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Digital technology: a significant change in healthcare innovation

By Megan Allen

Megan Allen

What is digital healthcare?
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines digital health technology as the use of ‘computing platforms, connectivity, software, and sensors’ for healthcare-related purposes. In practice, digital health encompasses an extremely broad spectrum of digital tools and systems.

The use of digital health technology is a growing focus for multiple stakeholders in the healthcare industry, from pharmaceutical companies and their medical communications partners to technology companies and regulatory agencies. The rapid expansion of the digital health industry was further accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, during which digital health technology was leveraged as a bridge between patients and healthcare professionals (HCPs).

Digital health and the individual
Many consider the integration of digital technology into the healthcare industry to be a revolution in personalised medicine. Indeed, the overarching goal of digital health technology – the improvement of healthcare outcomes – encompasses numerous benefits to the end user, including patient empowerment, increased quality of life, reduced healthcare costs, improved access to healthcare services, more efficient clinical trials, removal of barriers to clinical trial participation and improved treatment experience.

For HCPs, digital healthcare technology can improve clinical decision-making throughout the diagnosis and treatment journey, increase the efficiency of communication with patients and provide real-time data for treatment decisions. For patients with chronic conditions, digital health technology can help tailor medicines and therapies to individual needs. Overall, the emergence of virtual healthcare and other digital tools may reduce the growing burden on healthcare systems through cost savings, reducing the risk of disease spread from in-office visits and eliminating common barriers to healthcare access while enabling continuity of care.

Figure 1

Figure 1: The broad spectrum of digital health technology

Innovation in digital healthcare
Innovation in digital healthcare is happening across a broad spectrum of therapeutic areas. Advanced, fit-for purpose platforms, mobile applications and devices continue to revolutionise both individual access to healthcare and chronic disease management. For example, the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK is updating a mobile application that improves access to healthcare services nationally. Other platforms, such as Eli Lilly’s diabetes management platform, use digital technology to help patients track their condition and help clinicians make evidence-based decisions using real-time, robust healthcare data.

Artificial intelligence (AI)-powered technology has led to tailored digital healthcare solutions. One example, Florence 2.0, is an AI-powered digital health worker that helps users plan and implement a healthier lifestyle through customised advice and encouragement.

For clinical trials, companies and investigators are developing digital endpoints to remotely assess disease progression or symptoms in clinical trial participants via mobile technology applications or wearable devices. This type of innovation has the potential to ease the patient burden of clinical trial participation by reducing the number of in-clinic visits and also by optimising the drug development process through the collection of high-quality data in real time.

Challenges and considerations for the future use of digital health technology
The digital health technology frontier is not without its unique challenges. Regulations often follow technological advances and healthcare technology is no exception.Efforts to enable data sharing while appropriately protecting privacy remain at the forefront of discussions among stakeholders. Additionally, comprehensive patient input and representation are critical at all stages of digital healthcare development to achieve health equity and preclude exacerbation of existing health disparities.

Federal-level resources in the US are available to guide stakeholders in digital health technology. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), created in 2004, focuses on advancing developments in digital health and establishing rules on data sharing. Similarly, the FDA’s Digital Health Center of Excellence provides regulatory advice and support on all topics related to digital health and the development of digital health technology.

Evolving international laws and regulations should be closely monitored by digital health technology stakeholders. The World Health Global Strategy on Digital Health outlines a strategy to share and extend innovation across healthcare systems globally.

We continue to work with our clients to address their growing digital health technology needs as we partner with them to overcome challenges in this exciting area of innovation.

Megan Allen is Scientific Director, Meditech Media, part of Nucleus Global, an Inizio Company

24th January 2023

From: Marketing

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