Biotech & Health

Personal Health In The Digital Age

Comment

Image Credits: Venimo (opens in a new window) / Shutterstock (opens in a new window)

Brian Tilzer

Contributor

Brian Tilzer is the chief digital officer at CVS Health.

We live in the digital age. You know that already. Two out of three Americans are now smartphone owners, and more than 86 percent of the population is connected online. But while digital has permeated everything from our social lives to how we work and how we shop, it is only starting to touch how we manage health.

Yes, nearly 70 percent of Internet users look up health information online (who hasn’t been on WebMD.com in a panicked moment of self-diagnosis?). However, only one in five of us have an app downloaded on our smartphones to track our health. And health apps comprised only 2.8 percent of total app downloads from the Apple App Store a few months ago.

All of this points to the disconnect between personal technology and personal healthcare, despite the vital importance of the intersection of the two. Personal technology is proliferating, yet the health industry hasn’t caught up. How do we usher in personal health to all that the digital age has to offer?

We need to put personal (tech) back in personal healthcare. Because digital is both ubiquitous and highly configurable, it allows health companies to meet customers where they are. That means personalized dashboards for consumers to stay on top of their own and their loved ones’ health needs, easily accessible via web and mobile. Or customized alerts to your smartphone through beacon technology, to send you relevant coupons and reminders while you’re browsing in a pharmacy. We can even imagine a world where you can text your pharmacy or healthcare professional with questions to receive timely, one-on-one communication.

Adherence: A $300 Billion Price Tab

One of the most obvious — and most acute — problems technology can help us solve is the riddle of keeping patients adherent to medication. Although advancements in the realm of personal and enterprise technology have been rampant, the way doctors prescribe medication, the way pharmacies distribute medication to patients and the way healthcare professionals keep patients adherent to prescriptions have remained largely the same over the past few decades. It’s time for the healthcare industry to take action to change the old ways of operating in this digital age.

We know that more and more customers engage with health companies online and via mobile, and these customers are also, on average, more adherent to their medications. With improved tracking and communication measures implemented via technology, we can cut back on the $300 billion in added costs non-adherence poses on the healthcare system every year — and save tens of thousands of lives in the process.

The tools and infrastructure for solving this problem are already at our fingertips. The increasing popularity of wearables, like the Apple Watch, offers an intuitive and non-obtrusive way to remind patients to take their medications and refill their prescriptions. Built-in biometrics technology means that, eventually, we could use cues like a change in heart rate to alert caretakers that a patient skipped a dose.

Gamification — the approach that has made apps like Foursquare and NikePlus so popular — is ripe for exploration in the healthcare space. For example, the Mango Health app offers points every time a patient takes their medication properly, which can then be redeemed for gift cards or charitable donations.

The Future Of Digital Health

And this is only the start. Imagine using your phone as a remote diagnostic tool with a small piece of plastic that turns your device into an otoscope: You could diagnose your child’s ear infection from home by matching up a photo of his ear to thousands of others in a database, then immediately schedule an appointment with your doctor for treatment.

There are already myriad players looking at the application of digital tools in new and exciting ways — offering a glimpse of the digital future:

Connected Devices and Communities. The Internet of Things space is a catalyst to advance digital health. Companies like iHealth are developing a suite of connected devices — from blood pressure monitors to easy-to-use scales — to make tracking and collating all your health information easy and accessible.

Others are honing in on a single issue, like Care TRX, which focuses specifically on connected inhalers. And what’s critical here is the greater ecosystem developed around these devices and the data they generate.

We all know how fun it can be to track your steps or your heart rate. But when health data can be shared with not just a patient, but with doctors, caregivers, pharmacists and others afflicted with the same issues for deeper analysis and comparison, it can be used to improve patient health at greater speed and scale.

Launching Innovative Business Models. Instead of going straight to the consumer, some companies — like Livongo, which makes a glucose monitor for diabetic patients — are also looking to increase adherence by working directly with insurance companies.

Similar to the oft-cited car insurance model, patients are issued a device that’s subsidized based on how well they adhere to their treatment regimen. By looking at creative ways to offer digital health tools — instead of going directly to consumers’ wallets — we’re only increasing the probability that those who need solutions most will get them.

Investing in Digital Health. It’s not just startups that are making an impact: Large companies are exploring ways to bring their resources and expertise to bear. Apple is a very clear example of a digital tech company investigating new health applications: The Apple Watch, as mentioned, is poised to be one of the most revolutionary healthcare devices yet on the market.

But a company like Phillips is another great example. Phillips has been a leader in the connected device space for more than a decade, with deep understanding of the health tech space. The company recently announced a five-year, $25 million alliance with MIT to research health diagnostics and imaging.

Of course, it’s not just healthcare startups and digital companies that have a role to play here. There’s so much opportunity ahead for the health industry at large to capitalize on new digital services and tools to help people on their path to better health — whether that’s health integration with the latest and greatest in mobile or remote diagnostics or biometrics. Now, more than ever, we need a joint effort among health players, retailers, tech companies and consumers alike to begin rethinking the way tech and health overlap in the digital age.

More TechCrunch

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

1 day ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

2 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo