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Digital Health Trends for 2018

By Dr. Sam Ho, chief medical officer, UnitedHealthcare

Technology continues to change how Americans work and live, with innovation accelerating across many industries, including health care. New advances are changing how health care is paid for and delivered, putting access to information at our fingertips and creating a more seamless health care experience.

This revolution is on display in Las Vegas, home to the International Consumer Electronics ShowOpens a new window (CES). This annual showcase brings together the latest innovations from leading companies worldwide.

Here are five digital health trends that consumers and business leaders should watch this year.

  • Mobile Payments: The health care system is modernizing how care is paid for, including the addition of mobile payments. More consumers are using mobile wallets such as Apple Pay, which enables them to pay for qualified medical services from a health savings account (HSA) with their mobile devices. These new capabilities allow for more convenient transactions at health care providers’ offices and pharmacies, which can help save people time and facilitate faster payments for care providers.
  • Wearable Sensors: The wearable-technology market is booming, with revenues expected to reach nearly $52 billion by 2022, according to a recent research reportOpens a new window from Markets sand Markets. This is good news for consumers, as these wearable devices allow people to track their daily steps, monitor their heart rates and even analyze sleep patterns. Employers and health plans are including fitness trackers as part of corporate wellness programs to help improve health outcomes and reduce health care costs.
  • Remote Medical Monitoring and Treatment: In addition to wearable sensors, other consumer devices are being offered to help enable more widespread remote medical monitoring and treatment. More consumers now have access to telemedicine services through smartphone apps and online, to help provide more convenient and cost-effective care. People with specific medical issues can also access resources such as wireless scales, which can notify health care professionals about sudden weight fluctuations that could signal the need for immediate medical attention.
  • Artificial Intelligence Artificial intelligence and machine learning leverage large troves of data to help improve the effectiveness and efficiency of health care services. The potential applications are wide-ranging, including closing gaps in care, eliminating unnecessary treatments and improving the speed and accuracy of customer service calls. In the future, the goal of artificial intelligence is to increasingly predict disease before someone is afflicted; understand what facilities or physicians produce the best outcomes for a specific condition; and engage patients so they receive care in a timely manner.
  • Blockchain: The rise of cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, has garnered numerous headlines, but the underlying technology, known as blockchain, has significant potential for health care. Blockchain’s distributed database, which enables for data to be stored and encrypted across multiple locations, provides a synchronized source of truth that can help automate processes and may improve the security and integrity of health care information, reducing data reconciliation costs and easing administrative burdens. Blockchain can help consumers store and share complex health data, which may help health professionals personalize care and make it easier for everyone to navigate the health system.

At UnitedHealthcare, we invest more than $3.2 billion annually in data, technology and innovation, to help consumers take a more active role in their health. By using technology to help encourage people to pursue healthy behaviors, and to more easily navigate the health system, our goal is to advance better care management today and set the foundation for better health outcomes in the future.

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