As we look toward 2018, it’s more important than ever to focus on the underlying fundamentals of the global health digital market rather than individual technologies. To help focus on the big picture, here are five digital health innovation trends that will matter in the upcoming year.

Policies and Regulations Drive Innovation

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration pushes digital health innovation to speed, making moves to push the regulatory needle forward.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration made moves in 2017 to provide certainty and a (potentially) more permissive regulatory environment that should help speed digital innovation in the U.S. Because the will be FDA pursuing its digital health innovation action plan in 2018, there is no reason to believe this will change.

Patient-Generated Data Comes of Age

The rise of passive biometric and digital tracking technologies, improved data analysis tools and related innovations transform patient-generated data into a high-value resource.

For much of the last decade patient-generated data had a poor reputation. Although many pressed for its integration into health and medical care, lack of confidence about its quality and the difficulties associated with collecting it led to great skepticism and poor adoption.

In recent years, these issues have been addressed with the spread of technologies such as sensors that have made biometric data collection from patient-worn devices and other sources much easier and reliable. Patient-generated data is already playing an increasingly important role in clinical trials and remote patient monitoring and these trends will only accelerate, especially in the disease states like Cancer, Bipolar Disorder, Depression and Diabetes. These are areas where patient-generated data has shown great promise, including in mental health.

Mobile-health = Healthcare

Mobile has become the default technology embedded into tools focused on patient engagement, compliance, clinical trials and other areas. Efforts to improve the vetting and review of mobile applications further drive mobile’s central role in health.

Mobile is one of the most mature and well-studied digital technologies. This has helped it become ubiquitous in health. In 2018 (and beyond), this technology will become so central that it be almost impossible to talk about global health without referencing mobile’s role.

The Blockchain Health Ecosystem Diversifes

With hospital executives, payers and others considering or deploying blockchain solutions, innovators recognize this technology has great potential in healthcare. Blockchain use cases diversify into anti-counterfeiting, health data marketplaces and other areas.

Blockchain is simply another way to store many types of data — in a highly secure, immutable (write once, read only) fashion. Just like with relational databases and other data storage systems, many different application layers can be built on top of blockchain — and this is what we’ll see happen increasingly often in healthcare during 2018. Currently, blockchain technologies are enriching everything from mobile health to electronic medical records.

Empathetic Health Interfaces Mature

Advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Voice and related technologies accelerate the development of technologies that are more responsive, empathetic and human-like, which benefits elder care, mental health and other areas.

In 2017, we saw empathetic interfaces make significant leaps forward, as chatbots, robotics and artificial intelligence have led to the creation of truly responsive interfaces that patients are beginning to trust and rely on. In 2018, we will see empathetic interfaces expand across a range of areas, including depression, aging (providing companionship to older adults) and even rehabilitation.

We’ll continue to witness the convergence of technologies and cross-pollination of ideas and innovations across organizations, therapeutic categories, regions and more throughout 2018.

There are bound to be surprises, but it’s extremely likely that we’ll continue to witness the increasing integration of digital health innovations into global health’s DNA over the next 12 months.