Digital health is the convergence of the Digital and Genomic Revolutions with health, healthcare, living, and society.
As we are seeing and experiencing, digital health is empowering us to better track, manage, and improve our own and our family’s health, live better, more productive lives, and improve society. It’s also helping to reduce inefficiencies in healthcare delivery, improve access, reduce costs, increase quality, and make medicine more personalized and precise.
Why is genomics part of the definition of digital health? There are two reasons why I include genomics and explicitly name it within the definition. While I explain this in detail in my book, The Fourth Wave: Digital Health, I’ve included an abbreviated version below. You can also read the introduction to my book on the Amazon page for it (simply click on “Look Inside” above the cover image).
First, DNA is a digital molecule. Sometimes referred to as the blueprint or code of life, DNA contains all the necessary instructions for making a living organism, helping it survive, and reproducing it. Much like software code performs a function in a digital computer, DNA code performs the protein-coding function in our cells. However, unlike computer code — which is a binary code comprised of 1s and 0s — our DNA is comprised of a four-base code of chemicals, the nucleic acids adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G), and thymine (T), aka ACGs and Ts.
The second reason is that the Digital Revolution — starting with digital electronics in the late 1950s — is both enabling and accelerating genomics well beyond what it otherwise would be as a field of science. Through the application of modern computing, next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies, and robotics, the speed of genotyping (determining which genetic variants you possess) and genome sequencing (identifying the order of those four base pairs) has increased significantly over the past 16 years. In 2007, it may have taken 10 months to sequence a genome. Today it can take as little as just one hour.
For a full explanation of the definition of digital health and the new era of society it is creating, please read my book, ‘The Fourth Wave: Digital Health‘.
While somewhat dated now in terms of capturing the full scope of the definition of digital health, a few years back I also created two animated videos — “What is Digital Health?” and “The Story of Digital Health (Part 1)“ — illustrating the essential elements of digital health, underlying lexicon, plus example use cases and opportunities for improving our health.
“What is Digital Health?” (2013) — 2 minutes long
‘What is Digital Health?‘ is from 2013, and I’ve since updated the definition by swapping out ‘Genetics Revolution’ with ‘Genomic Revolution’, which is more accurate. Also, I’ve added that the impact of the Digital Revolution extends beyond Health and Healthcare to Living and Society. These four elements are intricately linked to our health. Transcript available here.
“The Story of Digital Health (Part 1)” (2013) — 6 minutes long
In ‘The Story of Digital Health (Part 1)‘, also created in 2013, I expand upon the definition video and provide an analogy for digital health in addition to providing use cases and opportunities. Transcript available here.
Also, here are some other entities that, subsequent to my definition and promulgation of it, have put forth their own definitions for digital health or have pages focused on it:
- United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Digital Health page. Note that their definition is almost verbatim with mine, particularly on the benefits
- United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) “Five Questions You Can Ask Your Doctor about Digital Health“