Roundup: Predictions for digital health in 2013

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 3, 2013        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsAs the new year kicks off so, too, do the predictions for mobile and digital health. Pundits ranging from physician consultants and startup CEOs to investors and research analysts were busy last month assembling a wide array of predictions and trends lists for the coming year. Below is MobiHealthNews’ roundup of some of the best:

At a recent conference organized by The Economist, venture capitalist Esther Dyson and FutureMed Executive Director Dr. Daniel Kraft shared some of their thoughts on the state of health and healthcare in 2013. Dyson said that the healthcare system may undergo some changes thanks to changing reimbursement policies but that no dramatic changes should be expected. The real “exciting and dramatic” change will come in what Dyson called “the market for good health”, where user-generated data (quantified self) is a leading trend.

Kraft offered up a number of predictions for 2013 including the rise of inexpensive smart devices like the $35 tablet recently developed in India. Kraft believes physicians will soon begin giving devices like that one away to patients along with prescribed apps that leverage gaming elements to increase patient engagement. Kraft also noted that the fact that we can visit with physicians through our smartphones now is an offering that is going to evolve quickly in 2013.

Research firm InMedica circulated its top ten trends to watch in healthcare for 2013 and digital and mobile health are featured in at least three of them. As we reported recently, InMedica predicts the overall remote patient monitoring market to increase a whopping 55 percent this year, but the firm also expects that casual everyday use activity monitors will overtake high performance heart rate monitors as the most popular kind of wearable device. InMedica also expects to see continued uptake of wireless connectivity in X-ray technology and other medical devices used in healthcare facilities.

In its year-end webinar Manhattan Research said that those looking to develop content for physicians were beginning to pivot from a device-specific strategy to a platform strategy. The research firm said many of its clients were less focused on creating individual apps for individual devices and more about creating personalized services that store most of the information in the cloud. This leads to services that are “optimized across screen flow” since physicians are using smartphones, tablets, and PCs now. Manhattan also shared key metrics that it published during 2012: 85 percent of US physicians are now using mobile devices at work and 39 percent of physicians are communicating with patients via some kind of digital channel.

The Wall Street Journal’s technology columnist Walt Mossberg pointed to the growing number of health and fitness tracking devices that launched in 2012 and made a rather safe bet that more are likely this year: “I expect this trend to continue in 2013, in different forms and with more sophisticated sensors,” he wrote before citing Basis as an example.

Digital health consultant and Happtique app certification panel chairman Dr. David Lee Scher cast his vote for five likely developments set for 2013. Scher predicted that the development of digital health tools will become more collaborative globally; that final regulatory guidelines for mobile medical apps will be published; that meaningful use stage two will bring about more patient portals; that efficacy studies for digital health tools will accelerate; and that new digital health business models will emerge.

Forbes’ contributor and Ogilvy CommonHealth exec John Nosta offers up his top ten drivers for the rise of digital health in 2013 and includes high level predictions from Misfit Wearables’ Sonny Vu, Scripps Health’s Dr. Eric Topol, former Apple CEO John Sculley and Scanadu’s Walter de Brouwer. Nosta argues that 2013 is the year for digital health thanks to explosive new technology, the Affordable Care Act, “the caldron of connectivity”, the “power of cool”, the rise of the quantified self movement, pharma’s search for new meaning, big data and EMRs, the financial opportunity, the quality of people working in digital health, and the moral imperative.

Reports in The Wall Street JournalThe New York Post, and Fast Company all point to the rise of new smartphone-enabled, medical peripheral devices as a clear trend that will shape medicine in the coming year and beyond. Many of these innovations are presented in the context of the Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize, but the category includes many more point solutions than the all-in-one device that the prize hopes to encourage. Bradley Kreit, a director at the Institute for the Future, wrote in Fast Company that “by all indications, 2013 will mark the emergence of a much more sophisticated set of tools for people to track–and diagnose–their own health problems.”

Business Insider posted a video interview with Dr. Mehmet Oz, the TV personality, that included some of his predictions for digital health. Dr. Oz said the car would become a “mobile examination suite” for patients that can measure a number of biometrics and deliver care. He also said that malls should all include automated kiosks that can diagnose a variety of conditions and diseases.

Meanwhile, Government Health IT keeps it simple with four solid but not at all controversial health IT areas to watch in 2013: Patient engagement, data, payment reform (ACOs), and meaningful use.

Forbes contributor David Shaywitz continues to stand out from the pack by writing some of the most substantial columns on digital health. These two recent ones are not to be missed: Three Tensions in Medical Innovation to Watch in 2013 and Turning Information into Impact: Digital Health’s Long Road Ahead (co-written by healthcare consultant Tory Wolff).

What trends and predictions do you have for the year ahead?