30 Mar Digital Health
Posted By: Stephanie Bouzounis, Senior Communications Specialist
Technology and health care have converged in the 21st century under the umbrella of what is known as digital health.
What is digital health?
The 21st century has seen the convergence of science and technology. This has resulted in the development of digital health devices, such as the FitBit, that can track and characterize health. Smart phones, social networks, and Internet apps which have transformed communication have provided innovative ways to monitor health, well-being, and access to information. Mayo Clinic physicians, in a paper titled, “Digital Health Interventions for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis”, discussed that digital health interventions include such things as telemedicine, web-based strategies, email, mobile apps, and text messaging. Moreover, diagnostic instruments such as handheld ultrasounds, for instance, fall into the digital health category. The FDA also includes mobile health and health information technology in this category.
What can you do with digital health?
Some studies have suggested a positive effect of digital health on certain behaviors such as weight loss, smoking cessation, and behavior patterns (mental health). According to the FDA, providers and stakeholders use digital health to reduce inefficiencies, improve access to care, reduce costs, increase quality, and personalize medicine. In an article in the European Heart Journal titled “Mobile technology and the digitization of healthcare”, the authors noted that mHealth, which is defined as mobile health, is classified into five categories: health apps, smartphone connected devices, wearables and wireless devices, handheld imaging platforms, and mini sensor-based technologies. Conditions from hypertension and diabetes, to medication monitoring, have seen positive improvements. For example, when patients self-measure blood pressure or glucose level with a mobile device, systolic blood pressure was reduced 3-9 mmHg and glycemic control had a mean reduction in HbA1c of 0.1-0.3%. The positive outcomes seen with digital health, however, are best realized with pairing patients who understand nuances of technology with the appropriate devices or apps.
Cybersecurity Risk in Digital Health
The ability to track one’s health progress or access health records remotely with an app is exciting and empowering, however, the adoption of proper security measures is slow moving. The threat to personal health information, or PHI, is increasing. Illegally obtained healthcare data has the highest cost per capita ($363 per record) of any industry. Moreover, healthcare data breaches cost $2.1 million to repair. A report by Verizon cites 58% of incidents in healthcare were caused by internal players. Part of these incidents included publishing sensitive data on public websites and accidental delivery of information by email. The FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) Digital Health Innovation Action Plan (DHIAP) is a step in the right direction. One of the initiatives listed will be to hire staff with software development and cybersecurity skills to oversee risks to new devices coming down the pipeline. Accenture advises health care providers and businesses on efforts that can be made including:
Assess current security capabilities and IT weaknesses,
Manage complexity and integrate the enterprise,
Become agile – embrace the cloud and other emerging technologies,
Accelerate toward security intelligence by developing threat-centric operations, and
Develop end-to-end delivery and sourcing.
As technology continues to evolve and privacy becomes an ever-increasing concern, businesses, start-ups, and health care providers should consider revising and strengthening security efforts, especially if compliance with HIPAA is paramount.
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For additional reading about cybersecurity threats in the medical device space, check out these blogs on our website: