At some point in our lives, every single one of us will need to access health products. Whether you need a routine operation, ongoing care for a chronic illness or immediate treatment for something more serious, being able to readily access quality health products is (and will always be) a basic human need.
But until the pandemic, innovation in digital health products was prohibitively slow. Groundbreaking new treatments and drugs were being discovered globally; but little was being done to reimagine how patients received and accessed care.
Fast forward to 2023 and the pace of digital health solutions adoption has accelerated. With this shift has come a widespread recognition of the need to improve how care is delivered – and by whom – to ease pressure on clinicians, tackle waiting lists and empower patients to take ownership of their health.
The recent proliferation of Digital Health Products (DHPs) – taking the form of apps, VR tools and smart remote health monitoring technologies – are creating new opportunities for healthcare organisations, clinicians and pharmaceutical companies to drive up health education and encourage patients to take a more active role in their health. There are a number of reasons why this is an incredibly positive change.
First of all, DHPs are revolutionising how patients engage with health interventions through the introduction of on-demand, remote services that mean patients can undertake treatment at a time and place that is convenient for them. This is allowing patients to personalise their medication and treatment patterns, meaning that they can take ownership of their health; and enabling clinicians to monitor them remotely.
For example, online therapy tools that offer treatments such as digital CBT and mindfulness offer a way for patients to complete their treatment programmes in a way that works best for them. On-demand digital services also allow clinicians to monitor patients’ health remotely and flag any concerning symptoms or data, rather than waiting for patients to self-report a problem. Medical treatment is being revolutionised as something that can take place anywhere, anytime, rather than only in specific appointments at doctors offices.
Health literacy is another area where digital tools are making a significant impact. Easily accessible digital apps and guides can improve access to medical information that wouldn’t otherwise be available to patients. This enables patients to better understand their condition; and better engage with their treatment.
Together for Her is a digital pregnancy care platform built by our team at Avegen which offers women personalised and holistic pregnancy support across India. The project aims to provide better education surrounding pregnancy to reduce maternal mortality rates, and is empowering expectant women to take control of their pregnancy journeys by giving them access to tools that give them pregnancy guidance and support. The positive outcomes of this resource is clear, with a 90% increase in pregnancy health literacy.
DHPs can also support patients to take medicines correctly. Medication non-adherence is a widespread and serious issue within healthcare, with up to 50% of medication not taken as prescribed. This is sometimes down to patients forgetting to take their medicine as needed; or not fully understanding the purpose of their treatment. Poor medication adherence is estimated to cause over 125,000 deaths a year and contributes to 10% of hospitalisations, whilst also costing the NHS significant amounts of money.
However, DHPs offer a chance to vastly reduce this, by providing a revolutionary new way for patients to become an active participant in their healthcare. For example, apps or gamified tools that remind patients to take their medication or explain can transform the quality of care they receive and greatly improve adherence to medication.
The evolution of DHPs that provide holistic care is also helping enhance the value proposition of existing treatments, by integrating different apps, wearables, VR and AI technologies. By combining innovative technologies to supplement in-person care, patients can receive individualised support tailored to their specific needs. DHPs can also provide drug developers and clinicians with detailed patient data that they would not have been able to access previously, allowing clinicians to optimise the care they deliver to each patient.
The digital health revolution galvanised by the pandemic shows no sign of slowing down – and for good reason. DHPs empower patients to better understand their health, access care remotely and proactively engage with treatment. They also save healthcare organisations time and money; and make it even easier for clinicians to deliver personalised care. The future of health is digital – and I look forward to seeing how digital health can continue to widen access to care and transform patient outcomes for many years to come.