Today we deliver healthcare to patients. Yet, the future of healthcare is working with people and populations to manage their health to stay well. Healthcare of the future creates the conditions for provider teams to enter into a partnership with their patients, using technology to meaningfully connect people to providers, making it possible for them to be in control of their own health and wellness journey. This is a major shift towards a digital health ecosystem approach that connects and empowers people and populations to manage their own health and wellness.

Digital healthcare doesn’t mean telemedicine. Digital healthcare refers to everything relating to the digitization of healthcare and medicine, whereas Telemedicine is just one element of Digital Healthcare, more specifically, providing patients with the opportunity to take part in a real-time virtual consultation with healthcare practitioners.

Digital healthcare, is a broad, multidisciplinary concept that includes concepts from an intersection between technology and healthcare. Digital health applies digital transformation to the healthcare field, incorporating software, hardware and services. Under its umbrella, digital health includes mobile health (mHealth) apps, electronic health records (EHRs), electronic medical records (EMRs), wearable devices, telehealth and telemedicine, as well as personalized medicine.

The application of information and communications technology to provide digital health interventions to prevent disease and improve quality of life isn’t a new concept. However, in the face of global concerns—related to ageing, child illness and mortality, epidemics and pandemics, high costs, and the effects of poverty and racial discrimination on access to healthcare—digital health platforms, health systems and related technology continue to grow in importance and to evolve.

According to Deloitte Insights, digital health employs more than just technologies and tools; it also views “radically interoperable data, artificial intelligence (AI), and open, secure platforms as central to the promise of more consumer-focused, prevention-oriented care.”

Advances in AI, big data, robotics and machine learning continue to bring about major changes in digital healthcare. Also, alternations in the digital healthcare landscape continue developments in ingestible sensors, robotic caregivers, and devices and apps to monitor patients remotely. Digital healthcare innovations are designed to help save time, boost accuracy and efficiency, and combine technologies in ways that are new to healthcare.

Another significant application is blockchain-based EMRs, which aim to reduce the time needed to access patient information while improving data quality and interoperability. Blockchain’s benefits—access security, data privacy and scalability—are attractive in digital healthcare.

The digitization of health information led to the rise of healthcare big data. The emergence of value-based care also contributes to the emergence of healthcare big data by spurring the industry to employ data analytics to make informed business decisions.

By analyzing patient records, the software can find inconsistencies between a patient’s health and prescriptions and then notify health professionals and patients of a potential medication error. A large volume of recurring patients flocks to emergency rooms. Using big data analysis can help identify this type of patient and develop preventive plans to keep them from returning.

According to one recent report, the global digital healthcare market is projected to grow from an estimated $147bn in 2019 to $234.5bn in 2023. Much of this growth is being driven by the urgent need to innovate in chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, mental illness, heart disease and respiratory disease. Approximately half of all adults worldwide today are living with a chronic condition, and global spending on chronic conditions is projected to reach a healthcare- system bankrupting $47trn by 2030.

Doctors also can benefit from advances in digital healthcare. Digital tools give doctors an extensive view of patient health by significantly increasing access to health data and giving patients greater control over their health. The result is increased efficiency and improved medical outcomes.

Digital healthcare has the potential to prevent disease and lower healthcare costs while helping patients monitor and manage chronic conditions. It can also tailor medicine for individual patients. However, there are some challenges too.

Due to the massive amounts of data collected from a variety of systems that store and code data differently, data interoperability is an ongoing challenge. Additional challenges relate to concerns ranging from digital literacy among patients and the resulting unequal access to healthcare to issues related to data storage, access, sharing and ownership.

Additional concerns relate to technology and ethics. For example, when medical robots are used, who is responsible for mistakes made during surgery: the hospital, the technology developer or manufacturer, the doctor who used the robot or someone else?

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