Digital Health Explained: Why It Matters and What to Know

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Digital health transforms how medical professionals provide care, what patients do to receive it, and how healthcare systems operate. Learn more about how this impactful field changes healthcare 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 how we work, live, and play. The most vital changes brought about by digital technologies are how we receive healthcare and meet our health needs. 

Digital health uses digital tools and platforms to improve healthcare outcomes, whether by providing personalised patient care in person, expanding access to healthcare through mobile apps, or using neural networks to diagnose diseases. It encompasses all of these areas and more. 

In this article, you’ll learn more about this fascinating field that has the potential to improve medical outcomes greatly, 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 offer a path that turns your interest into a career.

What is digital health? 

Digital health is the use of digital technologies for healthcare purposes. The field encompasses a wide variety of digital health technologies and subfields, including health information technology (IT), health informatics, wearable medical devices, electronic prescription services, software as a medical device (SaMD), integrated care systems (ICSs), personalised medicine, mobile health (mHealth), and telemedicine and telehealth. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, the field is quickly growing. According to a 2021 study by Statista, the global market for digital health is projected to grow from 175 billion in 2019 to nearly 660 billion in 2025 [1]. This exponential expansion is a testament to the increased need for quality healthcare and the ever-expanding reach of digital technologies. 

Digital health jobs

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

1. Software engineers

2. Web developers

3. Data scientists

4. Product engineers

5. Biomedical engineers

6. UX designers


Digital health examples 

Whether we realise it or not, many of us use digital health technologies daily. For example, wearable devices like Fitbits or smartwatches 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 health. 

Benefits of digital health 

Digital health uses the power of digital technologies, such as advanced analytics, to achieve healthcare 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 healthcare to historically marginalised communities

  • Decreased healthcare costs for both patients and providers

  • Improved patient health outcomes through personalised treatment plans 

  • Increased operation efficiency at health facilities, such as hospitals

  • Improved diagnoses through machine learning algorithms

Understanding digital health: regulatory and healthcare environment

While digital technology has improved healthcare delivery and outcomes, it’s also significantly altered the industry. In this new landscape, entrepreneurs and developers have encountered new regulations imposed by the UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)and the UK Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA), and healthcare professionals have had to adapt to new technologies. 

Regulatory environment 

England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have had to adapt to independent regulations set in place by their national authorities. In general, regulations are put in place to govern how personal data is used, how healthcare products are implemented, and how services are allowed to be delivered to customers. These regulations are created to help ensure patients are treated safely and fairly. Entrepreneurs and technology professionals should be prepared to deal with regulations and stay current with the most recent legislation when entering this field. 

Healthcare environment 

Professionals working in healthcare 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 health services and patients’ treatment plans. 

Explore digital health 

Healthcare is a growing and ever-changing field. Whether you’re hoping to start a healthcare 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 Specialisation on Coursera introduces learners to the global role and application of digital technologies in public health and healthcare 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. 

Article sources

  1. Statista. “Projected global digital health market size from 2019 to 2025,” Accessed June 6, 2024.

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