Digital Health Trends 2023

How wearables, remote care and next-gen AI are redefining health

Tech is playing an ever bigger role in how we feel, fight disease and live longer, healthier lives. Our devices know us better than anyone, and combined with the power of deep learning, digital health is becoming fundamental to wellbeing across the world.

The pandemic only served to accelerate the shift towards tech-enabled healthcare since 2020 and now, three trends are set to power the healthcare of 2023.

IoMT powers shift from reactive to preventative healthcare

When the Pebble smartwatch first shipped in 2013, it came with health functions consumers had never seen in a watch before. The device could count your steps, keep an eye on your calories each day and tell you how long your movement suggests you’ve been asleep. But while those insights are nice to know, alone, they’re often not enough for you to take meaningful action to improve your overall health.

A decade later, though, consumer devices - part of the Internet of Medical Things - will play a big role in empowering wellbeing and self-care.

Apple’s WatchOS 9 knows how long you’ve been in each of the three individual stages of sleep - REM sleep, core sleep and deep sleep. It can also diagnose and monitor atrial fibrillation, a cardiovascular condition, through advanced heart rate tracking. Amazon’s Halo subscription can analyze users’ body composition to give an accurate percentage of body fat - a much deeper insight into overall health than BMI - through its wristband device. A whole host of apps, meanwhile, can track changes in mood, sleep and environmental factors to predict when a user’s mental health may be deteriorating,

Technologies like these are giving consumers deep insights into their health and wellbeing. And knowledge is power: where wellness has in the past centered around visiting a doctor after you’ve got sick, now we’re more in control. We can take action to better manage our health and wellbeing to prevent health conditions from developing in the first place.

Booking healthcare like travel engages the MENA population with their health

A raft of fast-growing startups are transforming the way people access healthcare across the MENA region. Cairo-based Vezeeta, one of the largest, allows patients to search for doctors, compare prices and book appointments in minutes, reducing complexity and encouraging more people to seek medical advice when they

need to. In 2020 Vezeeta completed one of the largest funding rounds of any tech startup in MENA.

As patients become increasingly open to remote care, wellbeing platform Esaal - also based in Egypt - gives users a platform to book wellbeing appointments with over 550 experts, and discuss topics as far reaching as pediatrics, addiction, ophthalmology and neurology. Saudi Arabia’s Cura, meanwhile, offers immediate access to generalist or family medicine doctors at any time of the day or night.

Platforms like this fill a crucial care gap, allowing overstretched healthcare systems to serve millions more patients and empowering individuals to promote their own wellbeing.

AI helps pharmaceutical companies accelerate clinical trials

Deep learning algorithms are set to transform the drug discovery and development process, ultimately providing critical therapeutics more quickly for those who need them. There’s potential for artificial intelligence at every stage of clinical research: at phase I, where human trials begin among a small sample population, deep learning allows life science companies to instead conduct research in silico, i.e. in a computer model. In addition to reducing the time and complexity of patient recruitment, in silico trials eliminate the risk of harm to real people.

For phase II trials, which target a larger number of patients with specific health conditions and specific complications - who are typically hard to find - deep learning can analyze large-scale datasets to match the right patients with the right trials.

And for later stage trials, which involve much higher numbers of participants requiring considerable time and budgets to recruit, pharmaceutical companies are increasingly turning to remote monitoring, conducting research using health data from wearables without the need for a participant to attend in person at all.

And after that...

Digital healthcare is advancing more and more rapidly. The conversation will turn to sustainability as more healthcare providers and pharmaceutical businesses consider their environmental footprint. Technology will be at the very heart of the shift towards lower carbon healthcare - making for a healthier population and a healthier planet too.