Digital Health Explained: Why It Matters and What to Know

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Digital health is transforming how medical professionals provide care, what patients do to receive it, and how health care systems operate. Learn more about how this impactful field is changing health care and what that means for professionals.

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From online shopping recommendations made through machine learning to automated financial investments powered by artificial intelligence, the digital revolution has transformed much of the way that we work, live, and play. Perhaps the most vital changes brought about by digital technologies are in the ways that we receive health care and meet our own health needs. 

Digital health uses digital tools and platforms to improve health care outcomes, whether it be by providing personalized patient care in-person, expanding access to health care through mobile apps, or using neural networks to diagnose diseases. Digital health encompases all of these areas – and more. 

In this article, you’ll learn more about this fascinating field that has the potential to greatly improve medical outcomes, find a list of jobs common to it, and explore the role of digital health in different professional environments. You’ll also find suggested courses that might just offer a path that turns your interest into a career.

What is digital health? 

Digital health is the use of digital technologies for health care purposes. The field encompasses a wide variety of digital health technologies and subfields, including health information technology (IT), health informatics, wearable medical devices, software as medical device (SaMD), personalized medicine, mobile health (mHealth), and telemedicine and telehealth [1, 2]. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, the field is quickly growing. According to a 2021 study conducted by Statista, the global market for digital health is projected to grow from 175 billion in 2019 to nearly 660 billion in 2025 [3]. This exponential expansion is a testament to both the increased need for quality health care and the ever expanding reach of digital technologies. 

Digital health jobs

Pairing digital technology with health care requires numerous specialized professionals. Some of the most common jobs in the digital health care space include:

1. Software engineers

2. Web developers

3. Data scientists

4. Product engineers

5. Biomedical engineers

6. UX designers

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Digital health examples 

Whether we realize it or not, many of us use digital health technologies every day. Wearable devices like Fitbits or smart watches, for example, provide users with continual updates on their activity, such as their step count or heart rate. This technology provides users with important health information that has the potential to improve their individual health. 

Benefits of digital health 

Digital health uses the power of digital technologies, such as advanced analytics, to achieve health care goals. As a result, the field has the opportunity to positively impact everyone from patients to health care providers and professionals. Some of the most common benefits include: 

  • Expanded access to health care to historically marginalized communities

  • Decreased health care costs for both patients and providers

  • Improved patient health outcomes through personalized treatment plans 

  • Increased operation efficiency at health facilities, such as hospitals

  • Improved diagnoses through machine learning algorithms

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Introduction to Digital Health

Understanding digital health: regulatory and health care environment

While digital technology has improved health care delivery and outcomes, it’s also greatly altered the health care industry as a whole. In this new landscape, entrepreneurs and developers have encountered new regulations imposed by the FDA and health care professionals have had to adapt to new technologies. 

Regulatory environment 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has strict guidelines for health care products. Over the past decade, the FDA has refined the guidelines for digital technology in health care to ensure that software updates and improvements can be rolled out more efficiently [1, 2]. Nonetheless, entrepreneurs and technology professionals looking to enter the field should be prepared to deal with regulations when joining the field. 

Health care environment 

Professionals working in health care today should expect to become acquainted with new digital health technologies more routinely than in the past. While some professionals might be reluctant to adopt new technologies, others might see it as an opportunity to improve their own health services and their patients’ treatment plans. 

Explore digital health 

Health care is a growing and ever changing field. Whether you’re hoping to start a health care career or are already an established professional, you might consider taking an online, flexible course to gain relevant skills to stay ahead of the curve. 

Imperial College London’s Digital Health Specialization introduces learners to the role and application of digital technologies in public health and healthcare globally and the design, development, implementation and evaluation of digital health interventions. Northeastern’s MS in Management: Digital Transformation in Healthcare, meanwhile, teaches cutting-edge skills that can turn courser takers into high-impact digital change agents leading innovation as a manager in the healthcare field. 

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MS in Management: Digital Transformation in Healthcare

Northeastern University

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Article sources

1.  FDA. “ What is Digital Health? , https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/digital-health-center-excellence/what-digital-health." Accessed August 7, 2022. 

2. Deloitte. “Reimagining digital health regulation: An agile model for regulating software in health care, https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/public-sector/reimagining-digital-health-regulation.pdf.” Accessed August 7, 2022. 

3. Statista. “Projected global digital health market size from 2019 to 2025, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1092869/global-digital-health-market-size-forecast/.” Accessed August 7, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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