The digital health economyFrom an economic standpoint, digital heath innovations should reduce healthcare expenditures on both the communications and the management fronts. In Canada alone, digital health innovations yielded an estimated $13 billion in savings between 2007 and 2014, due in part to the reduction of repetitive and unnecessary tasks. Which technologies made this possible? The widespread implementation of an electronic drug information system, generating over $436 billion in reported savings in 2010, was the Canadian healthcare system’s top performer. The adoption of electronic medical records, with $1.3 billion in recorded savings between 2006 and 2012, was second on the list of money-saving healthcare technologies, while telehealth, with recorded cost savings of $125 million in 2010, took third place by eliminating a significant number of unnecessary consultations.
Digital health trends to watchThe biggest digital health trend in the past few years has centred on increasingly integrated healthcare delivery solutions (such as an electronic drug information system, electronic medical records and telehealth). Shifting the focus away from technology integration in clinical settings, today’s emerging trend aims to include patients in the healthcare provision process and encourage the self-management of certain health-related tasks by positioning patients as healthcare experts in their own right, by way of the Internet. Future patient-oriented advances include the transmission of e-prescriptions between an authorized prescriber and a patient’s pharmacy, the use of smart phones to purchase medication and analyze health data, and employing 360° patient access to electronic medical records to actively involve the patient in his or her medical file. That being said, healthcare stakeholders will need to adopt existing, proven technologies—such as e-booking—before new ones are developed.
Patients as healthcare experts: the case of online booking
According to a Canada Health Infoway study, 47 million medical consultations would be avoided each year if Canadians could book appointments, consult their physicians, access test results and renew prescriptions electronically. This scenario represents potential annual savings of nearly $4 billion for the public, on top of the $460 million that would be saved through the recovery of 18.8 million missed working hours per year. Unfortunately, while 90% of Canadian respondents say they would book their appointments electronically, only 10% of clinics currently offer online booking. The numbers speak for themselves: first-line facilities should adopt solutions that foster patient involvement and streamline appointment management procedures.