(ED: Dr Leescher is a prominent blogger, a true medical technophile, who weighs in the some developments he predicts will happen this year.

I read with interest a few articles discussing predictions for digital health technologies for 2013.  One such amusing article in informationweek.com had some which were in more detailed described as  By the end of 2013, the implementation of such a system will be “only [five] years away from being a reality…” A truly welcomed breath of intellectual and reality-filled fresh air was furnished by an article by David Shaywitz in Forbes yesterday.  In the following space I would like to discuss a few predictions about areas of digital health that I myself consider important.

1.    Globalization of digital health technologies. There are many countries developing digital health technologies at breakneck speed. Some are collaborating. TheWorld Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Digital Health is a starting point for the discussion on a political and economic level.  The Council is made up of political and business leaders.  I look forward to more collaborative efforts on a developmental level. There are many developers in India and Israel who are have American partners and I think there will be more from the EU when regulatory issues in the USA are clarified (see below).

2.    Finalization of Regulatory Guidelines and Standards for mobile medical apps.  We have been waiting for the finalized guidance from the FDA pertaining to mobile medical apps.  Developers, investors, business partners, and healthcare strategists have been anticipating this important document. It has worldwide implications as it has been hinted at that the EU might adopt the same guidance. Also anticipated is the finalization of health, fitness, and medical app certification standards by Happtique which would then herald the initiation of its certification program. Once these occur, the emergence of apps on the scene will be accelerated. I look for 2013 to be a big year in this regard. I am totally realistic in saying that this will only be a beginning and not implying adoption.

3.    Emergence of patient portals.  The beginning of implementation of Stage 2 Meaningful Use criteria which include patient portals is an extremely important development for 2013. It will be the first step in patient participation of their digital health information. The importance of patient portal adoption was discussed in a previous post of this author.

4.    Clinical Studies.  There will be an acceleration of outcome studies of technologies ranging from EHR data tracking/analytics to remote patient monitoring and body sensors.  There has been a significant number of voices discussing the importance of proving that these technologies improve outcome and also decrease cost recently.  Even if outcomes are equivalent and cost reduction is significant, it would send a validating signal.

5.    Development of business models.  Many of the emerging technologies of digital health do not fit neatly into established and traditional business models in healthcare.  Some technologies are consumer oriented, some span multiple business models because end users are in different sectors, and some do not understand how they can be monetized. 2013 will be a year in which I believe some new business models in the space will emerge.  Certainly new trails will be blazed in that regard.

So while these issues have been discussed before and I do not believe these predictions are revolutionary, I believe the time is here for some gelling of the ingredients of digital health.  The ingredients are determined, the guest list made, and the table set.  Let’s get cooking. Happy New Year to all.


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