According to Rock Health’s report, the year 2015 closed with over $4.5 Billion in digital health funding, compared to $4.3 Billion in 2014, and is expected to reach $6.5 Billion by 2017 according to Accenture. This in turn can provide an indication to the investor that the digital health domain is gaining more importance, especially when we realize that digital health investments account for 7% of the total venture funding, and that the average number of employees in digital health companies increased from 44 to 50 over the course of year 2015. It is important to note that those figures are related to the US.
What about the consumer adoption of digital health in the US? According also to Rock Health, digital health in the US still faces a steep climb up the adoption curve, such that around half the consumers have used only one digital health technology or haven’t adopted any technology at all, totaling 48%. Although that, most Americans (80%) seem to have used at least one of the following digital health categories: online health information (71%), online health reviews (50%), mobile health tracking (17%), wearables (12%), genetic services (7%), and telemedicine (7%). If we exclude the first two categories which don’t directly affect one’s health as it is related more to information, we can notice that there seems to be some shortage in adopting real digital health technologies. But, according to Parks Associates, 40 million US smartphone owners are active users of at least one wellness or fitness app. The firm has also reported that one in four heads of household (homes with broadband) use a mobile app to track their fitness, and predicts that 60 million US households will own at least one connected fitness tracker by the end of 2019. Even more than a third of US physicians recommended a health app to patients.
According to Goldman Sachs, the digital health revolution could save the US more the $300 Billion in the near future. Goldman adds that the digital health market could see as much as $32.4 Billion in near-term revenues. If we look at the 12 companies leading the way in digital health, we can notice that all of them are based in the US. If we also look at the 10 digital health startups to watch, we can notice that all of them operate in the US, except for one in Canada and the other virtually. Digital health awareness in the US is also at its optimum, especially when we notice that many digital health events are happening in the US year round.
Although this rise of investments, awareness, and implementation of digital health in the US, another part of the world seems very promising. The MENA region seems to be the birth place for digital health revolution, and digital health is considered at the forefront of healthcare innovation in the Middle East.
As mentioned in another article, investments in digital health in the Middle East is on the rise. For instance, healthcare providers in the Middle East have spent around $1.8 Billion in 2015 trying to integrate information technology with healthcare. GCC governments have also set a plan in investing in the GCC healthcare IT sector which exceeded $550 Billion in 2015, provided that end 2013, IDC Research indicated that eHealth is a top priority for many government authorities in the MENA region. They also expected that spending on clinical information systems in Saudi Arabia is expected to rise 11% annually. Regarding consumer adoption, mPlusHealth reports that 33% of users in the Middle East would use one health app or the other in 2015. Dubai Doctors app for instance enables Dubai residents and visitors to search for healthcare professionals and facilities in Dubai.
In general, adoption of IT in the Middle East’s healthcare industry is considered advanced in many countries of the region. For instance, the UAE uses the Wareed System in the public hospitals and clinics, providing advanced integrated administrative and clinical systems. The UAE seems the leading country in the Middle East in digital health adoption, as it leads in telemedicine adoption, and is considered one of the earliest large scale adopters of EHR (Electronic Health Records) in the world.
Comparing digital health implementation between the US and the Middle East, we can notice that there has to be more done in the Middle East for digital health adoption, and more awareness and events have to be carried out, although some efforts are already occurring in the region such as Arab Health, Building Healthcare Middle East, and Saudi Health. Being behind western countries by a step or two regarding digital health may have its advantages. “What’s great about coming from a position of ‘youth’ when it comes to the overall history and evolution of the healthcare system, is that there is far less legacy to deal with – in terms of investment, systems and political capital,” says Ali A. Hashemi, Director of Amana Healthcare. “For this reason, there are really interesting opportunities for players in the region to leapfrog ahead of their more mature market counterparts.”