I literally have no idea what “digital” health means. It is just one of those words that companies and pontificators use to signify that something is cool or innovative or better yet, disruptive. It appears to maybe have something to do with telecommunications, data, analytics, who knows what else. ( I would distinguish actual telemedicine, where real care is being delivered, just not face-to-face.) But one thing for sure is that there is a lot of hype and little value, except for the investors who puff up these ideas and pass a company on to the greater fool. A Health Affairs study looks at whether digital health companies are doing much for really sick, complex patients. (HA Article) According to the article, 296 digital health firms received $4.2 billion in funding in 2016 and consumers are expected to spend $49 billion on digital health solutions by 2020. All with basically zero evidence of benefit. The authors examine the companies which have received the most funding and attempt to see if they were adding value where it is needed most, for expensive cases and care. They looked for peer-reviewed studies of these companies products. (uh, good luck with that) They focused on the top 20 companies in terms of funding, which received an average total of $67.5 million and were relatively large in terms of number of employees and had greater longevity, because presumably these firms had greater opportunity and resources to conduct trials. Analytics, big data, artificial intelligence and biosensors, including wearables were common descriptors of these companies’ products. There was a total of 156 studies, only 104 of which were indexed in PubMed. These were generally low-quality studies, few participants, not published in well-known journals, lack of methodological rigor, etc. Only 15% of the studies had clinical effectiveness as an outcome. Only 28% of studies targeted a high-burden or high-risk population, with mental health being the most common condition researched. Most of the studies used healthy volunteers as subjects. Even among these populations there was no outcome related to disease prevention. No research looked at cost or access outcomes. This survey is consistent with an earlier one looking at “mHealth” apps, which similarly found a limited number of low-quality studies and little beneficial evidence. As I said, lot of hype, little demonstration of any real value in improving patient health or health care.
✅ Subscribe via Email
About this Blog
The Healthy Skeptic is a website about the health care system, and is written by Kevin Roche, who has many years of experience working in the health industry. Mr. Roche is available to assist health care companies through consulting arrangements through Roche Consulting, LLC and may be reached at [email protected].
Healthy Skeptic Podcast
This is an outstanding report on total global drug spending and trends, with projections out to 2025. It helps you understand this important area of health care, which does much...
June 1, 2021
MedPAC 2019 Report to Congress
June 18, 2019
Mental health company Headway makes, well, headway, by raising an impressive $125 million round of new capital. The company connects patients with mental health providers and facilitates providers working with...
October 11, 2023
Two health care firms owned by private equity firms are merging in a transaction supposedly valued at $3 billion. HealthComp administers self-funded plans for employers and other groups and Virgin...
September 27, 2023
NextGen, an electronic medical records firm, is being put out of its public company misery, as a PE firm will pay $1.6 billion for the one-time high-flier.
September 7, 2023
Access ACO Care Management Chronic Disease Comparative Effectiveness Consumer Directed Health Consumers Devices Disease Management Drugs EHRs Elder Care End-of-Life Care FDA Financings Genomics Government Health Care Costs Health Care Quality Health Care Reform Health Insurance Health Insurance Exchange HIT HomeCare Hospital Hospital Readmissions Legislation M&A Malpractice Meaningful Use Medicaid Medical Care Medicare Medicare Advantage Mobile Pay For Performance Pharmaceutical Physicians Providers Regulation Repealing Reform Telehealth Telemedicine Wellness and Prevention Workplace