A Nudge in the Right Direction
Digital transformation is a fact of life in most industries and healthcare isn’t very different. The industry is on the verge of transformation but there are some hold-ups.
Healthcare technology has been state-of-the-art for decades now but the hold-up isn’t technological.
Resistance to cultural change is the nature of the hold-up. This is not a surprise, as changes this big require a lot of time and money, in addition to the people involved getting used to new ways of doing things.
However, there has been an increased interest in digital healthcare recently, especially during the current pandemic.
The pandemic compelled the industry to make many changes. There are, however, consequences to this. For example, America’s hospitals and health systems experienced a loss of $202.6 billion over a four-month period from March 1, 2020 to June 30, 2020. That’s about $50 billion a month.
However, this has pushed the industry in the right direction, and now that virtual and digital methods are the norm, healthcare systems can be altered to a more sustainable version.
Investment Doubled in a Year
The data gathered from our pool of over 300,000 emerging tech companies provides valuable insights, and can help predict future trends and support a better understanding of the market.
As mentioned already, there has been an increase in interest in digital healthcare. For years now, there has been a steady growth year on year. However, in 2018 investment doubled from the previous year. This wasn’t the result of an increased number of deals, as there were less deals in 2018 (1,575) than 2017 (1,653).
Investment in 2019 didn’t increase but remained at the same level as 2018. Let’s take a look at what has caught the attention of investors.
Below we have a market segmentation with four groupings. They have been categorised from the investment made in digital healthcare.
Of these groupings, digital scheduling has received the most investment, although the others aren’t too far behind.
Companies offering diagnostic & monitoring platforms attracted the highest number of individual investments. However, companies offering health data management attracted the same volume of investment from only half the number of deals.
These four investment areas give an idea of what investors are interested in. They are further discussed after the graph.
The Four Main Trends in Digital Healthcare
This one is not a shocker. Medical receptionists usually work during business hours, so they’re closed by the time most people get off work. This makes it hard for people to book doctors’ appointments. This is a problem in itself, as people are already hesitant about booking appointments.
By making this part of the process easier, all parties would benefit tremendously.
For clients, digital scheduling lowers the barrier of communication and facilitates making the appointment. Digital scheduling also makes it easier for clients to reschedule their appointments. This is a major advantage for doctors’ offices as well.
Doctors’ offices are experiencing serious losses because of patient no-shows. By having the scheduling system online, clients can book appointments for the same day, filling the empty slots.
As we have been “forced” to adapt to telemedicine (of which digital scheduling is a part) people have realised how convenient it is. There have been many studies discussing how telemedicine will be used post COVID-19. The results vary from study to study, but all suggest that patients are very willing to continue with telemedicine after the pandemic.
In addition, according to one study, the global telemedicine market is expected to quadruple from 2019 to 2026, reaching a total of $175 billion.
Remote Patient Monitoring
As can be seen from the market segmentation, there was a great deal of interest in companies who deliver remote patient monitoring (RPM). With €1.2 billion invested in 297 companies, the average deal size was €4 million. A relatively small figure compared to the average deal size for health data management companies (€9 million).
RPM is about using the latest technology to move healthcare from the traditional setting into people’s homes. One might imagine their home filled with cold, alienating medical devices and their floors flooding with wires. Luckily, this is not the case.
The most effective RPM systems rely on today’s sleek, consumer-friendly products. These might resemble the smartphones and tablets already in use, making it easy for the patients to adopt the systems.
As the systems use modern technology, they can deliver data 24/7 between patients and physycians. This makes it easy to track the patient’s health at all times and prevent diseases.
A recent study shows multiple advantages for RPM. According to the study, the use of RPM can reduce hospital admissions by 38% and emergency room visits by 25%. It can also improve patient satisfaction by 25% and cut costs of care by 17%.
Digital Care Pathways
A digital care pathway is a secure communication channel between a professional and a patient. It is an integral component of the broader remote patient monitoring and telehealth industry (see diagram below).
Digital pathways allow for a professional to guide the patient in self-care and in rehabilitation programs. This sort of technology has become more crucial than ever. As doctors and patients embrace social distancing guidelines, technology adoption has increased tremendously. While previously less than 10% of all NHS practices in the UK used video consultations with patients, by the end of April 2020, that figure had become 75%.
These pathways also help in minimising the number of people visiting healthcare facilities. This has been extremely important during the pandemic and will continue to be helpful even after the pandemic passes.
The “clinically unnecessary” use of emergency and urgent care has been a burden for the already pressured industry for years now.
We will hopefully exit the pandemic with an extensive knowledge about the use of digital care pathways and how to take them further.
Because the terms and topics are somewhat overlapping, we decided to provide a diagram for a better understanding of the whole picture.
Health Data Managament
As the industry is digitising, the data grows in velocity, volume and value. Health data management (HDM) is the practice of making sense of all this data, ie. managing it.
By managing the data properly all parties will benefit including, most importantly, the patient.
Because many aspects of healthcare have been transfered to a digital format during the pandemic, there’s more data to be managed. However, as the digital transformation happened quite suddenly, suitable data management systems were not implemented in time. As a result, valuable data has been lost.
An important aspect of HDM is the storing of the data securely. This valuable data is also extremely confidential.
An example of poor HDM is the Vastaamo data breach from 2020, in which a hacker hijacked and published mental health data of hundreds of people.
Emerging technologies can be of great help in storing data properly. For example, big data and blockchain technology are used for this exact purpose.
All of the above-mentioned technologies are being put to use while we’re still in the middle of the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, many digital health innovations failed as clinicians were reluctant to engage with them. As discussed, the pandemic has forced us to adapt to alternative ways of operating, and this is a positive thing.
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