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A Vision for Using Digital Health Technologies to Empower Consumers and Transform the U.S. Health Care System

digital health

Executive Summary

Unlike other sectors of the economy, the health care industry has yet to realize the potential of digital technologies. These tools, which allow for the rapid exchange of text, images, and data, have transformed the retail and travel industries by allowing companies to discover customers’ unique needs and preferences and leverage that information to deliver products and services in new and more convenient ways.

The health care industry now has the opportunity to catch up, using tools ranging from smartphones and tablet computers to remote sensors and monitoring devices to deliver care, information, and support to patients where and when they need it. These technologies also can play a key role in closing communication gaps between providers and patients and in forging new relationships among providers and their peers.

Leading health care organizations have made inroads. Some are using cloud-based platforms to create a connective web among providers, while others are using smartphone technology and remote monitoring devices to detect changes in patients’ conditions and offer real-time feedback.

Health care organizations also are beginning to use data-mining tools that have helped other industries identify and fill customers’ needs. Using clinical data drawn from various sources, organizations have been able to identify not only the patients who would benefit from more intensive or better-coordinated care, but also best practices that can influence health outcomes for millions of patients.

This report includes examples of these innovations, as well as others that have been used to help consumers make informed decisions about their treatment based on the known benefits, risks, and uncertainties of medical procedures.

We expect some of the most transformational breakthroughs to result from combinations of innovations. This is because to have a broad impact, care delivery innovations must accomplish many things, including simplifying complex business and clinical models, engaging consumers, and introducing new payment models to change systems and behaviors. By pursuing these goals simultaneously, we may be able to achieve the triple aim of reducing costs and enhancing outcomes and experiences for patients on a systemwide rather than individual basis.

Click here to view the full report.

See the companion report, Taking Digital Health to the Next Level: Promoting Technologies That Empower Consumers and Drive Health System Transformation.


Publication Details



Sarah Klein, Consulting Writer and Editor

[email protected]


S. Klein, M. Hostetter, and D. McCarthy, A Vision for Using Digital Health Technologies to Empower Consumers and Transform the U.S. Health Care System, The Commonwealth Fund, October 2014.