5 ways to classify health technologies

Telehealth services and simple technology like thermometers get lumped into the "digital health" category, even though their premises are different, and often times, a lot more simple than perceived. It's important to clarify which health technology falls into which categories, and to surmise what direction they're headed in, a recent article in Forbes points out.

According to author Dan Munro, technologies can fall into five categories, including:

  1. Personal or Clinical Use: This category includes wearable technology, which is increasing in popularity. Munro asks, "Shouldn't we rightfully own the data our own bodies generate?" and also wonders where all the data generated by these devices is headed.

  2. Safety and Security: It's been proven time and time again that medical devices such as insulin pumps and implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICD) can be hacked. "The fact that even one ICD or insulin pump can be hacked and then controlled remotely suggests there is ample room for improvement in this one category alone," Munro says.

  3. Accuracy: High profile devices have a long way to go to prove safety and efficacy, Munro says, citing the common thermometer's lack of accuracy and consistency.

  4. Privacy: Newer devices are cloud based, but even with encryption, there's no guaranteed privacy of data, Munro point out. De-identified data can indeed be re-identified again.

  5. Business Model: It's all about liability, not just reimbursement or cost, Munro contends. While reimbursement is still a viable way to assign rights and responsibilities, consumers have every reason to believe data collected by healthcare devices won't be useful beyond personal interest.

"Each of the 5 points in our digital health checkup represents an important consideration for emerging technologies that continue to blur the line between clinical health and fitness or wellness," Munro says. "Some will arrive with relatively easy answers--but others won't, and the ultimate goal with all patient engagement isn't really who pays or who's liable, it's trust."

Some privacy experts have argued that health data security efforts are too reactive, and that even with safeguards in place, breaches are hard to avoid. While big data increasingly is being used as a tool to directly bolster patient care and could help to cut as much as $450 billion in costs from the U.S. healthcare system, many experts have lowered their expectations for its effectiveness in healthcare and beyond, citing privacy concerns.

To learn more:
- read the Forbes article

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