What is Digital Health?

Digital health is the application of digital health tools (DHTs) in health care and drug development. A DHT is a system that uses computing platforms, connectivity, software, and/or sensors, for health care and related uses and can encompass a wide variety of modalities including, but not limited to, digital therapeutics, wearables, mobile phone applications, electronic medical records (EMRs), online patient portals, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), and telehealth and telemedicine platforms.

Ultimately, DHTs can allow patients and providers to manage health and wellness more efficiently within the health care system, with the goal of improving patient outcomes.

The Journey Through a Technology-driven Health Care System

The impact of technology is evident throughout today’s health care system.

The impact of technology is evident throughout today’s health care system. Patients can use DHTs for proactive disease prevention, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and seeking information about their health. Patients can also use DHTs to communicate with health care providers (e.g., telehealth), as treatments, as therapeutic aids (eg, digital medication reminders), for personalized monitoring, and for data collection, all of which could help improve patient outcomes.

Health care providers can also utilize DHTs at various stages to enhance a patient’s journey through the health care system. Data from electronic medical records (EMRs) or directly from the patient increases transparency and offers actionable insights, facilitated by tools such as clinical decision support (CDS) software, to assist providers in patient care. The evaluation of data on treatment response or adherence allows providers to identify and overcome potential barriers for patients.



Companies can use DHTs as a drug development tool and to make clinical trials more convenient for patient participation. For additional details on the use of digital health technologies in drug development, see more here and here.

Symptom Onset or Proactive Prevention Step

Patients can use technology to increase awareness of their general health, initiate healthy lifestyle changes, maintain healthy habits or learn about symptoms they are experiencing.

Graphic illustration of a smart watch with a heartbeat icon on the screen

Wearables (e.g., smartwatches) can provide patients immediate feedback on their health and behaviors, enabling awareness and subsequent behavioral changes.

Graphic illustration of a blood pressure monitor on a wrist
Home Monitoring Devices

Home monitoring devices (e.g., blood pressure cuff, glucometer) allow patients to monitor their own health status and identify potential symptoms for provider follow-up.

Graphic illustration of a desktop computer with a doctor on the screen, and speech bubble and medical cross icons superimposed
Online Platform or Social Media Support Groups

Patients can use trusted and reliable websites or online platforms to help identify their symptoms or seek general disease information or use social media to seek support and engage with their health.

The Value to the Patient

These tools enable patient awareness and engagement with their health and speed up their point of contact with the health care system.

The Trend

The current use of digital health apps and wearables for preventative health care saves the U.S. health care system an estimated $7 billion per year, driven by reduced hospitalizations (IQVIA 2017).

Doctor’s Appointment

Patients and providers can use DHTs to provide access to health care services. They can also use digital check-in tools to maximize time during the appointment.

Icon image of health chart next to world wide web icon
Online Platforms, EMRs and Clinical Decision Support Software

Secure online portals allow patients and providers to make appointments, message each other in between visits and review their EMR. Additionally, CDS software can enhance decision making for providers by presenting pertinent patient-specific data and recommendations.

Icon image of hand holding phone with health cross and text

Patients can schedule and attend remote visits with their provider, allowing more convenient access to care to complement regular in-person visits.

Icon image of smartwatch showing sleep schedule
Wearables and Home Monitoring Devices

Patients can share data (eg, sleep data, heart rate data) from wearables or home monitoring devices with their providers, which can help inform conversations about their health status.

The Value to the Patient

DHTs have the potential to streamline care where appropriate, increase access in underserved areas and save time and costs for patients and providers. In fact, the cost to patients for taking time off work, and traveling to and waiting for in-person appointments is around $89 billion a year in total lost time and wages (Altarum 2019).

The Trend

Employers are increasingly offering telehealth services—93% of organizations offer a telemedicine or telehealth benefit to their workers, up from 75% in 2019 (SHRM 2022).


DHTs can be used to confirm or complement a diagnosis or collect data to facilitate diagnoses.

Icon image showing DNA strand under magnifying glass
Digital Biomarkers and Digital Diagnostics

Patient health can be monitored with DHTs that collect digital biomarkers (eg, characteristics or objectively measured indicators of patient health or disease, such as heart rate collected from DHTs), which can help facilitate diagnoses.

Icon image of lung image
AI/ML in Medical Imaging

AI/ML can support providers in their analysis of medical imaging and allow for more rapid and accurate diagnoses of cancers and other diseases.

Icon image of computer showing world wide web icon
Online Platforms and Digital Networks

Patients with undiagnosed diseases can use verified online platforms and digital networks to find other patients with similar experiences to assist in understanding their symptoms.

