Digital Health 101: Understanding Digital Health

The technologies that pervade most aspects of our daily lives are also helping us find new ways to feel better for less, provide new insights on how and when to seek care, and more importantly understand what it means to be a health care consumer. Digital health represents the convergence of medicine, health, information and technology. It’s a growing industry that spurs new health care innovations every day, thanks to smartphones and devices.

Digital Health innovations coupled with the ubiquity of smartphones are powering a truly consumer-driven health care economy, one that is reshaping old ways of thinking and doing. For example, whether you’re managing a chronic condition, caring for a sick child or training for a marathon, digital health tools empower you to track, diagnose, manage, and improve your overall health and well-being, including how to choose and access health care services. Digital health promotes self-health and self-care. It was born out of necessity and made possible through advancements in technology and medicine, leading to better informed and enabled patients.

 

Chief Medical Officer (CMO): The Patient’s New Role in Health Care 2.0

Patients are said to be the most underutilized resource in health care. Yet doctors have been very uncomfortable with patients taking control of the conversation and presenting information they’ve found on the Internet.

Most of us have Googled our symptoms in hopes of finding a diagnosis. And every day, millions of people track their fitness goals using wearable devices. Patients, empowered by digital technologies, are changing healthcare to fit their own ideas and preferences. They’ve become their own chief medical officers (CMOs) and challenge the traditional doctor-patient relationship by redefining the patient role in clinical settings. Responsibilities of the CMO include:

  • Self-information
  • Self-monitoring
  • Self-diagnosis
  • Self-repair

Digital health promotes patient engagement. It encourages learning and resourcefulness, and enables patients to take an active role in managing their health. More than just health care, patients are evaluating everything from food ingredients and genetic predispositions, to environmental factors and the nature of their interpersonal relationships—all in an effort to optimize their health and well-being.

Still, the concept of digital health is a bit abstract, even futuristic to some, especially when you consider virtual doctor visits or genomics. Why? Perhaps it stems from medical paternalism—doctors shaking their heads when we tell them we’ve Googled our symptoms and have a pretty good idea of what we think will help us feel better. Though some find digital health abstract, a growing number of consumers look to digital health for relief from the rising cost of healthcare.

 

Overcoming Healthcare’s Biggest Challenges: Cost and Access

The high cost of health care is prompting both employers and employees to look for ways to offset out-of-pocket costs. An overlooked digital health solution is Telehealth, which is changing the way people seek and get medical information, diagnoses and prescriptions.

Telehealth, or virtual doctor consultations, provides direct access to a physician 24x7x365 and can take place by text, phone, email or video. Telehealth consultations are alternatives for non-emergency treatment and visits to a primary care physician. It provides instant access to a doctor and can often eliminate visits to a primary care doctor, urgent care center or ER, as well as avoiding the cost of these in-person visits.

Employers can offer Telehealth benefits to their entire workforce, and your plan design can be structured based on the employee population you aim to support.

  • All employees in an organization—those who are eligible for group benefits and those who are not—can access and benefit from Telehealth.
  • Telehealth can be bundled into group medical insurance coverage, offered as a stand-alone employer-sponsored voluntary benefit or a 100% employee paid subscription.
  • Telehealth can be fully funded by the employer or subsidized in part, but in many cases, the employee covers the cost, as there are established offerings in both the consumer and Medicare markets.
  • For employees who can't afford to pay the premium for group benefits, or who are part-time, Telehealth can give them and their families access to lower cost care.

Today, we have greater access to medical information and the tools necessary to prevent illness and stay healthy. Digital health represents a massive opportunity to integrate medical information and new tools into employee wellness and employer-sponsored benefits programs with the goal of providing more personalized health and wellness plans, while containing health care spending for employers and employees alike.

Learn how easy it is to offer digital health to improve employee health and your bottom line.