Updated on 27 August 2014
Mr Michael Emerson, CEO and founder, Hunhu Healthcare, USA
Digital Health has gained legitimacy and achieved record growth over the past few years. Most industry pundits forecast this growth to continue for at least the next ten years. One recent study estimated the global demand for clinic monitoring devices and integrated solutions to grow from $372 million last year to $16 billion in 2023. While consumer devices will also experience strong growth, they are not expected to keep up with their companions in the healthcare side of the industry.
Amidst all the hype, there is increasing demand for results and measurable value to both the customer and shareholder. For example, dozens of companies have attacked the problem of medical adherence - it is a huge loss for the lifescience industry, and expensive for payers who have to pay for care that is sub-optimal. Unfortunately, many of these solutions have also come up short. We have put ourselves in the position of paying for a solution that does not work, but also fix a problem that is caused by something that already does not work. At times, we have only added another layer of expense on top of patient failure.
We have already passed the age of stand-alone health apps. The era where companies could build a product for Rs 50K and market it on the iTunes store is totally gone. The next stage of development, the connected app, which connects a mobile app to a database or system on the back end has now started to fade away as well. We are now entering the third phase of digital health which is dominated by Integrated Health Platforms and the era of Big Data, and Internet of Things. Integrated Health Platforms By far the biggest change in the digital health landscape has been the arrival of technology giants Apple and Google, both of which are trying to establish themselves as individual healthcare platforms. Ironically, this is a path that Microsoft tried to go down with its Health Vault product over the past five years with limited success. One additional bit of complexity is that Google's primary hardware partner in the mobile space is Samsung that has it's own aspirations to build a health platform. Anyone building wearables will ultimately have to fit into one of these ecosystems. Apple in particular likes to demand loyalty in return for any type of close alliance.
Also of note, is the direction of the industry towards an integration between mobile health world and the traditional world of health systems. When Apple made its major announcement last month in health space, it included that they would be partnering with major players in the health technology space (Epic software) as well as Mayo Clinic, the most well-known brand in the US health landscape. This announcement let the world know that the collection of data using wearables can no longer be kept separate from the systems that track health, which are used by hospitals, health systems, and government health systems. Ironically, Asian health care systems, such as the one under development in Singapore, have already moved to this next level of integration.