The Value to the Patient

The diagnostic journey for many patients can be reduced, saving time and costs, and allowing for earlier detection of diseases. This is particularly helpful for rare diseases where an accurate diagnosis can take more than 7 years after symptom onset (NORD 2020).

The Trend

The implementation of innovative diagnostics, including digital biomarkers, a digital measure of health status, and AI in medical imaging is accelerating:

  • In a 2020 analysis, more than half of FDA-approved products were supported by biomarker data (Gromova 2020).
  • In a 2020 survey, 30% of radiologists used AI in their practice, and of those not using, 20% planned to purchase AI tools in the next 1 to 5 years (Allen 2021).


Patients can benefit from prescribers using DHTs to streamline the administrative process or may obtain an intervention that is a digital therapeutic, implantable, or companion app, or use DHTs for disease management. Health care providers may also refer patients to clinical trials, including remote clinical trials using DHTs, to facilitate enrollment and participation.

Icon image of smart phone with patient check mark
Electronic Benefits Verification and Prior Authorization

Prescribers can electronically and in real time verify a patient’s insurance benefits to expedite access to treatment or electronically process prior authorization, saving time for both patients and providers.

Icon web image of patient profile under medical magnifying glass
Decentralized Clinical Trial Participation Tools

Using DHTs such as telehealth, remote patient monitoring and electronic clinical outcomes assessments allows research to occur away from the clinical trial sites. Participants can use electronic forms to consent to clinical trial participation and use DHTs to participate in hybrid or decentralized clinical trials.

Icon image of patient chart with heart beat
Companion Apps

In conjunction with an intervention, a patient may use a companion app (eg, behavioral therapy, digital journal) to help manage their disease.

The Value to the Patient

Patients experience increased efficiencies in prescribing and have access to a broader variety of therapies, reducing barriers to care and allowing for more thoughtful engagement with their health. Patients who would have been unable to participate in a traditional clinical trial may be able to participate in a decentralized clinical trial, expanding treatment options and increasing the representativeness of clinical trials.

The Trend

The COVID-19 pandemic greatly increased the adoption of decentralized clinical trials—in a recent survey, 100% of biopharmaceutical manufacturer and contract research organization respondents expected virtual trials to be a major component of their portfolios (up from 38% in 2019)—and the regulatory environment is adapting to support such studies (McKinsey 2021)

Taking and Managing the Medicine

Patients can use DHTs to assist in medication management.

Icon image of smartphone with stethoscope
Digital Therapeutics

Patients can use evidence-based therapies that may be connected to a sensor or independent mobile apps or computer software programs to prevent, manage or treat their disease.

Icon image of web search window of prescription
Electronic Diaries and Disease Management Platforms

Patients can use mobile apps or electronic platforms to track medicine intake, calculate doses to be administered and sometimes engage providers to improve self-management and clinical outcomes.

Icon image of clock next to medications
Medication Reminder Apps

Patients can use mobile apps to remind them to take medications and track adherence.

The Value to the Patient

DHTs can increase adherence to medications and potentially reduce medication errors (Quisel 2019; Baumann 2019).

The Trend

As of November 2021, at least 25 digital therapeutics have been granted market authorization globally through regulatory processes and another 23 are commercially available; an additional 89 are in earlier stages of development and evidence generation (IQVIA 2021). Further, an increasing number of physicians are incorporating digital therapeutics in their practice, and health plans are beginning to offer reimbursement for these interventions (AMA 2022).

Monitoring of Symptoms and Disease Management

Patients and clinicians can use DHTs to monitor symptoms and evaluate treatment progress.

Graphic illustration of a smart watch with a heartbeat icon on the screen

Patients can use wearables to alert themselves to emergency situations (eg, an excessively high or low heart rate) for potential doctor follow-up.

Graphic illustration of a blood pressure monitor on a wrist
Home Monitoring Devices

Patients can use home monitoring devices to track signs and symptoms of their disease and to share data with their provider.

Graphic illustration of a desktop computer with a doctor on the screen, and speech bubble and medical cross icons superimposed
Online Platforms and Social Media Support Groups

Patients can use secure online platforms or portals to provide health updates to their provider in between visits. Patients may join and be empowered through disease-specific social media support groups.

The Value to the Patient

DHTs can support patients in their treatment journey and provide treatment feedback, allowing patients to remain engaged in their care.

The Trend

The percentage of physicians using remote monitoring services grew from 12% in 2016 to 30% in 2022 (AMA 2022). Total funding for remote patient monitoring more than doubled in 2020 ($941M) from 2019 ($417M) (StartUp Health 2021).

This website uses cookies and other tracking technologies to optimize performance, preferences, usage, and statistics. By clicking “Accept All”, you consent to store on your device the cookies and other tracking technologies that require consent. You can tailor or change your preferences by clicking “Manage My Cookies”. You can check our privacy policy for more information.