Digital Technology in Public Health
Category : PROspective
From Alexa Morse, MPH (alum, 2017):
When you think of technology startups, public health probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, due to the need for innovation, digital technology has become a larger focus in the public health realm over the past couple years.
The intersection of public health and digital technology is one of the most exciting places to be right now. Technology enables public health programs to reach more consumers, therefore impact health outcomes on a broader scale, and with the rise of the digital age, programs such as these are able to meet patients where they are. 81% of Americans own a smartphone and are able to access information at their fingertips without having to leave the convenience of their own home. As healthcare spend in the US is rising (nearly $3.7B in 2018!), companies are trying to find creative ways to scale interventions, impact care, and improve health outcomes outside of the traditional healthcare office visit.
Digital health, e-health and health IT (HIT), are some of the terms used to describe digital technology in the healthcare space. All relatively mean the same thing and their definitions are blending further together with the convergence of patient care and consumer wellness.
According to StartUp Health’s 2019 Q3 Report, $10.4 billion has been invested in digital health companies this year to date—with very important public health issues nearing the top of those investments. Public health startups include those focused on social determinants of health, access to care, cancer care, women’s health, and many other topics.
There are many examples of companies doing incredible things in public health, enabled by technology. Here are just a few:
Omada Health: Chronic disease therapeutics
Lyft: Transportation to doctor’s visits
Curatio Social Network for Health
Bodyport: Heart Disease prevention and management
If you’re looking to start your own company in the public health space (or any space), I highly encourage you to focus on the following areas:
- Team: Make sure you have the right team working with you. Bring in experts that believe in your mission and have strengths that mitigate your weaknesses.
- Product: How is your product differentiated from existing products on the market? What makes it unique?
- Market: how big is the market? Is there a need for your product in the market?
If you have these three areas covered and are creating something you are passionate about, you will be on a good path forward.
Plugging into the ecosystem and understanding the available resources is also an important piece of building any company. These are good places to start getting connected:
- Global Center for Medical Innovation
- Atlanta Tech Village
- Innovate @ Emory
- Emory Innovation Hub
Alexa Morse is the Accelerator Portfolio Manager at the Global Center for Medical Innovation. She graduated from Rollins in 2017 with an MPH in Behavioral Sciences and Health Education. During her time at Rollins, she focused on the scalability of health programs, in addition to the intersection of technology and public health.