Digital health and the future of medicine

Until now, modern medicine has left patients to manage many aspects of their treatment regimen without a physician able to monitor progress or adherence. But that’s likely to change.

Advances in device technology and access to an endless stream of user data mean that the promise of digital medicine — keeping patients, providers, and perhaps even drug manufacturers interconnected — may be close to becoming a reality. Asher Rubin, Global Head of Hogan Lovells’ Life Sciences and Healthcare Industry Group, says healthcare is on the brink of a game-changing 21st century overhaul.

“What digital medicine has the potential to provide is an interactive experience where both the patient and the physician know that the patient is getting better,” says Rubin. “We’re really at the beginning of a revolution that allows patient care to be integrated across all stages, which means providers can monitor treatment on a patient by patient basis. It’s an exciting advance because it’s going to put the focus on improving outcomes.”

But that shift won’t be easy. While stakeholders across the healthcare spectrum are pushing to drive adoption of digital medicine, a move toward these types of digitally integrated treatments is likely to face significant legal hurdles.

“The primary issue is that digital health platforms typically access information related to personal data, treatment regimens, and patient care, which puts data privacy issues at the forefront,” Rubin says. “Digital health requires companies entering the space to be versed in areas like health privacy, joint venture experience, and knowledge of how to store and retrieve data from patients. And because health privacy laws and technology transfer laws differ around the world, navigating these areas is tricky – especially for those who are new to digital health.”

Reimbursement is also an issue. “At the moment, there isn’t a mechanism for how these fantastic digital products can be paid for on their own – when they’re not part of, for example, a medical regimen or hospital procedure,” Rubin says. “This is needed for both federal reimbursement and the private pay insurance industry.”

But look past the challenges, and Rubin believes digital health offers huge potential for meaningful collaboration. He encourages his clients to consider ways that synergies between innovative devices and pharmaceuticals can lead to new treatment methods.

“The digital health space offers a real opportunity for cooperation among pharmaceutical companies, device companies, academic medical centers, and physicians,” he says. “We expect that as the digital health industry emerges, a reimbursement scheme will be put in place that pays for better outcomes. This is when it will make economic sense for companies to continue innovating across industry verticals.”

Watch the video to learn more about the future of digital health and the legal issues facing the industry.

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