5 Hot Topics in Digital Health: Our Thoughts From the Digital Health World Congress 2022

Written by Frankie Evans, Senior Lead, Technology Solutions and Terryn Archer, Lead, Technology Solutions on Thursday 2nd June 2022

The Digital Health World Congress 2022 took place in London from 17-18, May. The congress was attended by Terryn Archer and Frankie Evans from OPEN Health’s Technology Solutions team, who gathered insights on the hot topics and themes being discussed in the post-pandemic world of digital health. Here is their summary of the top 5 trends that should be on your radar when it comes to digital health and technology.

1. Personalization  the importance of a human-centric approach

Many speakers discussed the importance of a human-centered approach. Putting yourself in the patient’s position helps us understand what technology we need to better serve patients, rather than focusing just on what technology can do. A quote by Christina Busmalis (Director Life Sciences Industry Sales Leader, EMEA, Google) really resonated with us:

“Don’t focus on what technology can do,
focus on what we need technology to do”

One company that is embracing personalization and a human-centered approach to improve the management of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, is HandHeld Health. Using a mobile app, each patient is provided with an individualized rehabilitation program suitable for their current health needs, which provides tailored recommendations based on information patients have submitted, to optimize their health and well-being.

2. Artificial intelligence (AI)

AI continues to be a buzzword in 2022. Digital health technologies have the capability to collect and connect multiple data sources. When used effectively, these data have the power to provide informed insights, that help to improve patient outcomes. This is achieved by aiding clinical decision-making and predicting clinical outcomes, supporting a trained physician to make an informed treatment decision.

ELEM are one company that are capitalizing on AI and machine learning by creating computerized human avatars that mimic a real human – including cell, tissue, and organ function. When a therapeutic is applied, the avatars respond. These patient avatars can demonstrate how diseased organs work and help to determine which treatments can aid restoration of vital functions.

3. Safety, regulation and compliance

Safety whilst using digital health technology is paramount and ensuring patients engage with regulated and compliant products that complement their treatment journey is the main aim. However, many speakers raised concerns about the number of unregulated apps and digital health products that do not meet core standards. Dr Lloyd Humphrey from Orcha stated that there are around 365,000 digital health products currently on the market and only 20% of them meet core standards. With so much to choose from, patients are exposed to potentially unsafe and ineffective products. The importance of having a digital infrastructure in place to support the increase in patient-facing digital health products was stressed.

4. The evolution of Telehealth

Springing to popularity in the late 1960s using telephone lines, Telehealth is the provision and management of healthcare in a remote setting. Due to travel restrictions and the implementation of social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a heavy reliance on Telehealth, including FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom, along with many other video communication software. The pandemic also raised awareness of patients living with co-morbidities who are not able to access face-to-face healthcare. This led many patients to search for digital health tools, such as apps, to help improve their health.

As well as managing healthcare in a remote setting, Telehealth can also be used to support effective data collection during clinical studies. Cristine Durán (Chief Digital Health Officer Global R&D, AstraZeneca) discussed the benefits of Telehealth in remote data collection, stating that up to 70% of data can be collected at home using clinically validated technology. Additional benefits included improving the patient experience, reducing cost, and promoting sustainability benefits due to the decrease in travel.

VitalSight™ by OMRON has also demonstrated the benefits of remote patient monitoring designed to engage patients in active condition management, encouraging behavior change and strengthening the patient–physician relationship.

5. Behavior change and mindset shift

A theme that ran through the conference was behavior change and mindset shift. The acceptance of or resistance to digital health products to enhance experiences was mentioned in relation to both HCPs and patients, emphasizing that digital health products don’t replace human interaction between HCPs and patients, but complement it. With patients open to using devices and products to track their health, there is an opportunity for deeper analysis of health data, outside of consultation times. This could support the next steps in treatment journeys or prevent further illnesses.

As well as the 5 hot topics we have outlined, other areas of digital health and technology that were discussed were:

  • Interoperability can cause significant challenges: this is the ability to exchange information using software between technology systems. In a time where apps are heavily promoted, having multiple apps to log data can present a barrier to patients
  • Maximize inspiration from non-pharma industries: use non-pharma examples to drive a more patient-centric approach and leverage the technologies available to patients outside of those that pharma provides
  • Digital literacy vs data capture: this acknowledges that some patients and HCPs are not as digitally literate as their peers. Making technology accessible and user friendly (to encourage adoption) is just as important as the data the technology is collating

Digital adoption: patient adoption rates are higher if the digital health product is recommended by an HCP. Therefore, HCPs are encouraged to adopt digital health to promote safe and approved products

To learn more about OPEN Health’s perspective on digital health, take a look at our video:

Our Technology Solutions team provide digital innovation that really effects change. Meaningful digital experiences that can improve health outcomes and patient well-being exist at the intersection of these perspectives.

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