Yale recently hosted the first Digital Medicine Symposium. It was a one-day meeting in April that brought together CEOs, futurists, and academics to the explore current status and future promises of the digital transformation in patient treatment and healthcare.
A goal of the symposium was to understand why so much money and attention seemed to be suddenly flowing to digital medicine.
We reviewed the economics: investment into digital medicine has been growing more than 30% per year, and venture capitalists poured about $8 billion into the field last year. The global market for digital health is now estimated to be more than $220 billion by 2024.
The question immediately came up as to why now? What has happened to attract significant investor exuberance?
We heard from the pioneers in digital medicine who have been diligently generating results over that past few years in areas such as chronic disease management, drug adherence, and behavioral health.
The founder and CEO of Akili Interactive, Yale graduate Eddie Martucci, highlighted how they have seen improvements in ADHD patients using the company’s novel gamification platform developed in conjunction with Stanford neuroscientists. Lynn Hamilton, an executive at Talkspace, talked about improving access to mental health professionals and helping reduce the stigma of seeking therapy by creating better relationships between therapists and patients using mobile platforms.
We learned that the people who need to receive mental health services vastly outnumber those who receive care using conventional methods. One of the promises of digital technology is greater convenience and access between remote patients and health professionals using communications tools to deliver cognitive behavioral therapy on mobile platforms.
Dr. Harlan Krumholz, Yale’s professor of medicine, epidemiology, and public health and a world-renowned expert in outcomes research and novel applications of health data, reminded us that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” In a thought-provoking talk, he explained that we should recognize that healthcare technology is advancing rapidly and will be integrated into the practice of medicine. However, like science fiction, we should be careful to understand its limitations and not stray into fantastical predictions.
Dr. Scooter Plowman, medical director of Proteus Digital Health, discussed how novel technologies can help address significant challenges such as medication adherence. He talked about control of hypertension in previously drug refractory patients by improving drug compliance using the Proteus digital pill. Progress is also being made in asthma and respiratory disease. Even oncology can be impacted, and lung cancer survival has been improved using digital disease management tools.
Walter de Brouwer, the founder of doc.ai, gave a colorful talk about the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to manage the oceans of data we are generating. He explained that 90% of today’s health information was created in just the last two years, and that health data is expected to double every 73 days. He predicted that entire states will be transformed into data farms. De Brouwer noted that we may be intimidated by the amount of health data being generated, but we should embrace the future. He repeated assertions being made around Silicon Valley that “privacy is dead” and we should embrace the latest AI and machine-learning applications if only to help process and manage exploding amounts of data. Soon we will be a country of data farmers, he predicted. No surprise that insurers and investors will spend more than $6 billion on AI in healthcare, up from $600 million currently.
Finally, we conclude that the promise of digital medicine is about empowering patients. This is based on the positive disruptive changes being made by technology that are shifting control of healthcare information and decisions into the hands of patients. Exciting examples illustrate the progress being made in access, personalization, convenience, and evidence generation. Digital technology has the possibility of helping level the playing field for disenfranchised segments of the population who are underrepresented in receiving quality healthcare services.
Watch video from the symposium: