Things you don’t hear anymore:
“Let’s hail a cab.”
“I’ll run down to the bookstore.”
“Did Dad show you the prints from my vacation?”
In the past 10 years, technology has significantly changed the way we interact with the world in almost everything we do. Today we can Uber anywhere, order almost anything to our doorstep and instantaneously share both the mundane and special moments with friends and family over social media. However, while many industries have completely transformed through technology innovations, others have yet to crack the code to make lasting change. One is health care, a sector that has the most promise to impact everyone.
Despite a big market opportunity, expected to reach $233.3 billion by 2020 and a record breaking first half of 2016 with 151 companies raising more than $2B, health care has yet to reach an “Uber” moment. This is due in part to the fact that the innovators and institutions are in many cases, working in conflict, not in concourse.
American Medical Association (AMA) CEO James Madara recently highlighted this divide in comments about the digital health industry peddling apps and devices that “impede care, confuse patients, and waste our time.”
The big opportunity for digital health market is how to bridge this gap and pair innovation with the proper validation.
Begin with the Entire Ecosystem In Mind
It’s time to deliver on the promise of digital health innovations, and that can only be accomplished when the ecosystem of doctors, regulators, patients and caregivers work together from the beginning.
In 2015, 52 percent of smartphone users collected health related data on their phones, and that number is only growing. This has created an abundance of digital health products and platforms, including some that have not been properly reviewed or evaluated, and some of the these cases have cast a doubt over the entire industry.
AMA’s Madara has cited one study that looked at more than 1,000 health care apps and found that just 43 percent of iOS apps and 27 percent of Android apps were likely to be useful. Madara emphasized the need for technology that makes a physician’s job and patients’ role easier. His criticism is actually extremely helpful in determining what is needed to create a sustainable ecosystem of health care experts, innovative technologies and regulators.
Now is the time for companies in digital health health care need to innovate with so many more stakeholders in mind rather than just focus on the consumer.
New Best Friends: Digital Health Companies’ Should See Regulators as an Asset vs. a Threat
The days of introducing a medical-grade digital health product and waiting to see if regulators will have an issue with it later, are over. Regulatory bodies are valuable partners, not an obstacle or burden to be avoided. While the process can sometimes be slow and frustrating for those used to the neck-breaking speed of normal tech innovation, it’s important to realize that in many cases people’s lives are at stake, and with that comes a responsibility to invest in peer-reviewed research, collaboration with medical professionals and a partnership with regulatory bodies ― all with the best interests of with the patient in mind. With the hundreds of companies in the digital health space, consumers deserve to know that the products that they are using to monitor their health are vetted and trusted.
Digital health innovations and developments in technology need to remain centric to the patient and the caregiver. By working alongside cardiologists and hospitals, and participating in clinical research, a successful relationship with the FDA can produce valuable results for not only one company, but for the entire ecosystem. FDA cleared technology empowers both patients and doctors to change the way health is managed.
The Path Forward For Digital Health
The digital health ecosystem has become a significant part of the healthcare economy. As the digital health market continues to mature, the industry is evolving to support companies that are focused on long-term sustainability, proven outcomes and forward thinking solutions.
The right path forward for the digital health industry begins with a change in thinking for many in Silicon Valley. The fast-paced rate of innovations needs to be paired with the understanding that 3rd party validation of the innovation is just as important. When a product has to do with human health, following regulatory guidelines needs to be a core from the beginning of development.
Wearables, apps and digital diagnostics will continue to leverage the streams of health data that the connected consumer generates to create powerful health platforms. Advances in 3D printing, material science, virtual reality and health kits will create personalized products that will be made to order in the home. These are just some of the advancements we’ve uncovered so far, and there will be many more in our future. The possibilities are, quite literally, endless.
The real value for all of these technological innovations are scientific validation and regulatory approval. The industry recognizes that technology is the future of healthcare, but we need to make sure that every product, solution, service is up to the standard that patients and doctors expect and rely on.