Health in the digital age

The digitalization of health systems does not result in developmental changes, but rather in transformation changes

Víctor Bautista is one of many the people with diabetes, a chronic illness that reduces the quality of life of those who are affected by it and that also places a heavy burden on the health system. It is estimated that there are about 350 million diabetics in the world.

Víctor was living in London when he received his diagnosis, and part of his time was spent studying programming for mobile devices. At the time, he could hardly imagine that his interest in mobile technology would become a central part of his life.

After accepting his new reality as a diabetic, he reached the conclusion that there had to be a way to improve his life and manage his illness.

Víctor decided to develop a mobile application that would help him control his diabetes, and in 2012 he founded the company SocialDiabetes. A few months later, the app received the WSA-Mobile UNESCO award for mobile health, and to date it has been downloaded more than 50,000 times throughout the world.

This is a good example of how the digitalization of health systems improves the quality of life of users and also reduces costs. According to a recent study by PwC, savings in Europe could reach €100 billion in 2017, with an annual contribution to the GDP of €93 billion. However, not everything is good news. The same report points out that there is a very high risk of having these savings limited to 10% due to regulatory, political, educational, and technological barriers.

One of the most important challenges is that the introduction of digitalization in health systems does not result in developmental changes, but rather in transformation changes. In many cases, the value chain may change significantly, as well as the agents involved and their responsibilities. Tension between agents delays the adoption of new solutions.

If users turn to the Internet to find information about their ailments, without interacting with each other, why not do this in a space that is moderated by healthcare professionals?

In light of the increased number of mobile health applications, the question of how to certify the quality of these clinical uses appears. Will doctors prescribe applications just as they prescribe medications? Will there be cost savings from fewer hospital admissions and visits to health centers by using more devices for remote tracking and monitoring?

While these questions are answered and the necessary decisions are made, citizen initiatives like Víctor’s are already helping improve our society. Let’s make the most of this.

Ginés Alarcón, president of Nae 

Expansión, Wednesday, May 7, 2014

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Nae works with telecom operators, large companies and public administrations to anticipate the challenges of market growth and transformation, improving their business strategy and operational efficiency. The company has offices in Spain, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil and Costa Rica, and has a team of over 600 professionals.