From data to diagnosis: Digital health’s role in personalised medicine

Janet Ooi, digital healthcare solutions manager, Keysight Technologies, outlines three key obstacles to overcome to make a connected health world a reality: interoperability, regulation and trust.

The healthcare industry has undergone a Tsunami of disruption and challenges remain despite the pandemic being in the rearview. From pressure on costs, staff shortages, inequalities and a patient care backlog, the NHS faces significant challenges. As the industry strives to enhance outcomes, digital healthcare continues to gather momentum with the goal of improving efficiency and shifting from hospital-centric to ultimately making medicine more personalised and precise. 

Innovations, including AI, digital therapeutics, and continuous sensors, have the potential to revolutionise disease prediction, diagnostics, and treatment, leading to better healthcare. From ambient signatures to implants and consumer wearables, there is an array of data to harness, and sharing this information is vital. This is fuelling a technology arms race as the industry strives to usher in a new era of preventative health.

Powered by these innovations, the global digital health market is predicted to be worth $939 billion by 2032. However, there are some underlying issues to navigate before personalised healthcare at scale can be realised:

Interoperability hurdles

Consumer wearables and other connected devices are creating a wave of health-related data, and the success of personalised care depends on the interoperability ecosystem. Breaking down silos and ensuring seamless integration will improve diagnostics and reduce costs, and open standards are key to better healthcare for everyone. The ability to share real-time data is vital and leads to better treatment and patient outcomes. Analytic interoperability across data standards is foundational to deliver more personalised and predictive healthcare. 

Regulatory landscape

As wearables and implantable devices become more pervasive, so do cybersecurity concerns. For example, if the device transmits data to the individual’s mobile phone and it’s breached, it could result in:

  • the device triggering unnecessary treatment or an action that may harm the individual
  • an entry point to the hospital network that could be exploited
  • adding to the growing threat from ransomware that the NHS is battling.

Therefore, it’s vital to ensure that guardrails are in place to prevent these and other security vulnerabilities. More oversight and regulation are vital to ensure data is protected and shared safely and securely to accelerate the adoption of digital healthcare.

Data: Overcoming privacy & trust issues

The explosion in connected devices such as heart rate monitors, pulse oximeters, electrocardiographs, and continuous glucose monitors creates new data streams. The data provides insights that will support better personalised therapeutic care; however, building trust in the data and ensuring privacy and security standards are critical.

The British Government has made regulations (The Medical Devices (Amendment) (Great Britain) Regulations 2023) that enable CE marked medical devices to continue to be accepted. This will remain until The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) publishes new medical device regulations that come into effect in July 2025. 

As digital therapeutics continues to expand, it has the potential to change how diseases progress and help rebuildneural connections within the brain. Doctors will have data telling them precisely what the patient is doing rather than relying on what they say, which will drive up efficiency and effectiveness. However, as these solutions blur the lines between consumer and health products, they will magnify trust and privacy concerns.

Doubling down on digital 

Delivering better holistic healthcare more efficiently will require intelligent technologies to address the issues stated above. The fusion of AI and ML with digital twin solutions will provide a way to model, scenario plan, and predict outcomes. However, to deliver personalised care, intelligent digital twins require interoperable real-time data to model, assess, gain insight, and take effective action. The future of healthcare will include tapping into various information streams and biomarkers and, ultimately, creating digital individuals to test and evaluate treatment plans.

Companies are already using virtual patients to assess drug efficacy before moving to human trials. Digital simulationshelp identify issues early in the development cycle, saving significant time and money. The technology can model medical devices and patients and predict how the treatments would work. While it may seem futuristic, these initiatives are already well underway with innovations, including simulating a human heart.

The digital imperative 

The quest to shift from one size fits all to personalised and preventative healthcare is a global imperative. Digital healthcare can transform our lives in a multitude of ways, from improved detection and diagnosis to tailored treatments and preventative measures. In addition, it will drive much needed efficiency gains and outcomes. But there are roadblocks to overcome before it comes to fruition. However, if we aspire to increase the quality and length of lifespans, there is a pressing moral directive to pivot to predictive and therapeutic health.

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This post originally appeared on TechToday.