The digital health canard

UnknownKEY TAKEAWAY: Digital health is part of the overall health experience, but to believe that patients are going to use digital health to circumvent their physician is not founded in reality.

In the 15 years I have been involved or leading market research one aspect has remained constant; patients trust their physicians when it comes to recommending treatment options.  They may go online to become better informed about health problems, but the key area that they want improved, when it comes to health, is to be seen as a person, not just another patient.

The digital health investment fund Rock Health polled a room full of health tech investors at a recent event, and got a surprising response to a simple question:“Are private digital health companies over-valued right now?”Most of the investors in the room thought that indeed they are. Sixty-two percent of them, to be exact.


So why is there is so much talk about digital health? Two reasons, first, because everyone with a hairbrain idea is out trying to get money and second, because nobody wants to get left behind if someone should stumble on the next big idea.

There is also a danger with digital health.  Consulting a doctor via a computer or mobile device could lead to misdiagnosis.  It’s important for doctors to meet with patients and ask questions based on what they see and what they don’t see. This is the idea of treating the whole patient is not new and better doctors understand this is an essential part of health care.

The opportunities in digital health is in the use of technology to help us monitor our health, but again caution is needed to ensure people don’t self diagnose making small health problems potentially bigger health problems.


Opportunities for Pharma?

To get digital health right pharma companies are going to have to do a lot of investment and experimentation at a time when cheap money is leading to mergers and acquisitions. The first step is to define the goal of digital health and then test possible solutions while continually refining platforms.  To say that pharma is ill prepared would be an understatement.

The solution for pharma is not cost-cutting. The cure is for pharma to innovate its way out of its current predicament of being last to the table in digital marketing.  Until then, let’s remember that 95% of the “buzz” around digital health is pure bull.