From medical kiosks to wearables that track the effectiveness of your medication, the digital health market is set to change the playing field as providers fight to offer the most competitive rates, as well as the most effective care.
Last year, pharmaceutical giant Novartis AG quietly signed a deal with Google to develop what it believes will be the next big line of wearables. What the world’s most profitable drugmaker was betting on, though, wasn’t a hip, new smartwatch — they want to create contact lenses that can provide real medical benefits and information.
These tiny lenses could measure blood glucose levels in diabetics or help those with some form of Accommodative Dysfunction focus their vision. Some might scoff at such efforts as an impractical or unmarketable venture into the world of science fiction, but Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez feels otherwise.
“It may be niche today, but in the future I think it is going to be front and center as to how diseases are managed,” he told Reuters.
Can Tech Reduce Healthcare Costs?
It’s undeniable that technology is changing the way medicine is practiced, and that these developments are already making medical care more accessible and affordable for millions.
Advancements in TeleHealth and mobile health enable those with disabilities or chronic conditions to consult their doctors remotely, saving time and money by avoiding unnecessary medical treatments. Everyday patients are reaping the benefits of access to their doctors on their mobile phones and even at their places of work.
So why are premiums still going up? As optimistic as many are about the game-changing potential of digital healthcare, it’s still typical for many Americans to see their costs rise by 5-10% each November when they re-enroll for benefits.
But consumers are no longer taking these costs sitting down. The company Castlight Health has experienced tremendous growth after helping consumers understand exactly what they’re paying for when they buy health insurance through their service, called Enterprise Health Cloud.
According to Fortune, that information only came after Castlight encouraged companies to demand that these insurers release it on their own — if these huge companies thought they were impervious to startups before, they’re certainly thinking differently now.
Changing the Medical Market
Now that customers can compare not only rates, but exactly how those rates are being spent, the pressure is on insurers to provide the most efficient, advanced, and affordable care possible. Digital healthcare isn’t just affecting a few hospitals or private practices — it’s completely shifting the market conditions for one of the world’s biggest and most important industries.
If you need further proof of just how much the market is changing, look no further than a recent newspaper. The insurer Aetna just purchased smaller competitor Humana for $37 billion, the largest deal ever made in the insurance industry.
As money, shares, and patients continue to rapidly change hands, you can bet that big healthcare companies aren’t scoffing at investments like Novartis’ — they’re on the lookout for the next big innovation that could make them leaders of a brand new, very digital world.