Digital health is coming together of technology and healthcare. Applications include improving the efficiency of healthcare provision, sharing of information and achieving more personalized care. By addressing the challenges that patients and healthcare professionals face on a daily basis, digital health has the potential to transform the way patients engage with services and manage their health and wellbeing.
What does digital health mean for Pharmacy?
It feels we are just beginning to scratch the surface, with room left for further innovations. The pharmacy profession, in particular, has the opportunity to grow significantly, especially in the community setting whereby pharmacists could use these tools to extend their real-world patient relationships into the digital landscape. Moreover, deploying these digital health tools in a community pharmacy, an incredibly competitive marketplace, could help drive both prescription sales and efficiency. Pharmacists have the potential to be the hub that both supports and enables patients to be more engaged, which would, in turn, help healthcare providers be more “proactive and prepared”.
Digital health today
Here is a quick overview of some key innovations in digital health:
Mobile health works by collecting a patient’s data during their everyday life. It provides doctors with the unique opportunity to observe how a patient reacts outside of a clinical environment, something they would never be able to achieve through traditional time slots and clinical evaluations.
Real-time telemedicine allows patients and clinicians to hear and see each other using videoconferencing. Some progress has also been made in the field of ‘telepharmacy’ where videoconferencing has enabled prescriptions to be clinically checked at different departments by a pharmacist working in a single dispensary.
This is a huge database of information that can be used to overcome a number of challenges, such as determining the best possible treatment for an individual. For example, a patient of a particular age, with certain blood pressure, can receive the treatment that is most suitable for them. With the advent of genetic medicine, pharmacists will need to keep up to date with the latest scientific findings around precision medicine as well as educating patients on these drugs.
Digital health can be good for business
Being involved in digital health is not just good for patients and the health system, it also makes good business sense for pharmacies. In addition to the revenues from selling the next generation of data-connected glucometers, weigh scales and fitness trackers, pharmacies can also deploy digital health tools to increase both prescription sales and store efficiencies. For example, pharmacies are now starting to launch portals that allow their customers to perform simple but valuable tasks, such as requesting refills anytime, anywhere using any mobile device, or accessing information about their medications or health conditions.
Pharmacies can then layer on more functionality and provide richer value to customers, such as automatically uploading data from customers’ fitness trackers, glucometers, weight scales or health apps, to provide one consolidated view, over time, of health indicators and medication histories. Add in the ability to book pharmacist consultations online, and pharmacies can increase customer engagement, provide unique customer experience, and lock them into the pharmacy ecosystem.
Retail banks in Canada have been especially active and successful with this type of strategy, investing heavily in providing Canadians with online and mobile access to a wide suite of banking services. This has contributed to unprecedented levels of customer loyalty, decreasing switching rates from 15% to 5% over the last five years. The uptake of digital health apps and devices is a key opportunity for pharmacists to evolve their role to that of Digital Health Coach, leading to healthier bottom lines and healthier Canadians.
Impact of Digital Health on the Pharmaceutical Industry
Digital Health will transform the business models of the Pharmaceutical industry. Although many companies have not yet formulated a concise Digital Health strategy, industry executives expect that by 2020, Digital Health will enable Pharmaceutical companies to activate new business segments as well as to significantly improve their competitive advantage. This is the result of a global survey1 conducted in the Pharmaceutical industry by Arthur D. Little and the Karlsruher Institute of Technology (KIT) to capture the current thinking and the expectations regarding the transformative impact of Digital Health.
By 2020 the business model of the pharmaceutical industry will be reshaped by Digital Health: n 84% of study participants consider it crucial to have a Digital Health strategy in 2020, compared to 13% who believe it is already crucial today n Whereas Digital Health programs are today still in an evaluation and piloting phase, 73% of participants are sure those programs will be implemented by 2020 n 77% believe Digital Health will generate new business by 2020, and 94% believe it will either extend the existing value proposition (37%) or even invent a new value proposition for the Pharmaceutical industry (57%) n Consequently, all participants believe Digital Health will have an important (27%) or even crucial impact (73%) for the competitive advantage of their Pharmaceutical companies The highlighted findings show that the majority of executives and senior managers have understood the value and business potential behind Digital Health and its concepts.
Successful implementation of Digital Health strategies will result in transformation across four main areas: organizational prioritization, customer focus, enlargement of capabilities and uncertainty of revenue streams. As key external drivers participants identified the increasing health awareness of consumers, technology progress and the expectation to reduce healthcare costs. Those aspects are supported by an increased desire for integrated systems in a new world of open innovation.
Emergence of digital technologies
The global healthcare industry has seen a transformation over the last decade, which has been driven by advances in biopharmaceuticals, medical technology and surgical procedures. Over the next decade, we will see even more dramatic changes, resulting from factors such as advances in genetics, cell and tissue techniques; interventional medical technologies; neuroengineering; intelligent prosthetics; and improved imaging technologies. We are in the middle of a paradigm shift. Digital Health applications in integrated healthcare offerings and information and communication technologies, which can tap into the full potential of big data analytics, will transform the way we think about healthcare.