Are digital health technologies really good for our health?

Christina Hernandez Sherwood | Fortune | August 31, 2015

Startup Evidation Health uses data analytics to evaluate digital health technologies around the world.

Countless entrepreneurs around the world have launched digital health companies in the last decade and more than 100,000 mobile apps are currently on the market—all with the goal of making us healthier. But how many of these companies have concrete evidence to support their health claims? Not many, says Sean Duffy, co-founder and CEO of Omada Health, a digital health company that develops programs for people at risk for chronic disease. “It’s still rare,” he adds.

In fact, there’s such a lack of clinical and economic evidence on the effectiveness of digital health products and services that a new startup was created just to focus on the problem. Evidation Health works to parse the marketing claims of digital health companies, which are rarely proven using scientific evidence, says CEO Deborah Kilpatrick. “I wouldn’t couch it in the context of, ‘these companies are making claims they can’t back up,’” she says. “They just haven’t [proven them]. Whether or not they can remains to be seen.”

Kilpatrick blames little time, knowledge and money spent on evidence in the digital health world for the lack of proof. “In all fairness,” she says, “digital health as a sector is still fairly young.” Many digital health companies are just now reaching maturity—they’re angel funded or in Series A or B rounds—and the sector is still figuring out what it means to prove effectiveness, Kilpatrick says. The entrepreneurs building these companies frequently come from the consumer sector, rather than healthcare, she says, so while they understand the importance of evidence, they don’t know how to generate it...