition, a full dental treatment or a series of physiotherapy appointments.
For example, Medistore allows customers to purchase medical services and packages. Instead of calling a facility and making an appointment with a doctor, the platform’s customers can buy a set of tests, a health review, a treatment package, a consultation with a doctor, or an aesthetic medicine procedure on the site, just like in a regular online store. Packages can be selected thematically by need or disease, for example, for athletes, patients with diabetes, or cardiovascular issues. Similar services are also provided by MFine.
Diagnostyka is a website that offers its customers the ability to purchase packages of examinations, for example, a thyroid test, a coronavirus check, a genetic or paternity test, a blood examination, etc.
HSA Store offers medical equipment, for example, hearing aids or teeth straightening trays, medicines and supplements, physiotherapy and measuring devices. Products are categorized based on customer needs, and each user can get advice from a consultant.
7. Blockchain technology for medical data security
Medical records are one of the most sensitive types of data, so storing and sharing it requires the highest security standards to prevent hacking attacks. Today, increasingly popular ways to protect data in the digital health market are solutions built on blockchain. As reported by BIS Research, blockchain technology could save the healthcare industry up to $150 billion per year by 2025 in data breach-related costs, IT costs, operations costs, support function costs and personnel costs, and through a reduction in frauds and counterfeit products.
The data stored in the blockchain is tamperproof, meaning that it is immutable and cannot be manipulated. Thus, information protected on the blockchain cannot be falsified, which is of great importance in the case of sensitive data such as medical records. In addition, the history of any changes, along with the authors of those changes, is stored on the blockchain and thus cannot be denied. This is called the principle of non-repudiation. This feature protects the information from fraud by those who have access to it.
One way to secure sensitive information is through a private blockchain, acting as a closed database. Such a solution differs from a public blockchain, also called a permissionless blockchain, which is an open network where all users can participate on an equal footing without obtaining authorization, permission, or approval first. Private blockchain on the other hand allows access to data only by verified users, who are given authorization to authenticate or approve transactions; that’s why it’s called a permissioned blockchain. Since private blockchains are relatively small, transaction processing is much faster and easier to manage, which is why they are eagerly used by entrepreneurs and companies to improve the security of internal processes.
One of the more interesting examples of a private blockchain for business applications is Hyperledger Fabric, an open source, modular blockchain framework created to optimize business solutions for various industries. With the work of more than 120,000 organizations and 15,000 engineers, Hyperledger Fabric enables high performance and the highest data security.
An example is a project of streamlining medical claims processing for Change Healthcare, a provider of revenue and payment cycle management that connects 900,000 doctors and 5,500 hospitals to 2,200 payers within the US healthcare system. Change Healthcare needed an enterprise-level blockchain network that would be easy to adopt, fast to develop, highly customizable, and scalable.
The implementation of Hyperledger Fabric allowed for the processing of up to 50 million transactions a day and up to 550 transactions a second. Transparency was also an important feature as authorized users can easily check the real-time status of a claim via APIs. The solution also enables tracking the history of changes, as each claim and modification is securely stored on the blockchain.
Digital health in a changing world
The digital healthcare industry is projected to grow 16% per year over the next few years to top $780 billion in 2030 (Global Market Insights, 2022).
According to experts interviewed by Reuters, more and more patients will expect remote care and more predictive diagnoses from healthcare providers, so the importance of remote patient monitoring, IoT devices and AI-based solutions will increase. A growth in digital health and data-driven approaches to medicine will increase the importance of solutions such as healthcare software and patient portals. Also, according to Deloitte, 86% of tech executive teams believe there is significant business potential in blockchain. Given all this, you can expect that 2023 will be an interesting year in digital healthcare.