- The U.S. could save billions in health spending annually by broadly deploying digital health apps for high-cost patient population groups, concludes a new report by IQVIA, formerly Quintiles/IMS Health.
- The group looked at published research in five areas — diabetes prevention, diabetes care, asthma, cardiac rehabilitation and pulmonary rehabilitation — and estimated that using currently available consumer apps could save $7 billion.
- Annual savings could reach $46 billion if the strategy were applied across all disease areas.
There are currently more than 318,000 digital health apps worldwide, nearly twice as many as just two years ago. Of those, 40% are aimed at helping people manage health conditions, according to the report.
Investors clearly already see the potential. They are betting on digital health, with a whopping $4.7 billion in the first three quarters of 2017 — more than in all of 2016, according to Rock Health. Q3 saw 74 deals valued at $1.2 billion, led by 23andMe’s $250 million funding round.
More than half (55%) of the most commonly downloaded health apps use sensors to track activity, and innovation in that area could enable detection of vital signs and disease conditions. “New value will be brought to healthcare by algorithms built on top of wearable activity monitors to create ‘digital biomarkers’ of health,’ the reports says. “By tracking parameters beyond sleep and steps that correlate to disease severity, these digital tools will contribute to precision medicine, enabling stratification of patients by their symptoms.”
In a 2016 American Medical Association survey, 85% of doctors said digital tools can enhance patient care. However, adoption has not kept pace with enthusiasm. As more doctors look to apps and other technology to help patients manage their health, there will be more demand for accuracy and proof of clinical effectiveness, experts say.
That is already happening in some areas, the report notes. For example, there is enough evidence on the benefits of apps in managing diabetes, depression and anxiety to warrant including them in clinical guidelines on standards of care.
There are currently 860 clinical trials involving digital health tools, 540 of them in the U.S. More than 80% are sponsored by patient care groups, the report adds.