Five Reasons Why Music is an Ideal Digital Health Solution


Music as a healing mechanism has been accepted for over 50 years. Music is a source of primal memory similar to that of smell.  It has been used in brain injury patient management, as well as to promote wellness, manage stress alleviate pain, promote physical rehabilitation, and enhance memory in Alzheimer’s Disease patients.  I have appreciated the power of music my whole life and as a physician and musician, realized its healing potential early on in my medical career.  I burned CDs of the music chosen by my patients to be played during their surgery (usually performed with light sedation) and gave it to them as a surprise at their office follow-up visit.  I will lightly touch on some reasons why music would be a great digital health technology.

1.    There are scientific studies to provide evidence of efficacy.  There are very few digital health technologies that are mobile technologies which have been proven to be efficacious.  Since music has been digital for decades, it is a natural for adoption as a mobile health tech tool. A nice bibliography on uses of music therapy may be found here.  Areas such as mental health, special education and Autism, and pain management have been subjects of studies.

2.    Music is universal.  Language and cultural barriers are often cited as sources of failure of the healthcare system.  Music is a communication tool which transcends this issue.  Presented in the context of graphic or other simple  instructions, it can be used in a number of acute or chronic disease settings by a provider, therapist or caregiver with the patient if necessary.

3.    Music bridges literacy gaps.  Reading, health, or digital literacy gaps can be bridged with simple digital music devices. One needs to press an on/off button in a personalized programmed device for the patient with prerecorded simple instructions. This is ideal for even young children.

4.    Music tech is economical, generic and interoperable.  Reimbursement issues and medical regulatory requirements (unless medical claims or clinical decision support is contained) are not significant for a simple musical digital technology solution.  This leads  more easily to adoption by payers, providers, and patients alike.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have analytic tools which proscribe different types of music based on diagnoses found in the the patient’s electronic record?

5.    Music builds relationships. As discussed above, music is associated with memories.  I have observed strong relationship building with the use of music as a tool. Anecdotally,  I can say that music decreases anxiety during and after surgical procedures.  In addition, it conveys an appreciated humanistic side of the provider to the patient.

While not considered a digital health technology (I have yet to see it described as such elsewhere), it is digital and is certainly entrenched in the annals of healing.  So let’s begin to consider it as such and build it into health portals, apps, and other tools!

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About davidleescher

David Lee Scher, MD is Director at DLS HEALTHCARE CONSULTING, LLC, which specializes in helping digital health technology companies, their partners and clients. As a former cardiac electrophysiologist and pioneer adopter of remote patient monitoring, he is uniquely qualified to address both clinical and operational concerns of clients. Scher was Chair of Happtique's Blue Ribbon Panel which established standards for certification of medical apps in the categories of safety, operability, privacy, and content. He is a well-respected expert in mobile and other digital health technologies and lectures worldwide on technology and its impact on patients and healthcare systems.
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3 Responses to Five Reasons Why Music is an Ideal Digital Health Solution

  1. Fascinating suggestion. I would never have thought of music as a “digital health technology,” but your explanations make it seem intuitive. I’m curious how you see this playing out – does pharma get involved to “create” new music that fits a certain profile for certain indications? Do doctors prescribe a certain artist or genre? Is this delivered to patients via a patient health portal? I’m interested to see how use of music might get fleshed out by HCIT in the next few years.

    • All of the above hopefully. Practically is like to see categorized playlists for each health concern addressed, including fitness. Endless possibilities including music for moods and times of day; The ultimate mixing of consumer and patient.

  2. Sid Brumbach says:

    Excellent insight on a truly personalized, non-traditional medical therapy evolved from the digital tech realm.

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