Every industry disruption needs a buzz word. Health care was in need of one too, and it’s Digital Health. But this article is not to argue the name, definition or what it means to various people, though my personal definition is: Digital Health is the human recognition of awareness that technology can actually prolong their valuable lives with their families and loved ones while moving from healthcare to just health [in a digital world].
Brief History (far from complete)
I had an immense pleasure being sucked into this world by my dear friend Dan Kogan, who introduced me to Health 2.0 and specifically the grand-father of the movement — Matthew Holt. Back in 2008, I quickly observed direct to consumer models, mainly funded by an advertising model of Web 2.0 that just didn’t scale. Shortly after the passing of the HITECH Act in 2009, a big shift towards providing products, solutions and services to and through providers & later insurances & pharma (aka B2B+C) took hold.
Quantified-self was born around the same time in 2007, when Gary Wolf proposed the term. But not till Nike+ and then Fitbit coming onto the scene around 2008/2009 plus the amazingly successful $10M Kickstarter campaign of Pebble in 2012 it started to become mainstream. While mostly focused on the health & wellness market, it was a pivot point when the data geeks realized that we are actually just beginning to continuously collect body generated data 24 x 7.
5 Key Inflection Points
To keep the post short, there are 5 key developments (there are others such as social) which created and illuminated the way to a potential human longevity:
1. The [Wearable] Sensor advancements in accuracy as well as battery life and early mass adoption from 2009-present.
2. Mobile users surpassing the number of desktop users around~2014.
3. The $1,000 human Genome announced by Illumina in mid-2014 allowing us to discover the “we dont know what we don’t know yet” (projected to be $100 “soon”).
4. On-demand and scalable compute power (aka #cloud) which really exploded in growth after 2013 CIA Amazon AWS contract and further solidified by Department of Defense-Wide provisional authorization for all U.S. Regions in 2014.
5. Artificial Intelligence, while the term was invented back in 1956, “according to Bloomberg’s Jack Clark, 2015 was a landmark year for artificial intelligence, with the number of software projects that use AI within just Google alone, increasing from a “sporadic usage” in 2012 to more than 2,700 projects”* & Vinod Khosla making bold statements that technology (AI) could replace 80% of what doctors do (2012).
Entrepreneurs and Venture Capital
Speaking of funding. The history is not complete without entrepreneurs, who are the ones that recognize but also create the trends in conjunction with venture capitalists quickly jumping in to fund the potential disruptions. Given the 5 key inflection points, it’s no wonder why in 2014 Digital Health funding more than doubled to over $7B and closed above $8B for 2016 according to my friends at StartupHealth.
Paul Sonnier’s Digital + Genomic Revolution
Finally the Triple “E”
It was important to set the context and give some key highlights of a complex industry in re-making. Without a further adieu, what I think it will take to make Digital Health real and attainable for our society:
We have been talking about patient engagement for years now. Many pilots, some success stories of course, but generally…. just more talk about patient engagement. The reality is that we are not patients, we are just human beings — that at different points in time will become ill and the disease becomes just part of our lives. It does not become THE life. Not every person thinks that way of course, and for sure every individual is different. Human behavior modification is still a mystery to us. So we, the health consumers, have to actually want to be engaged in our health & longevity. With the power of capturing our own data and the incoming insights, we are surely getting there but still have a long way to go…
Let’s face it, the whole ecosystem is driven by short-term thinking. Governments are under financial pressure to sustain and curb the growth of healthcare costs. The private sector is also pressured by those same governments and Wall Street. The economic models are in complete disarray with broken incentive systems and lack of transparency across the value chain. As a society, we need to find an economic equilibrium and the fitting business models for this digital age. I wish I had the answer but I believe openness, transparency and co-creation hold the key! Vibrant ecosystems, cross-industry and private-public partnerships are emerging... slowly…
It’s the old chicken and the egg story. While there are many early adopters and a powerful movement of citizen scientists and e-patients, the masses want evidence that this “digital health stuff” works and therefore they should use it AND pay for it (directly or indirectly). The healthcare professionals are bombarded with thousands of digital health startups and their devices, apps and platforms. Healthcare but also health, wellness and nutrition all do need clinical evidence to emerge. There are a number of initiatives ongoing across the industry to do just that. But I will save that one for a next article.
Eugene Borukhovich. Global Head, Digital Health Incubation & Innovation at Bayer
Leading the digital health initiatives at Bayer, Eugene Borukhovich, Global Head, Digital Health Incubation & Innovation, has a wealth of experience in the healthcare technology market. He is also responsible for developing SoftServe's healthcare practice while providing healthcare technology solutions to clients across Europe. He was a co-founder of healthcare startup, HealthWorldWeb and served as chief evangelist officer. He served as Chief Executive Officer of Initium Consulting Group B.V. He has previously served as Vice President and Chief Information Officer of International at a Fortune 15 pharmacy benefit management company where he worked with European clients and vendors to launch new and innovative healthcare products. Through his various roles in health care startup leadership, Eugene has learned what it takes to make or break a company in health care IT and looks forward to sharing that information at Health 2.0 Europe, where he will be hosting a talk on the 3 E’s of Digital Health (Engagement, Economics, Evidence) and what it will take to make digital health real and attainable for our society.