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The phrase, “the doctor will see you now” has taken on a whole new meaning during the pandemic.  Millions of Americans who were receiving care during an office visit are suddenly doing so through video conferences, text messages, and apps.  These interactions have often been combined with the use of electronic medical records, pulse oximeters, thermometers, EKG and glucose monitors.  In addition, millions of Americans are paying visits to their loved ones through Zoom, Facetime, Skype, etc.  There has been a surge in the purchase of fitness trackers and smart watches while “digital fitness firms like Obe and MIRROR have noted that since the COVID-19 outbreak their business has skyrocketed.”

Digital health – collecting, sharing, and using information about our health to improve well-being or treat disease – was used inconsistently until the coronavirus hit our shores.  By necessity we are replacing or combining digital services and products with traditional face-to-face care and are not likely to go back.  Indeed, digital health has been more a talking point or a slogan. Now that a vast number of Americans have actually gotten use or benefit from digital health, consumers are more comfortable using it as a solution.

In short, the actual use of digital health has – in a matter of months – made the evaluation of its purposes and impact on well-being central to health care policy.  Hence, RealClearHealth will set aside a special section of ‘intellectual real estate to focus’ on health technology. In addition to covering the latest gadgets and applications, RealClearHealth will pull together articles and editorials addressing a range of concerns and issues. 

How will use of digital health affect our expectations and experience of care?  How will the potential ability to make health care more personalized, preventive, and predictive affect well-being?  What will the ability to know in advance what treatments work and what do not affect the traditional power brokers in the health care system?  How will digital health shape the speed and cost of developing medicines, medical devices, and diagnostics and how will it affect the nation’s ability to move production of these essential products back to the United States?  And how will digital health technologies affect the trend of technology companies gaining more control over the financing and provision of health care? 

There are large concerns too: The profits that Google or Amazon – as well as medical device and biotech companies – will make from digital health are based on personal health information we produce and give for free.  Will new technologies and new expectations change that equation?  Should we get paid or see health care costs change because of the value our data provides to such companies. What happens when the same companies use our information to deny or allocate care on behalf of the health care organizations and insurers?  Oh wait, that’s already happening. Without a marketplace of alternative algorithms and treatment decisions, the built-in biases and interests of the organizations that collect, store, and analyze personal medical data will determine the destiny of each of us. Will Amazon, Google, or Facebook try to buy or partner with a health system or insurer? Oh wait, that’s already happening, too.  

Indeed, without a marketplace of alternative algorithms and treatment decisions, the built-in biases and interests of the organizations that collect, store, and analyze personal medical data will determine the destiny of each of us.  Real Clear Digital Health will serve as a marketplace for discussing these issues before they are decided for us.

 

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