Digital health does not replace a visit to the doctor

  • Digital health is one of the hottest spaces for investment, with companies raising $1.6 billion in venture capital in the first quarter of 2018.
  • Digital health companies are getting really good at screening populations of people for health problems before they develop into serious medical issues, but they struggle to get patients into their doctor.
  • Medical experts say that digital health can’t do much for users that are already sick, or at high risk of a serious medical condition.

The hype on “digital health” is still climbing and more VC firms seem willing to pour a lot of money into startups.  But “digital health companies need to get inside the clinic or hospital through partnerships or new products, rather than just focusing on the experience outside of traditional health care” according to a report via CNBC.

What do physicians think about digital health?  Here are some top-line findings that I have found via research..

1ne: Digital health should be considered tools not a replacement for the qualified treatment via a good HCP.

2wo: If digital health can help patients manage their health, then they are for it, but they want clinical proof that patients are using them as directed and that they provide meaningful, accurate feedback.

3hree: Even when patients use digital health tools HCP’s are still more likely to order tests to determine if the data is accurate.  They will NOT diagnose and treat from a digital health tool.

4our: Physicians see digital health as a way for patients to help monitor their health and want to make sure they are not used as a replacement.  An app can never replace a doctor – at best it can only supplement one.

From a patients POV health apps might seem like a good idea, but the territory is uncharted and many digital health interventions don’t provide a good user experience.

What’s missing?

1: Mobile health interventions that are studied in patient populations.

2: Clinical results that are communicated to HCP’s that show they result in better patient outcomes.

3: User studies on digital health, including easy to use instructions with health content that’s easy to follow.

Will we get there?  Yes, if pharma and technology companies can integrate and if that integration doesn’t result in tech companies walking away because of the slow culture within pharma.  Still, I expect trailblazers to start appearing, but before then a lot of money is going to be wasted.