While traditional medicine puts an emphasis on affected organs or systems, digital solutions are exploiting commonalities between seemingly unrelated medical conditions. These commonalities are redrawing the disease landscape, thereby impacting medical care and disease management. To understand these commonalities, a disease-connection framework is needed between the six key facets of digital health – monitoring, diagnostics, predictive analytics, therapeutics, assistive technology, and behavior augmentation – and key conditions of today and the future. For simplicity, we can focus on 12 conditions with a wide range of causes, symptoms, and severity levels as examples. Critically, while these conditions may seem unrelated on the surface, over 65 unique connections can be made through digital health’s six key facets, thereby defining where the best opportunities lie and where white spaces exist.
Of all disease management aspects, behavior augmentation has the most connections among the 12 diseases shown. That is because behavioral risk factors are common to numerous diseases, including diet and exercise, for example. While behavior augmentation has the most connections, it ties with both monitoring and assistive technologies for the most diverse set of connections, or the most types of connections. This is not surprising, as solutions that fall into these three categories – monitoring, assistive technology, and behavior augmentation – are not necessarily required to be disease-specific, and can therefore be applied across the disease spectrum.
Looking instead from a disease perspective, epilepsy is most connected, with 17 facet-based connections to other diseases. This condition has commonalities with other diseases in all disease management aspects aside from diagnostics. As a result, even if no solution specific to epilepsy exists, technologies developed for other conditions may be applicable with minor or no modification. At the opposite end of the spectrum, infertility is the least connected condition of the 12, with only five connections to other conditions. Since the number of solutions that could be borrowed from other conditions is limited, infertility management requires dedicated developmental efforts. Interestingly, while many technology developers have been developing disease management solutions for diabetes – making it one of the most mature conditions for digital technologies – diabetes shares only eight connections with the other conditions. Since diabetes-specific digital solutions are relatively mature, these technologies may be good candidates to be applied to the management of the connected conditions.
One thing is certain; the emergence of digital health solutions and their relative connectivity across conditions is going to drive industry disruption. With an emphasis on data analytics, the dominating business model in health care will shift from selling devices to providing services. As this landscape forms, will medical device companies acquire data analytics expertise or will data analytics companies tap into a new territory? The need for monitoring new data streams opens the door for non-medical players to enter the medical field if the medical incumbents are slow to act. Going even further afield in industries, the emergence of pocket diagnostics will drive development of higher quality consumer electronics and a potential value shift to that industry. Going further still, the emerging commonalities between disease solutions enabled by digital health will redraw the disease landscape and change hospital departments and impact entire hospital supply chains.
Disruption is coming and the healthcare industry incumbents across the value chain need to act and lead, or be nervous about the health of the future business.