Healthware’s Digital Health Top 10 trends for 2016

by Roberto Ascione

Healthware’s Digital Health Top 10 trends for 2016
Healthware’s Digital Health Top 10 trends for 2016

Since launching Healthware in 1996, we have consistently blazed through the leading edge of technology and innovation, with our clients and partners benefitting directly from our digital know-how in every facet of their business.
If we were to look at the technology advances that 2015 ushered in, it becomes clear that something altogether different has been shaping up.
The baby-steps that, in the last 20 years, our industry has taken towards digital “evolution”, are now poised to accelerate into a fast running foot race that will define the dominant players, platforms and services seeking to challenge and revolutionize the very notion of healthcare and wellness.
We are very excited about what this future will bring and are ready to rock & roll!
Let’s take a look at what we believe will be the top 10 digital health trends to look out for in 2016 and beyond.

1. Dancing with the FDA
Rather than trying to avoid FDA scrutiny to be able to go to market quickly with half-baked and medically dubious solutions, more and more players (and investors) will be looking to the FDA to validate the medical relevancy of their offerings. New practices and processes will come to light so that useful healthcare solutions that leverage digital at their core become part of the therapeutic and reimbursement continuum.

2. Prevention as profit center
The increasingly important role of payers as arbiters of what works and does not in the therapies they cover will result in payers exerting even more influence or outright acquisition of providers and point of care facilities. This will further empower payers to move beyond risk management and create and implement prevention programs for their members to help lower overall healthcare costs, and boost profits.

3. Medical grade biometric monitoring, on the go
Sophisticated FDA approved wearable sensors and devices will be introduced that will allow for medically accurate 24x7 monitoring, data gathering and sharing with healthcare providers. These devices will leverage ubiquitous smartphones as the connection hub required to capture data, store it in the cloud, while providing powerful analysis, and useful feedback to its end users.

4. A health coach in your pocket
All the personal health data in the world is of little use if it is hard to interpret or it does not actively help someone to stay on top of their health goals. Artificial Intelligence (AI) will begin to play a significant role in providing personalized, real-time information that will help people make better health decisions (or seek professional care rather than ignore symptoms). AI, combined with vitals monitoring, will also be used as a way to emphasize prevention thus supporting the “Prevention as Profit Center” business model.

5. Big Data to improve outcomes
Payers and chain pharmacies have collected a tremendous amount of drug and therapeutic outcomes data over the years, which will help them better inform which cures are more effective overall. 2016 will be the year where personal real-time biometric data from a myriad of devices will find its way to this dataset, and where the goal of personalized prevention programs and cures will start becoming a reality. Look for competition amongst these players (as well as startups) as they seek to hire top-notch data scientists, analysts and clinicians to create predictive health data models that try to make sense of it all.

6. Failed clinical trials will inspire new cures
As the “golden age” of drug research and blockbuster drugs is behind us, pharmas will look to the past for new sources of cures. One of them will be in collecting and analyzing the legacy data from decades of clinical trials to look for clues of medical effectiveness in areas that were not the intended goal of the original study. Even failed trials could point to compounds being effective in therapeutic areas never before imagined. Sophisticated data analysis powered by Artificial Intelligence will bring to light promising clues that were missed by the research community at the time the original research was conducted.

7. Usefulness over hype
It is a known fact that most digital health solutions, whether platforms or apps, are quickly abandoned by their users shortly after the first use. In a quest to achieve adoption and “stickiness”, the successful solutions of 2016 will be eminently practical and useful. This will be achieved by making sure that these solutions will weave seamlessly in the user’s day-to-day life, and that the elegant design of such solutions will inspire the users to continue using them over time. We will not be surprised if some of the more successful solutions will not have any type of user interface for a user to deal with, but will work invisibly in the background.

8. Good design as a driver of good health
Healthcare is mired in regulatory and legal constraints, and very often they end up getting in the way of otherwise good user centric design practices that are now seen as strategic in other industries. More and more design practitioners in the healthcare field are coming to the realization that, rather than trying to force traditional design best-practices on top of healthcare mores, it is best to try to come up with new and highly effective design-driven user experiences that nonetheless stay compliant with regulatory and legal guidelines.

The use of design as a strategic business objective is the reason why design has moved from the production floor to the boardroom, with VC firms the likes of Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, and Google Ventures taking over prominent design firms, and installing their founders as VC partners. Driving this trend is the realization that some of the most profitable new businesses in the recent past, with names like YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and airbnb amongst many, have been created and launched by designers rather then techies! With designers now in the boardroom, leveraging user centricity as a key component of business innovation, it is only natural to expect that this same approach will be used in healthcare

9. Irrational is in
Even the best UX design and most logical features are no guarantee for success in a product. After years of companies creating photo sharing albums and apps, who would have ever thought that sending self destructing snapshots would spur a huge and loyal following of users? People make decisions in irrational ways so the only way to make sure that they will adopt your new technology is to tap into this irrefutable aspect of human behavior. More companies will look to the field of Behavioral Economics in 2016 to increase their product’s chances of adoption and long-term success.

10. Emotional support from inanimate objects
Studies have shown that people have the uncanny ability to bond emotionally with objects! Just think of the “Pet Rock” craze of the 1970’s, the Tamagotchi obsession of the early 1990’s, and the more recent fascination and attachment experienced by the owners of Roombas robotic vacuum cleaners! Now, thanks to advances in areas such as robotics, artificial intelligence, and behavioral science, it will soon be possible to harness this human tendency in order to address some people’s therapeutic emotional needs in very innovative ways. 2016 will usher in a host of emotionally aware objects, interactive robots and software based agents that will demonstrate how to provide a person with the help they need to maintain their health and improve their social and emotional lives. This trend, coupled by the shifting social dynamics of the internet age, will create an entirely new approach to behavior modification and the field of mental health.

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