Given the challenges of this year, few of us would be willing to relive it. COVID-19 has brought about health, economic and social consequences that have transformed the lives of everyone globally. As difficult as it has been, there have been immensely important healthcare breakthroughs and milestones that are a direct result of the ongoing pandemic.
In the last six months, we’ve managed to accelerate the adoption of digital health technologies and achieve more in growing the ecosystem than in the previous six years combined.
It is unimaginable just how much worse the pandemic would have been had many of these technologies not been developed, tested and ready to scale at virtually a moment’s notice. While the benefits of telehealth and digital health tools have always been clear, the greater population, legislators and even many providers have finally begun to grasp their potential.
As we begin to leave 2020 behind us and make our way into the next year, immense hope is on the horizon. This is largely thanks to an FDA green light on the COVID-19 vaccine, but also the dedication of frontline workers who have shepherded us through this storm.
While forecasting is difficult in any year, 2021 is a unique challenge. We are confident, however, that we will see a continuation and further evolution of the gains that digital health has made this year. The floodgates are now open, and all healthcare stakeholders have begun to see what a digital-enabled health future looks like – pandemic or not.
There are three major trends we expect to continue shaping healthcare next year: the further democratization of healthcare, a substantial uptick in the proliferation of digital therapeutics, and a greater utilization and integration of data science across the landscape.
Get ready. 2021 will surprise and delight in ways we could have never predicted even a year ago – and you can thank 2020 for that.
Further democratization of healthcare
Healthcare innovation is erasing the barriers of location, cost and time. The continued embrace of new technologies and approaches enables high levels of care in underserved areas.
Butterfly’s handheld portable ultrasound is one such example. With it, providers can conduct body imaging from virtually anywhere as it connects directly to smartphones to provide live ultrasound.
But it does even more than that. It also includes TeleGuidance, the world’s first integrated ultrasound telemedicine platform. With it, providers can use secure, HIPAA-compliant storage and collaboration features to share de-identified health information with colleagues for consultation or to keep patients informed.
Tools like these are the future of healthcare, and they’re continuing to evolve into solutions that bring more and more healthcare into the home, which is vital. 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day. We simply do not have the infrastructure to provide these people with the high-quality healthcare they need.
Digital therapeutics: filling gaps in traditional care
At Star, we’ve spent a lot of time this year thinking about digital therapeutics. It’s been one of our main focuses as we guide our partners and help them harness its immense potential to launch scalable, patient-centric healthcare products.
While the entire digital health ecosystem presents a vast array of breakthrough technologies and approaches, digital therapeutics deliver the evidence-based outcomes essential for paving the long term road towards payer and provider support.
One of the most impressive examples of the year has been Akili’s achievement of FDA-clearance for EndeavorRx. It is the first and only FDA-cleared treatment for children with ADHD delivered through digital therapy. We all know the challenges that ADHD has created and the difficult implications of pharmaceutical intervention in children.
Akili provides effective clinically-validated treatment to children and without a traditional biopharmaceutic. This thinking across the entire healthcare landscape shows DTx is more than just a new approach, but is revolutionizing our relationship to medicine and health.
Data science: the fuel of healthcare innovation
Our journey for the past decade has been creating the necessary infrastructure and collecting data for healthcare data science applications. We’re finally putting it to use. Data science can now be found across nearly every healthcare element, enabling providers to make more informed clinical decisions, improving workflows, and powering the digital health tools we’ve already discussed.
There is still a long road ahead to ensure collected data is clean, focused, and interoperable. Likewise, we need to create more comprehensive governance systems to ensure governments, payers, providers and data vendors are on the same page. The future looks promising, and there are already many incredible data science-driven healthcare products in action right now.
Siemens Healthineers’ AI-Rad Companion is leading this charge. It isn’t just one artificial intelligence platform. The AI-Rad Companion is a family of AI-powered, cloud-based augmented workflows that can increase diagnostic accuracy during medical image interpretation.
And here’s the key – Siemens Healthineers built it to be fully integrated into existing workloads. The result isn’t yet another cumbersome new technology for overtaxed radiologists to decipher, but a smooth and seamless tool that supports various modalities and body regions.
Our health and wellness team is equally excited about the growing role of AI chatbots. While they aren’t the flashiest application of new technology, they are among the most impactful. From helping providers win at the Digital Front Door to on demand symptom triage, they are vital tools that drive value for every healthcare stakeholder.
The ongoing effects of the coronavirus will continue throughout most of next year, if not longer. But amid these challenges, our industry analysis suggests optimism is warranted. Even with an unprecedented health crisis, digital health proved its capacity to deliver effective results and remove strain from our overburdened health system.
As we look ahead, we will work with our partners to focus on developing new and innovative digital health and medtech solutions that bridge care gaps with technology that is encompassing, integrated and easy to use.
Stay tuned. Next year, we’ll be exploring even more groundbreaking topics in healthcare, including:
- Aging in place
- Remote monitoring tools – med device
- Design for healthcare products
- Remote fitness and wellness