What is Digital Health?
Although there’s no universal definition, it’s safe to say that ‘digital health’ describes the intersection of technology and healthcare, a confluence rapidly changing the face of healthcare.
Digital health surrounds us. We wear devices on our wrists that monitor heartbeat, blood pressure, sleep cycle, calorie intake. We feed this data into apps to chart our progress. Some of us even provide our doctors with this information as part of our annual check-ups.
Yet such apps merely scratch the surface.
Did you know Google has an algorithm that can predict your cardiovascular risk by taking scans of the back of your eye? That may sound like something out of a science fiction movie, but it also highlights how digital health is becoming the new frontier of medical care.
Digital health is still an emerging industry, but it’s important to know exactly what it means for our future. It won’t just transform the health care industry – it will change the way we live.
Let’s take a closer look.
New technology, new opportunities
According to Paul Sonnier, author of The Fourth Wave: Digital Health:
Digital health is empowering us to better track, manage and improve our own and our family’s health, live better, more productive lives, and improve society. It’s also helping to reduce inefficiencies in healthcare delivery, improve access, reduce costs, increase quality and make medicine more personalised and precise.
In short, digital health allows us to accurately monitor our health and well-being, while also helping medical professionals diagnose and care for their patients, leading to much-improved patient outcomes.
In the near future, a database might exist of entire medical histories. Smart phones will be able to instantly upload up-to-the second readings of our recent vital signs to the doctor’s tablet. When you fall ill, the doctor might ask for your approval to access to your family medical history. If you give your consent, the doctor will use your medical records and recent health information to run a brief check-up. She’ll then load the results into a diagnostic computing tool.
Thirty seconds later, you’ll receive your diagnosis. Medicine is prescribed. You’ll take the it and the illness will be alleviated within days.
Welcome to tomorrow… today
As processing power, smart phones, computers, social media, artificial intelligence and data technology continue to advance, this scenario is becoming a reality. It may even surpass our expectations. When it comes to technology’s role in shaping the patient care of tomorrow, the possibilities are endless.
But digital health isn’t solely about having a centralised database of your medical records.
Think of it more as the synergy between technology and the healthcare industry. An up-to-the minute example of this is Ournotes, a healthcare trend that will allow patients, caregivers and providers to jointly create clinical notes and care plans within their own electronic health records.
At La Trobe University, we’re at the forefront of digital health, developing a full suite of innovative digital health projects. These include:
- Telehealth software to treat stuttering in preschool children and memory rehabilitation in stroke victims.
- An asthma symptoms app to identify asthma risk and prevention.
- A healthcare app to improve communication and healthcare outcomes for post-stroke patients suffering from communication disability.
- An app to measure drinking in remote communities developed in collaboration with Aboriginal health services.
- Exploring the use of social media to combat social isolation.
- Data-driven prediction of patient demand.
- Extensive cybersecurity expertise, typified by the appointment of Professor Jill Slay, our new Chair of Cybersecurity.
Here’s to the future
With the way things are changing, it’s difficult to predict exactly what digital health will look like in the next decade or so. What we’re reasonably sure about is this: by 2025, the term ‘digital health’ will likely be redundant. Instead, we’ll simply be referring to ‘health’, with digital capabilities embedded as a matter of course.
What won’t change is this: as digital health flourishes, healthcare technology specialists will be in demand like never before.
Interested in becoming a digital health trailblazer? Enrol in one of our leading-edge Digital Health courses:
- Master of Healthcare Analytics
- Graduate Certificate in Healthcare Analytics
- Graduate Certificate in Digital Health
- Graduate Certificate in Digital Health for Clinical Practice
- Graduate Certificate in Health Data Integrity and Auditing