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The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a historic wave of digital health technology to deliver care to consumers during nationwide lockdowns. Digital health startups brought in $29.1 billion in funding in 2021, doubling profits from 2020, according to one report.

The pandemic showed us that the healthcare industry is more than capable of innovating and meeting consumers where they are when it comes to the future of digital health, even when people are forced to stay within the confines of their homes. It gave us a glimpse of how technology can be used to put consumers at the center of healthcare. In a survey of healthcare technology leaders who were asked about digital transformation, 92% said their top desired outcome was achieving a better consumer experience.

What Is Digital Health?

Digital health — which we call digitally enabled healthcare — is defined most simply as the intersection of technology and healthcare. Using a variety of consumer- and professional-grade hardware and software solutions, digital health is designed to make healthcare more personalized and precise.

Digital health usually falls under the following categories:

  • Mobile health: This encompasses everything from mobile apps to electronic health records. 
  • Health information technology: Another term for digital health that refers to the electronic systems used to monitor health.
  • Platform-based monitoring devices: Activity- and health-tracking wearable devices such as Apple Watches and Fitbits as well as clinical devices used for remote patient monitoring.
  • Telehealth or telemedicine: Virtual patient/clinician interactions via SMS and video.
  • Personalized medicine: Treatment that is personalized for an individual person.

True digital health incorporates all these categories thanks to the adoption of digital transformation in healthcare, with the goal of putting the consumer at the center of the healthcare system. For digital health to be a success, care providers, application developers, researchers, and medical device manufacturers are all included in the collaborative effort to deliver healthcare quickly and accurately.

The most important factor in digital health, however, is the consumer.

Why Is Digital Health Important to Consumers?

More than 70% of Internet users in the U.S. and Europe searched online for health information like advice, symptoms, medical conditions, and treatments in the past year. Internet convenience, speed, and ease of access empowers consumers to take charge of their own healthcare, though there remain barriers for those who are not digitally literate or do not have easy access to the internet.

People are looking for more from their providers than just excellent care and fast access to health information; they’re looking for the same experience they get from popular ecommerce sites. Individuals want a fast, simple, and personalized experience, and they want to be heard.

“Digital health is meant to ultimately connect and improve the experience and the health of our members,” said Ashok Chennuru, global chief data and insights officer, Carelon Digital Platforms. “If you look at the current state of the healthcare experience, even the most sophisticated consumers have trouble finding the right care options and affordability they need to help them make the choices that are best for them.”

Digital health innovations can ensure that medical records are being shared across the healthcare ecosystem, making the experience more seamless for individuals, and can improve access. For example, if a person lives in a rural area without a particular specialist, they might be able to connect with a specialty provider virtually thanks to advances in telehealth.  

What People Want from Their Healthcare

It may seem obvious, but what people want when it comes to their healthcare is to stay healthy and get better when they’re sick. They want access to services quickly and efficiently, and they want personal relationships with their physician and other care providers. Elevance Health is helping to connect those dots with a seamless digital health platform and a suite of apps that includes the SydneySM, Concierge Care, and Sydney Community apps.

The Sydney Community is a digital platform that connects people to services, information, and each other, providing comfort and peace of mind when they’re needed most. The platform:

  • Uses peer-to-peer social networking so members can share their stories and connect with each other.
  • Connects people to local resources.
  • Provides health information resources.
  • Offers caregivers resources to support themselves and care recipients, both physically and emotionally. 

“A digital community can be as powerful as a local community in providing support. It’s a very powerful thing to have support from people who’ve gone through the same experience as you,” said Keith Cobb, Elevance Health staff vice president of Sydney community and commerce platforms. “We recognized that this was becoming, not only more important to Elevance Health, but also to our affiliated health plan members and to healthcare in general.”

Digital health only works if we understand what people want and then meet those needs with the right digital tools. What’s clear is that people want healthcare to be seamless, easy, and effective. Digital health can help provide that experience.

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