2018 was a pivotal year for digital transformation of healthcare. Digital health funding hit a record-setting $8.1 billion. Technology giants, such as Amazon, Apple, IBM, and Microsoft, announced their plans to play a more meaningful role in the healthcare system. Additionally, the FDA issued a statement on agency efforts to collaborate with tech industry to spur innovation in digital health. And a number of technologies received clearance from the FDA, allowing consumers to test their heart health, blood pressure and even urine with their wrist-wearable device or a smartphone-enabled home testing platforms from the comfort of their homes.
2019 is the year for digital health to gain even more momentum, driven by investment, improved regulatory pathways and strong consumer interest. We anticipate seeing availability of more medical wearable devices and smartphone-enabled platforms that monitor vitals and other type of information. This will enable consumers to have even more access to a plethora of biometric and diagnostic data at their fingertips. The proliferation of this type of health information will put more pressure on HCPs, who are increasingly tapped for time.
What does this mean for healthcare communicators? In order to be truly meaningful in a way that will drive action, biometric and diagnostic data will need to be appropriately contextualized. This boils down to the need for improving health literacy among consumers.
The figures are mindboggling. A little over one tenth of people are proficient in health literacy. This means that nine out of ten adults lack the skills needed to manage their health and prevent disease. And it doesn’t just stop there. Those who have below basic health literacy are more likely to have poor health (42 percent) than adults with proficient health literacy. Low literacy can lead to poor health outcomes, such as less frequent use of preventive services and higher rates of hospitalization.
As healthcare communications practitioners, we have an opportunity to make a concerted effort to improve health literacy and educate consumers on what all this information means by partnering with credible voices to provide perspective. It’s also important for us to think of creative and productive ways to facilitate doctor and patient dialogue in a way that reduces burden on HCPs. Only through effective education can we help consumers make sense of plethora of diagnostic data available to them in order to empower them to better manage their wellness and improve health outcomes.