by Lydia Pineault

With 2020 just underway, we got together to make our top five predictions for the digital health industry in 2020. Will doctors be replaced by robots powered by AI? Will clinics be obsolete? Will your smartphone dispense medication?

Maybe those predictions are a little far-fetched, but what we do know is digital health is more prevalent than ever, with over $700 million spent on mobile health apps alone in 2019.

So let’s dive into predictions for 2020:

Patient Care Will Become More Human-Centric

There will continue to be widespread adoption of digital health solutions. These solutions will enhance patient connectivity and deliver evidence-based therapies to the patient wherever they are. We believe technology will become increasingly personalized through the use of AI and machine learning, which will lead to the retirement of the “one size fits all” model for digital care we have seen in the past. These software platforms, powered with mobile health apps, will augment the traditional healthcare delivery model by delivering context-aware care while reducing healthcare spending for chronic diseases.

Why is this important?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chronic disease accounts for approximately 75 percent of the nation’s aggregate health care spending – or an estimated $5,300 per person in the U.S. each year.  In terms of public insurance, the treatment of chronic disease constitutes an even more significant proportion of spending – 96 cents per dollar for Medicare and 83 cents per dollar for Medicaid (U.S. HHS).   Adherence to treatment will reduce the cost of chronic care!

Partnerships will Drive Digital Health Innovation + Coordination

As value-based care quickly becomes the new gold standard, the different facets of care will need to come together to deliver fully coordinated services. Gone will be the days of having five siloed applications to do five separate tasks. Provider organizations and health plans are going to be looking for comprehensive platforms that are interoperable across the continuum of care.  This demand for coordinated care will lead to healthcare and technology organizations forming partnerships to deliver a better quality of care, to more people, at a lower cost. API interfaces will become an essential feature of technology platforms that will allow for this interoperability and coordination of care.

Why is this important?

Early providers of digital health solutions often delivered single-purpose solutions such a texting, reminders, or health literacy for one specific condition.  Health organizations recognize that their populations have co-occurring conditions that must be addressed.  Technology companies acknowledge that patients are more likely to engage in self-directed care when they have one centralized system to satisfy their health needs.

Providers will Deliver Social Determinants of Health

It is now common knowledge that easy access to Social Determinants of Health (SDOH), such as housing, food access, and employment is crucial to a person’s overall health and well being.  Healthcare providers are in an ideal space to address these social needs with their patients, but are currently struggling to refer, follow-up, and track the outcome of these connections. We believe technology will close the loop and unite providers with community organizations. This year we will see geographic areas, including entire states, consolidating their SDOH resources into a single software system that will allow providers to streamline referrals and, most importantly, track the outcomes related to SDOH service providers.

Why is this important?

When providers can effectively treat the “whole-person,” they are setting their patients up for success in their treatment plan.  Addressing SDOH is not only crucial for improving overall health, but also for reducing health disparities that are often rooted in social and economic disadvantages. In short- this will be a game-changer for both providers and their patients.

Security will be Paramount

Patients have spoken, and they want increased security and access around their health data. As digital health continues to gain popularity, there will undoubtedly be increased scrutiny on the protection provided by these companies. Technology companies should be on high alert for security risks and should make sure to keep their audits up to date. Digital health platforms will give patients more control over what data is shared and with whom.

Why is this important?

Data can provide unparalleled insight, but it also carries its own set of risks. Companies operating in the healthcare space know this all too well. By staying vigilant in their data handling policies, companies can ensure their success for years to come. On the flip side, one data breach could be the end of a technology start-up in healthcare.

Reimbursement Codes Will Catch Up

Health Insurance providers both in the government sector and private sector will continue their work expanding codes to reimburse providers for services rendered through telehealth modalities. In 2019 we saw quite a few states pass parity laws and expand telehealth reimbursement laws to include urban areas, where before it was reserved exclusively for rural communities. We expect this to continue into 2020 as popularity and patient demand increase.   Telehealth will no longer be a second choice; it will emerge as a preferred option for care delivery and management.   We fully expect digital health to become a revenue generator for provider organizations and healthcare companies in 2020 through no-show reduction and improved care management.

Why is this important?

In the past, reimbursements were one of the top barriers to the success of digital health programs, with 60% of providers surveyed citing it as the top concern1.  With reimbursement for digital health services, healthcare providers can implement digital health solutions for their patients.

Onward and Upward

As we head into the new decade, one thing is for sure. Technology will continue to become a more significant in healthcare delivery and improve patient experience.  Innovations will change the way we view treatment options and how we engage with our care team.  The digital transformation of healthcare is well underway, and we at iTether Technologies, Inc, are actively engaged in creating what comes next!