Four digital health ecosystem trends impacting your life sciences organization

  • jobs & the economy
  • March 24, 2017

When Apple introduced its iPhone in 2008, the company targeted consumers who wanted to combine their cellphones with digital music players. It turns out that also marked the dawn of a new era for connected mobile devices that is poised to revolutionize our national healthcare ecosystem. Nearly 80 percent of Americans own a smartphone, and manufacturers are producing an ever-growing selection of so-called Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices. Healthcare and life sciences companies are working to leverage these technologies to improve the quality of patient care, accelerate research into new drugs and reduce healthcare costs. 

Here are four digital health ecosystem trends that may require life sciences organizations to develop new and innovative ways to conduct business — and potentially re-evaluate their project and staffing needs.

Reducing costs, improving care

While there are many challenges, the one issue that providers, payers and consumers don’t have to worry about is lack of devices to choose from. Grand View Research reports that patients battling chronic illnesses in particular are driving the demand for devices that can provide continuous monitoring capabilities to help them and their doctors better manage their diseases. Monitoring vital signs in real time not only enables a physician to better track a patient’s condition — but it can also alert pharmacists and drug companies about medication and prescriptions that are required.
 

Not just for the younger crowd

Healthcare and life sciences companies are also partnering with non-profit organizations to build a digital health ecosystem. For example, in 2015 AARP, Pfizer, United Healthcare and Georgia Tech launched Project Catalyst to develop ways to integrate digital health devices into treatments and care for the older population. In one study, 80 consumers aged 50 and older used different IoT devices to track their sleep and activity over a five-week period. In other words, the idea that only tech-savvy millennials are willing to adapt to using connected devices to improve their health is a myth.
 
The federal government is also playing a key role as it continues its push to hasten the transition from paper-based filing systems to a fully digital system of electronic medical records. The 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act provided $27 billion to help providers and payers adopt electronic medical records (EMR)-based systems. Doing so will make it much easier and more cost effective for doctors and life sciences professionals to collaborate on a patient’s care and drug development needs.
 

So much data

IoT devices that transmit patient data will contribute to the growing amount of information. But this also presents a significant challenge when it comes to collecting and analyzing all that data, which creates a rising demand for qualified data analysts who can turn virtual piles of raw data into actionable insights.    
 
Another significant challenge is protecting a patient’s confidential information from falling into the wrong hands. More than 24 billion IoT devices will be connected to the internet by 2020, and as that number rises, so does the risk. Cyber thieves target patient data to commit insurance fraud or sell to other criminals who can use it to steal a person’s identity. Unsecured medical devices represent a gaping security hole that place life sciences organizations and their clients at risk, according to a recent Forrester Research report, “Healthcare’s IoT Dilemma: Connected Medical Devices”.
 
Life sciences companies can further enhance security and reduce risk by hiring qualified experts who know how to monitor network traffic to determine where and when confidential information is most at risk. A security expert can also raise awareness among employees, reducing the chance that they unknowingly expose sensitive information to thieves.
 

The prognosis

Life sciences organizations and IoT developers need to bring order to the chaos that is the nascent digital health ecosystem. We’re still in the early days, and as manufacturers rush to build new devices, they tend to do so within “walled gardens,” which means devices from different companies are not compatible with one another. There needs to be a concerted effort to adopting universal communications and interoperability standards.
 
Life sciences companies should also consider adding professionals who can help their staffers and patients make sense of the many available solutions, and select the devices and technologies that best meet their organization’s needs. That’s the key to creating a more seamless user experience even while using technologies from multiple providers on multiple platforms. After all, efforts to build a true digital health ecosystem will stall if professionals and consumers find these IoT devices too complicated or frustrating to use.

Learn more about how Randstad can assist in all of your life sciences staffing and business needs. Contact us today!