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  • Writer's pictureJo Soria

Digital Health Trends to Watch in 2023

It's a perfect storm: ushered in by AI breakthroughs and COVID-era demand for remote services, digital health tools have found their way into the spotlight like never before. And Fitbits? They're just the tip of the iceberg.

1. Patients First: Improving Overall Patient Experience

Patients want digital services that are simple to navigate and understand, with efficient processes and multiple convenient touchpoints for engagement. At least, that's what health systems like Geisinger are betting on.

Geisinger's online patient portal has seen a 12% year-over-year increase in use, with nearly a million current users and over 350,000 appointments scheduled online. Naturally, they're investing in further strategic improvements. "This strategy allows patients to be seen sooner and has their medications refilled faster, and provides for easier engagement between providers and patients," says Karen Murphy, Ph.D., RN, EVP and chief innovation and digital transformation officer for Geisinger.

Access for All

This is just one example of strategizing happening behind the scenes to speed processes and remove obstacles for patients needing prescriptions and care. And since the majority of today's Americans own a mobile phone, care is more accessible than ever before. Providers will be looking for even more ways to engage patients, lower barriers to access, and collect data using the most convenient means possible for diverse populations.

2. AgeTech: Digital Solutions for Aging Populations

According to the Urban Institute, the number of Americans aged 65 and up will double over the next 40 years, hitting 80 million in 2040. Even the healthiest members of this fast-growing population will need services and support ranging from recreation and assisted living, to physical therapy and chronic pain management, to end-of-life care.

The Business of Aging

With big numbers comes big money: According to AARP, there's about a $45 trillion economy attached to "AgeTech," the growing multi-industry movement focused on healthy aging and longevity for Boomers and beyond.

"There are all sorts of amazing things happening in the AgeTech space right now," says Hanh Brown, a researcher on aging and the host of the Boomer Living Senior Living Broadcast. "Emerging technology trends include virtual reality for rehabilitation and physical therapy, remote patient monitoring, aging-in-place technology, and smart home technology."

AgeTech's developers and investors are all mining the latest technologies to extend the lives and happiness of our aging loved ones. 2023 will likely see plenty of investment, and some breakthroughs, in this field.

3. Telehealth: Personalized Care, Anywhere

Telehealth has been around, in one form or another, for longer than you might think. And since its explosion of popularity during COVID, it's likely here to stay.

56% of hospitals and 70% of private practices plan to continue or enhance their telehealth programs in 2023 and beyond, so you can count on continued access to virtual options for minor health concerns, mental health counseling, and more.

And patients who use telehealth to supplement their regular checkups and doctor visits reap the benefits of cost savings, convenience, and access to a broader network of care options.

4. Fundraising and Support for Women's Health

Is there good news on the way for women's health? While slightly lower in 2022 than in 2021, women's health fundraising has been trending upward since the pandemic. This bodes well for the possibility of more developments like the test that assesses a woman's preeclampsia risk long before symptoms occur.

What Women (Actually) Want

At the beginning of 2023, CES (the world's largest tech fair) hosted an expert panel on the future of "femtech" and the opportunities and challenges facing women's healthcare. Members of the all-women panel stressed the importance of:

  • providing healthcare solutions that are unique to women, not just piggybacking off of men's health frameworks

  • increasing women's access to sophisticated healthcare services, including digital solutions

  • reducing stigma around women's reproductive health, menopause, and prescription medication

  • addressing women's health holistically and across the entire lifecycle, not just in terms of pregnancy and prenatal care

5. Can You Keep a Secret? Addressing Privacy and Ethical Concerns

Now for the other side of the coin: with rapidly developing technological capability comes the ever-growing debate over its responsible use. There's a delicate balance between data sharing for beneficial medical purposes and patients' right to privacy. That balance gets more confusing by the day as the average American voluntarily shares unprecedented amounts of personal health information across multiple apps and trackers.

Cybersecurity is also a growing concern as more patient interactions and communications occur online. Healthcare providers investing in telemedicine must also invest in cybersecurity infrastructure and patient education on protecting their medical information.

AI in Medicine: How Far is Too Far?

In the realm of bioethics, concerns are mounting over using ChatGPT and other AI tools in patient care. For instance, an experiment involving AI-powered emotional support ran headlong into controversy. The problem arose not because the AI-influenced patient communications were of poor quality. On the contrary, the communications co-written by the chatbot GPT-3 received higher ratings than strictly human-generated responses.

So what was the problem? That came when the patients discovered that they'd been receiving AI-augmented emotional support, creating an issue of informed consent, among other ethical concerns. "Simulated empathy feels weird, empty," admitted Koko co-founder Robert Morris, who conducted the experiment.

Health Tech's Ever-Expanding Footprint

Here are some clips from CES, the world's largest technology fair.

CES stands for the Consumer Electronics Show, but over the years, the fair's focus has inevitably expanded into how technology can help solve some of society's most significant challenges, including healthcare.

This critical coupling of health and technology will be a recurring and likely more prominent theme in 2023 and beyond. From unprecedented AI breakthroughs to handy gadgets that help grandma stay active, we'll see the evidence of health tech developments in everything we touch.

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