Digital health, a disruption in constant evolution

16 December, 2019

 

Medicine is synonymous with evolution, history proves it. In the course of time this discipline has been able to adapt to the new paradigms and challenges that have arisen. Its progress has not only contributed to the cure of numerous health disorders and the prevention of diseases, but has also contributed to the improvement of people’s quality of life. A constant maxim that has been observed over the years.

However, digital disruption has been a breakthrough in the medical sector. Technology is revolutionizing medicine in such a way that health can no longer be achieved without a digital environment. New technological advances are accelerating changes in the sector like never before. Today we are accomplishing results that, until recently, we could not even imagine.

The new digital tools are changing the rules of the game and are doing so to everyone´s satisfaction. The fact is that the approach of the doctor to the patient, the reduction of waiting lists or innovative formulas in the treatment of diseases prove this. However, a revolution of this magnitude implies a profound reflection and the application of a foundation that support the framework of medicine that is about to arrive.

New challenges

We already know that the consequences of this technological revolution come along with innumerable changes that, slowly, will be applied to our daily lives, but where does this new digital medicine go?

  • Management systems and electronic medical records. We are talking about software that store fundamental data that later contribute to medical treatments. Thanks to this type of tool, a large part of the healthcare work can be digitized: the process is speeded up, errors are reduced and patient safety is guaranteed by allowing all the information about treatments to be available in one place. Our Lynx and ReHub solutions are good proof of this.
  • Artificial intelligence. These are machine learning and deep learning systems that use data and algorithms to provide new points of view to physicians in order to help them make decisions about diagnoses and treatments. Thus, AI is able to detect hidden patterns in data that are invaluable to physicians. Another of its benefits is that it reduces the time the doctor spends researching, leaving more time to deal with his patients.
  • Internet of things. The availability of connected medical devices leads to a range of improvements. This is the case of the intensive use of cloud solutions (safe, cheaper and easily accessible storage of medical records), the democratization of data (all parties can participate in the process), remote monitoring or the practical application of Big Data.
  • 3D Prototyping. The potential of healthcare printing is so great that it is already being applied directly in many cases. Today, thanks to 3D printing, bio models are already being produced that are used to test surgical interventions. Another example is the manufacture of customized implants, already applied for example to dental pieces.

The World Health Organization, Let’s Get to Work

We already know that technological advances in health are walking in giant strides. That’s why the World Health Organization has convened global experts to help shape a roadmap for advancing the digital health ecosystem. Thus, the WHO Digital Health Technical Advisory Group has recently met with the aim of laying the groundwork for digital health in the present and the near future. They have focused their efforts on discussing data management, the ethical and equitable use of digital technologies or how to help communities benefit from digital health solutions.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said: “The agreed action plan focuses our efforts on helping the world benefit from digital health technologies and solutions, while protecting the misuse of people’s data and protecting their health”.

For his part, Bernardo Mariano, director of the Department of Health and Digital Innovation at WHO, said: “WHO continues to demonstrate its strong commitment to harnessing the power of digital technologies and data to address the world’s most pressing health challenges through the launch of this new Digital Health Technical Advisory Group”.

With this, the agreed action plan will work on the following issues:

  • Develop a global framework for WHO to validate, implement and expand digital health technology and solutions.
  • Recommendations for the safe and ethical use of digital technologies to strengthen national health systems by improving the quality and coverage of care and increasing access to health information.
  • Advice on advocacy and partnership models to accelerate the use of digital health capabilities in countries to achieve better health outcomes.
  • Advice on emerging digital health technologies with global reach and impact, so that no one is left behind.

European Patient Innovation Summit (EPIS): analysis and debate on new technologies applied to the world of health

In the fourth edition of the European Patient Innovation Summit (EPIS), more than 300 patient organizations from across Europe, together with digital health experts, discuss how to optimize the application of new technologies to healthcare. The result of the analysis of the revolution that digital health applications and tools represent for healthcare and for the quality of life of patients leads to 9 major blocks of tools and applications implemented in the world of health:

  • Digital or portable platforms that facilitate the collection of data on different aspects of health, including quality of life and symptoms experienced.
  • Digital platforms where patients can consult a doctor or psychologist online and be followed up via SMS or email.
  • Systems that allow patients to make an appointment online with hospitals and specialists. It also renews the prescriptions so that these reach the local pharmacy directly via online.
  • Digital communities of patients that allow them to share information, have a better understanding of their pathology and find support among them.

  • Applications that help patients schedule their medication, set reminders to take this medication, and inform when a prescription refill is needed. At the same time, inform them if there is an interaction between their medications.
  • Intelligent algorithms (artificial intelligence), text or voice-based interfaces (chatbots) that can provide information to patients, assist in triage of the problems the patient is experiencing and provide initial advice and support to manage a problem.
  • Electronic health record (EHR), or an electronic medical record (EMR), a systematized collection of digital health information about patients.
  • Educational tools, including games (gamification), that help to empower patient
  • Smart devices that help patients manage their disability and live as independent a life as possible.

The compilation of the analysis and responses from the meeting will become a scientifically valid position paper in the coming months. This work should serve to consolidate and disseminate the vision that patient groups throughout Europe have of the new technologies applied to the world of health and submit their proposals on the subject.

Present and future of eHealth

We can conclude that technology applied to medicine is present and future and that progress in this field is unstoppable. Digital solutions in the healthcare environment entails a greater involvement of the patient in the management of their health and in decision making with the help of a professional, while at the same time there is a closer relationship between the healthcare staff and the patient. The use of digital tools is becoming more and more frequent and the digital future of medicine is projected at the service of the patient.