The World Health Summit was held from 14-16 October 2018 in Berlin, the home to our digital health program. In recognition of the rise of technology in the health sector, the program included a panel titled “The Digital Healthcare Revolution.” The panel of speakers were professionals from four different countries, all with different perspectives on the topic. Here is what they had to say about the current digital health climate:
Where are we now?
Currently, the global landscape of digital health is incredibly diverse. Some countries are using mobile apps to follow a mindfulness plan while others are struggling to even be seen by a medical professional. However, the WHO is committed to closing this gap and improving health equity worldwide. In May, they passed a groundbreaking digital health resolution, the first of its kind to be sponsored by the United Nations.
“It is a landmark, because it’s the first time that we’re now looking at global legitimacy for digital health innovation and investment,” said Denis Gilhooly, COO of Commonwealth Centre for Digital Health and chair of the panel.
This resolution means that the UN is encouraging digital health action in the highest levels of government worldwide. The hope is that this movement will untie countries in a global investment in health technology.
How is the health sector changing, and how does this affect digital health?
The world has seen a major shift in the focus of healthcare over the past few years. Infectious diseases are becoming less of a threat, meaning that populations are aging and chronic diseases are becoming more prevalent. Put simply, this means that healthcare policy makers and professionals are focusing on chronic disease, both in terms of prevention and treatments that will improve patients’ quality of life. Public health professionals consider digitalization to be the next big intervention in global health. The digital health world is reacting to this transition and innovative minds (including our startup founders) are developing solutions to address the gap in this market.
How can startups capitalize on this market?
According to panelist Martin Hirsch, the Director-General at Assistance Publique – Hôpitaux de Paris, the largest healthcare system in Europe, startups have a unique business opportunity. Startup founders are approaching healthcare systems and proposing their money-saving solution for free. All they ask for is a portion of the saved money if their solution is successful. This way, the stakes are lowered for hospitals, making them more likely to agree to the proposition. In exchange, startups gain credibility if their product works.
“Digital [healthcare solutions] have the power to progress and amplify,” said Dykki Settle, panelist and Global Program Leader of PATH Digital Health. Public health professionals worldwide are looking to leverage this power to connect patients with resources, and startups are the perfect vehicle to do so.
Technology is present in every realm of life—social, professional and educational. The digital world facilitates everything from Instagram to never-ending email threads to online encyclopedias. Though its use looks different in every context, all technology ultimately has the same purpose: fostering connections. Connections are powerful in every situation, but they are arguably the most significant in the world of healthcare. For many people it is the connections between patients and their doctors, their treatment plans, their medications and their educational tools are often the difference between life and death, and now is the perfect time for digital solutions.