Digital Health 2024 at Stanford University showcased successful collaborations among tech and life science companies, government organizations and academia in advancing digital health solutions. As health technologies evolve, they present unprecedented challenges and opportunities to improve patient care and individual health outcomes. From remote monitoring to artificial intelligence (AI) diagnostics, these technologies facilitate data collection, analysis and innovative life-changing therapies.

Here are the key takeaways from this year’s summit, which will be hosted at the University of Waterloo in 2025.

Universities are a catalyst for implementing technologies ethically

Universities play a vital role in driving ethical implementation of technologies in health care by fostering collaboration, conducting advanced research and educating future health professionals. As hubs of innovation and knowledge exchange, universities are equipped to explore ethical implications of emerging technologies and developing frameworks to ensure their responsible use.

This exploration informs policymakers, health-care practitioners, and industry stakeholders, guiding ethical decision-making and regulatory frameworks for technology implementation.

 Catherine Burns, Wei Li, Christine Tsien Silvers, Arunangsu Chatterjee and Beth Andrews

Left to right: Catherine Burns, Wei Li, Christine Tsien Silvers, Arunangsu Chatterjee and Beth Andrews discuss partnerships across sectors

“Universities play a pivotal role in fostering conversations across various sectors. Their ability to bridge the gap between technology, health care and user perspectives is unique,” said Arunangsu Chatterjee, professor of digital health and vice chair, University of Leeds, West Yorkshire Integrated Care Board. “Universities, with their capacity to engage communities and industry partners like tech and pharmaceutical companies, offer exceptional opportunities to drive meaningful transformation.”

AI will shape the future of health

Mike Snyder

Michael Snyder discusses AI innovation in healthcare

AI holds immense potential to improve diagnosis, treatment and patient outcomes with its ability to analyze vast amounts of data, identify patterns and make predictions. One of the most significant impacts of AI in health care is its role in personalized medicine.

By analyzing a patient's genetic makeup, medical history, lifestyle factors and other data points, AI can tailor treatment plans to individual needs, leading to more effective and targeted interventions. This precision medicine approach minimizes trial-and-error in treatment selection, reduces adverse effects and improves patient satisfaction.

Moreover, AI-powered predictive analytics can help health care providers anticipate and prevent diseases before they manifest. By identifying risk factors and early warning signs, AI enables preventive strategies — ultimately reducing costs and improving population health.

“Big data and AI will be essential for tracking your health and guide everything you do in your lifestyle: the foods you eat, your exercise and sleep and the timing of these activities,” remarked  Michael Snyder, faculty director of the Stanford Healthcare Innovation Lab.

Digital health allows just-in-time health interventions

Maame Yaa A. B. Yiadom

Maame Yaa A. B. Yiadom discusses using digital health technologies as an emergency medicine doctor

One of the key advantages of digital health is its ability to provide real-time access to critical health information. Electronic health records (EHRs) hold extensive patient information, ranging from medical history to diagnostic test results. EHRs can be quickly accessed by clinicians, allowing them to make informed decisions at the point of care.

Thanks to technologies such as smartwatches, wearable biosensors and continuous monitoring devices — patients and health providers now have access to a wealth of data and tools that enable timely and targeted individualized interventions.

“Health care has transformed drastically since my training days on paper. Now, with EHRs, we use a lot of patient data to inform critical decisions. Our team uses data analytics to bridge gaps in communication and explore innovative care interventions enabled by digital health," said Maame Yaa A. B. Yiadom, a professor in the department of Emergency Medicine at Stanford University.

Technology cannot replace the human touch

While digital health technologies offer significant advancements in health-care delivery, it's essential to recognize that technology cannot replace the human element in health care. Despite the efficiency and convenience afforded by digital tools, the human touch remains indispensable in providing compassionate and holistic care.

Health care is not just about diagnosing and treating medical conditions but also about fostering trust, empathy and emotional support. The human connection formed through face-to-face interactions is irreplaceable in building rapport and addressing patients' psychological needs.

Health-care decisions involve complex ethical considerations and judgment calls that require human expertise. While algorithms and AI can assist in data analysis and decision support, they lack the capacity for empathy, intuition and moral reasoning inherent in human caregivers. Health care professionals bring a wealth of experience and sensitivity to their practice, allowing them to navigate delicate situations and tailor care to individual preferences and values.

“Certain kinds of care are essential within a hospital setting, there remains a key need for hospitals despite advancements in digital health. Therapies, surgery and intensive care services provided by doctors and nurses are irreplaceable components,” said Maneesh Goyal the chief operating officer of Mayo Clinic Platform at Mayo Clinic. “Hospitals and people are indispensable in health-care delivery.”

University of Waterloo researchers and entrepreneurs are leading in health innovation.

Whether it is engineers developing biomedical technologies, mathematicians advancing biostatistics, or social scientists advising equitable global health policies — Waterloo’s interdisciplinary approach to research and innovation enables unpacking the complexity of where these critical discoveries meet.

The University will welcome health innovators from around the world to accelerate health innovation through academic-industry partnerships at Digital Health 2025.