Welcome to Digital Health Briefing, a new morning email providing the latest news, data, and insight on how digital technology is disrupting the healthcare ecosystem, produced by BI Intelligence.
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TELEHEALTH RESTRICTIONS LOOSENED AFTER TRUMP REQUEST: Restrictions on telehealth services are being loosened after acting Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Eric D. Hargan declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency at the request of US President Donald Trump. HHS stated that it would expand access to telemedicine services on addiction treatment, which includes remote prescribing of medicines commonly used to treat substance abuse or mental health. Telemedicine, a part of telehealth, relates to the use of telecommunications for remote diagnosis and treatment of patients.
The HHS is likely hoping that the expansion of telemedicine access will help address existing limits in health care that are making it more difficult to combat the opioid epidemic. Telemedicine could help overcome these barriers in a number of ways:
- Improving access to prevention, treatment, and recovery support services. Telehealth gives patients in rural and remote areas access to treatments and support services that they may otherwise be unable to take advantage of. In some cases, this might include remote prescription fulfillment and diagnoses for addiction.
- Strengthening health data collection and sharing.Telehealth simplifies data collection from patients and sharing between facilities and research centres. This data can be used to improve research and treatment. In a 2017 survey of medical professionals, the ability to send clinical documentation via telemedicine technologies was rated as critical or valuable by 80% of respondents, according to REACH Health.
If telemedicine is successful in solving existing shortcomings in the healthcare industry, we could see an acceleration of telemedicine-related regulations. This could help drive adoption of the technology in the US. The US telemedicine market is projected to grow at an annualized rate of 6% over the next three years to reach almost $US7 billion in value by 2020, according to Orbis research.
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AI-POWERED HEALTH APP RAISES $US47 MILLION IN LATEST FUNDING ROUND: Ada Health, a Berlin-based artificial intelligence (AI) health app, raised 40 million euros ($US47 million) in its latest round of funding led by Access Industries. Ada Health is one of the fastest growing medical apps of 2017, TechCrunch reports, and has already been used by more than 1.5 million people since launching in late 2016. The app works by having its AI, called “Ada,” ask a series of personalised questions about the user’s ailments in order to provide the user with a list of possible causes of their symptoms. It then connects the user with real-world doctors. The company plans to use the funding to improve the functionality of its app, onboard new hires, and expand its footprint in the US with a new office. AI-powered health management solutions, such as Ada, will become increasingly popular with consumers as the experience is fine-tuned and awareness of these services grow. The health intelligent virtual assistant market is projected to grow at an annualized rate of 31% between 2017 and 2024 to exceed $US1.5 billion in value by the end of the forecast period, according to Global Market Insights.
5G WILL HAVE A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON HEALTH CARE INDUSTRY: The rollout of 5G will be a significant driver of growth in the health care sector, enabling more than $US1 trillion in sales globally by 2035, according to a Qualcomm report conducted by IHS Markit. The higher speeds of 5G networks — possibly up to 12 times faster than 4G LTE — will be able to support devices that are beyond the capabilities of existing tech, such as remote surgery, high-fidelity virtual reality, and more reliable IoT for use in hospitals. Outside of the monetary impact of 5G, the network standard will also help usher in a new era of “personalised health care,” in which massive volumes of patient data can be used to develop predictive analytics which can then be tailored to an individual patient and their illness.
POLAR OPENS PLATFORM TO THIRD-PARTY DEVELOPERS:Sports technology company, Polar Electro, announced that it will open its application programming interface (API) to third-party developers to build apps that use Polar data, according to Wareable. The API gives any user with a Polar Flow account access to training and daily activity data from Polar’s smartwatch and fitness trackers. However, Polar device users need to give permission before their data can be accessed. Health and fitness data is valuable in part because it’s a verifiable measurement of patient/customer behaviour. Insurers can use health data to reward customers engaging in good behaviours that maintain a healthy lifestyle. That can save these companies on costs associated with chronic illnesses. More generally, remote monitoring for congestive heart failure patients alone could save up to $US10 billion in the US each year for invested healthcare businesses, Deloitte estimates. Insurers are already offering incentives to encourage consumers to provide access to their health and fitness data. US health insurer, Aetna began offering a discount on Apple Watches to its employees in September 2016, for example. Moreover, 63% of insurance companies believe that wearable technologies will be adopted broadly by the insurance industry within the next two years, according to a 2015 Accenture survey.
These incentives could be offered in form of discounts for Polar devices as well.
MINTHEALTH ANNOUNCEMENT:Last week, MintHealth announced the launch of a personal health data record that aims to give patients ownership of their health data and oversees permissions to it, according to MobiHealthNews. The platform will use blockchain technology, to provide individuals with a global identifier, which they can use to access their health data in real-time through a mobile or web app. The technology also allows any healthcare provider to access a patient’s data, once the patient has given them permission. MintHealth is aimed at helping solve the issue of interoperability of electronic health records (EHR) between patients, insurers, and medical professionals, which can cause treatment bottlenecks. A survey by eHealth Initiative of provider organisations and health insurance exchange businesses found that 71% of participants said strong interoperability is a key IT requirement for a successful transition to value-based care, while 68% of those surveyed said that current interoperability solutions in the market are not meeting their needs. MintHealth plans to drive usage by selling digital tokens, or “vidaments,” to participating health insurers, which can then be offered to customers for practicing healthy behaviours. Customers can use vidaments to pay for healthcare-related costs such as co-pays, premiums, and pharmacy expenses.