Driven by consumer demand, the health care sector in the US is steadily digitizing, according to Mary Meeker's annual Internet Trends report. While this trend may be most evident in the use of consumer tools, such as health wearables, digitization is underway across the entire healthcare ecosystem -- hospital administrators are updating their record-keeping systems, researchers have access to troves of new digital data and doctors are offering more data-driven, personalized forms of care.
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Meeker, the Bond Capital founder and former Kleiner Perkins general partner, has tracked internet statistics and technology trends since 1995. The digitization of the healthcare industry, she notes, correlates with the rising cost of healthcare in the US -- a looming issue for consumers and the government. In the US, consumers not only have to contend with relatively high costs, compared to the rest of the world, but also relatively poor outcomes, according to some metrics.
In this context, patients are increasingly using a range of digital health tools to become more engaged in health care decision-making. Compared with 2015, a larger portion of Americans now use online health information, online provider reviews, mobile health tracking, wearables and live video telemedicine.
Digital services that give patients faster access to care providers are also growing in popularity. The number of patients that use the online platform ZocDoc to book appointments has grown steadily since 2012. The report also spotlighted the two-year-old startup Solv, which enables patients to book same-day appointments and no-wait urgent care.
The number of hospitals embracing telemedicine is also growing -- nearly 80 percent of hospitals in the US have implemented the service. Meanwhile, tools like Doximity, a doctor social network, help improve physician communications and expands their knowledge base, making it more likely that patients can see the right specialist or get the specific care they need.
Membership is also up for Clover Health, a Medicare Advantage insurer that combines technology and preventive care to lower costs and increase the quality of life for patients. Correspondingly, Medicare Advantage enrollment is also on the rise.
On the administrative side of the business, the use of electronic health records (EHR) is nearing 100 percent adoption in the US. Still, their usage is in early innings, the report says. It highlights survey data showing around two-thirds of physicians are still looking for interoperability from EHR systems. Doctors are also asking for predictive analytics features, as well as the integration of financial and cost data.
Digital Health Management tools like Oscar Health are also taking off, giving hospitals and doctors' offices the opportunity to replace legacy systems. Additionally, health networks are increasingly using collaboration tools to align provider teams across organizations.
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The healthcare industry is also changing thanks to the proliferation of health data. Millions of Americans each year undergo genomics testing, creating a growing base of personal genetic data.
Internet leaders are poised to capture troves of digitized health care data, the report stresses. Consumers increasingly trust companies like Google and Amazon with their health data, and these companies are capitalizing on that trust. For instance, Apple's ResearchKit helps medical researchers collect data for clinical studies, while Google's DeepMind is using AI to unlock insights for practitioners. Last year, Amazon bought the internet pharmacy start-up PillPack.