What brave new worlds are in store for digital health?

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Author: Nir Altman, Co-founder and CEO, Equiva

Earlier this month, we had the chance to see first-ever images from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the largest optical telescope in space. How truly amazing!

I’ve always had a keen interest in astronomy and space exploration. And along with millions across the globe, I’ve became captivated when viewing JWST images.  What a thrill to have new glimpses into space and to read expert perspectives from scientists analyzing the most detailed look ever into the origins of the universe.

Sitting 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, the telescope has spotted the most distant, earliest galaxy known. According to NASA, this marks the beginning of a new era in astrophysics and space exploration.

Yesterday I read an article in Quanta Magazine, an independent online publication whose mission is to illuminate basic science and math research through public service journalism. The author describes efforts by an astrophysicist at the University of California, Berkeley, who coordinated efforts via Slack among 14 collaborators. The team set out to publish the first JWST science paper.

After working nonstop for three days, they posted their research just minutes before the daily deadline to arixiv.org, the server where scientists can upload early versions of papers. They missed out on being first by 13 seconds, “which was pretty funny,” said the lead researcher.

This team’s efforts highlight the enormous volume of science that is already coming from JWST, just days after receiving data from the mega-telescope. And it brings to mind the tremendous value that data provides in fueling cutting-edge innovation.

As we know all too well, healthcare has lagged behind other industries in using data and information technology to springboard itself into the future. This pertains not so much across efforts to advance clinical knowledge, but applies more so to the business, administrative and financial sides of the house.

In a white paper titled The Digitization of the World From Edge to Core, IDC analysts state that by 2025, the compound annual growth rate of data for healthcare will reach 36%. That’s 6% faster than manufacturing, 10% faster than financial services, and 11% faster than media and entertainment.

Fortunately, in recent decades, we’ve seen major shifts in momentum among providers, payors, pharma and others seeking to capture and optimize the use of data – to drive both health improvement and financial success.

Often, when I begin describing our Equiva platform to colleagues, many believe it’s an environment that supports the delivery of digital content and applications. Indeed, this was our foundational offering at Equiva.

Yet today we’re so much more. At the heart of our platform is a powerful data convergence and intelligence infrastructure which serves as a foundation to bridge data capture and analytics with powerful educational and behavioral science-driven methodologies.

Healthcare organizations (HCOs) can rely on this environment to mobilize objectives-based, data-driven actions in an efficient and timely wayamong consumers, patients and their loved ones, and members of the care team. In collaborating with some of our country’s leading health systems over the past ten years, we’ve greatly expanded opportunities for HCOs to digitally serve their customers — in care facilities, at home and on the go.  

Equiva’s health relationship management (HRM) platform helps HOCs create, nurture and retain long-term customer relationships — by blending unique aspects of patient experience, care management and marketing.  We like to call it hyper-targeted digital health engagement wherein the HCO can:

  • deliver content and applications to meet individuals anywhere on their health journey
  • suggest timely services for care plan delivery, wellness initiatives and beyond
  • optimize powerful communication, remote monitoring, care management and other solutions
  • cost-effectively create and deliver offerings that tap into new revenue streams

Now, may I return to my discussion of space. In a recent article at Space.com, the author showcases imagery by Judy Schmidt who’s been working with space images for a decade. “I’ve been doing this for 10 years now, and [Webb] data is new, different, and exciting,” Schmidt told Space.com. “Of course, I’m going to make something with it.”

What Schmidt created is the image shown here at the top of this page along with my blog post1. Based on JWST data collected nearly a million miles from our planet, this image shows what’s been dubbed “the Phantom Galaxy.”  According to the article’s author, some astronomers have called it the “perfect spiral” because it is so symmetrical. “The Phantom Galaxy is scientifically interesting because of the intermediate-mass black hole scientists believe is embedded at its heart,” she writes.

Ah, all this talk of new galaxies, perfect spirals and black holes. Yes, I’m a space enthusiast. It also made me curious to know a bit more about the JWST’s data capabilities. Amazingly, the telescope uses a 68 GB drive to store data from its instruments, just a bit more than an iPhone 12. Comparatively, Hubble collected only 1-2 GB per day. It takes about two hours minutes to fill the storage drive, and data can be transferred back to Earth in just four and a half hours.

JWST is slated for a 10-year mission. What will come in the decade ahead as JWST provides countless insights into our universe?

In parallel, consider the abundant advances we’ve made in digital health in the past decade. Innovation is indeed alive and well.  

What can we expect in the ten years ahead?

I’d like to see an environment where digital technology more fully enhances collaboration and decision-making among consumers, patients, their loved ones, and members of the care team, both clinical and nonclinical. Data, of course, lives at the heart of this scenario – along with advanced application of educational and behavioral science methodologies. And with this, it is my firm belief that we can, and will, move the needle in advancing health equity, improving health outcomes and reducing healthcare costs.

1The James Webb Space Telescope’s imagery of NGC 628 (the “Phantom Galaxy”) shows glowing dust in this citizen science image. (Image credit: NASA/ESA/CSA/Judy Schmidt)

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