In our previous blog, Value-based healthcare and the digital health revolution (read it here) we briefly introduced Digital Health and went on to discuss how digital technologies can contribute to Value Based Health Care.
The digital health market on its own is a massive and growing industry that encompasses several overlapping themes. In the following discussion, we would like to walk you through some of the verticals within digital health and highlight their forecasted market potential. The sectors we will focus on here are the ones most relevant to physical therapy (PT) and musculoskeletal (MSK) rehabilitation.
Digital Health Ecosystem
Let’s start by shortly explaining digital health and which industries fall within its ecosystem. Digital health is a broad umbrella term that refers to the use of digital technologies and telecommunications, such as computers, the Internet, and mobile devices, to facilitate health improvement and health care services. In 2018, the global digital health market was valued at a whopping USD 86.4 billion and forecasted to grow to a staggering USD 504.4 billion by 2025. Already this year digital health has received USD 21.3 billion in venture capital funding, just shy of the total funding for 2017, 2018, and 2019 combined.
Within the scope of digital health and contributing to this eye-watering valuation are broader categories that include Health IT, Digital Customer Acquisition, Telehealth, and Digital Medicine, all of which have their own overlapping sub-categories. Check out figure 1.
As mentioned for the sake of this blog, we will focus only on the industry's most relevant to the facilitation of PT and MSK rehabilitation, namely Telehealth and Digital Medicine.
What is Telehealth?
Telehealth is a blanket term that refers to the delivery of health care, health education, and health information services via remote technologies. It comprises of consumer health, personalized health, connected health, remote patient monitoring, and telemedicine. The global telehealth market makes up a large portion of the digital health economy, it is expected to grow from USD 62.45 billion in 2020 to reach USD 475.50 Billion by 2026. We will delve deeper into the last two: remote patient monitoring and telemedicine.
Often used interchangeably with telehealth, telemedicine is the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by means of telecommunications technology. Its market size is anticipated to grow to USD 431.8 billion within the decade. However, interestingly a mere 1% of telemedicine services used by US adults were related to physical therapy – for context, primary care (33%), mental health (6%), and dermatology (2%) all have higher telehealth usage rates. What’s more, as of now most virtual PT solutions on the market are being offered by MSK digital therapeutics companies.
Remote Patient Monitoring
Overlapping with telemedicine is remote patient monitoring (RPM). RPM reports, collects, transmits, and evaluates patient health data through electronic devices such as online programs or smartphone apps. Undoubtedly this is valuable for physicians to be able to continuously observe the health of their patients long after they have left the clinic. The entire RPM market is estimated to reach USD 31.3 billion by the end of 2023 – two years from now.
One example of a RPM system is PT software which, among other things, is used to assign patients their rehabilitation exercises and collect data on their progress towards recovery. However, inaccurate input of information by the patient could jeopardize the evaluations by the therapist and lead to potential misdirection of the patient’s recovery plan. This is why it’s critical that the data collection aspect leaves no room for guessing or assumptions by the patient. For PT and MSK treatment where correct form and posture are imperative for a sustained recovery, computer vision and artificial intelligence can remove the guess work and aggregate data on the rehabilitation performance.
Wrapping things up, telehealth is providing healthcare to patients who are geographically separated from their physicians, telemedicine is the subsequent remote treatment, and RPM is a specific type of telemedicine.
What is Digital Medicine?
Digital medicine is the use of technologies as tools for measurement and intervention in the service of human health. The idea is that the care patients receive should be better since more health data is being collected than was previously available. Types of digital medicine include digital therapeutics (DTx), mobile health (mHealth), wearables, and digital diagnostics. Together the market size is projected to reach USD 18.6 billion by 2029, up from USD 2.3 billion in 2020. We will look more closely into DTx and mHealth.
mHealth is a combination of digital medicine and telemedicine and refers to healthcare applications and programs patients use on their smartphones, tablets, or laptops. Taking the example of a PT or MSK rehab program, the patient receives their personalized exercises via a patient portal which are usually available through a mobile application. Often, patients will go several days if not weeks without visiting their therapist, so a mobile program is beneficial to monitor and guide them through a series of rehabilitative movements. More advanced, personalized applications have also started adopting computer vision and artificial intelligence to enhance the user experience and quality of health data collection. Plus, with nearly 90 percent of the world population owning a cell phone and 80 percent owning specifically a smartphone, mHealth is forecasted to surge to USD 111 billion by 202515. This expectation is highly supported by the increase of telehealth use.
Digital therapeutics, another form of treatment that can be administered via mobile applications, provide evidence-based treatment with software that replaces or complements existing treatment for a disease. To give some clarification here: digital health is the umbrella term that includes different technologies to provide healthcare to patients; digital medicine are tools that measure or intervene in health conditions; even more specific, DTx is software that can treat, manage, or prevent a health condition. In 2019, the DTx market size was valued at USD 2.88 billion and is expected to reach USD 13.80 billion by 2027. This growth is also consistent with the increase in usage of smartphones and tablets, coupled with healthcare apps.
Treatment for MSK pain is a prime example of DTx and leveraging digital technologies to enhance healthcare. The digital MSK disease-treatment market is projected to grow to USD 5.7 billion by 2025 up from USD 3.8 billion in 2017. As a way to treat the pain caused from MSK diseases or prevent it altogether, consumers can either buy such DTx products on their own through the app store or be prescribed a DTx treatment plan by their physician similar to a medication. However instead of going to the pharmacy for refills on medications, the DTx is an app or device that the physician can remotely monitor.
This blog presented a lot of numbers and forecasts, and it’s worth addressing that many of the sub-industries discussed overlap one another, which distorts their individual values. However, that does not detract from the fact that the digital health market as a whole is worth billions and forecasted to continue growing. This begs the question for some of you reading if your company is primed to also take advantage of the swelling one-half trillion-dollar industry wave?
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