Health and Wellness in the Digital Age: Trends and Predictions
To say that healthcare wasn’t prepared for the Covid-19 pandemic would be an underestimation. The pandemic managed to stretch to the limit even the best-equipped healthcare facilities worldwide, subjecting workers to sleepless nights and patients to fight for survival that occasionally ended in the loss of life.
As we reel from the disaster, researchers and health institutions everywhere are taking notes to identify potential solutions to current challenges, so history doesn’t repeat itself. One key takeaway so far is the importance of digital products in delivering better healthcare and wellness services.
Digital Stats Say it All
It was recently discovered before Covid-19 arrived, about 13,000 people in the US received telemedicine once a week. Within just four months of the pandemic, this number had jumped to 1.7 million, and by June, over 9 million people had received a telemedicine service.
Further stats gathered from etactics.com reveal that the number of people willing to use telemedicine services has also increased sharply over the past year.
Quoting McKinsey & Company and Risk Management Magazine researches, the post shows that one-quarter of patients hadn’t considered remote appointments before the pandemic, yet 83% of all US patients now expect to use telehealth services once the pandemic resolves.
The same post also shows that 57% of healthcare providers view telehealth services more favorably than before the pandemic.
It shows exactly where we are headed – remote health is the future of healthcare. As patients and healthcare workers get used to receiving health services remotely, virtual care will likely penetrate deeper into care services. It’s going to be the new normal.
Soon, tele-ICU models where an off-site critical care command center is connected to patients in remote ICUs via real-time audio, video, and health information exchange platforms will be standardized.
Trends to Expect Post Covid-19
Experts predict that appointment scheduling will be the first area entirely transformed by the digital shift. With many patients in full-time jobs, it isn’t always convenient to visit the doctor during office hours. Indeed, even before Covid-19, 50% of patients booked their appointments post-office-hours.
Experts expect this number to increase post pandemic, especially as digital appointment booking platforms and virtual consultations become standard.
Aside from that, the following trends are also very likely;
Apps to fight chronic diseases
CDC research shows that 6-in-10 American adults suffer from at least one chronic disease. Four in ten are dealing with two or more such conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Chronic diseases are a leading cause of disability and mortality worldwide and cost the US about $5,000 per person annually, equivalent to about 75% of the country’s annual healthcare budget.
Software applications that help people avoid habits that may lead to chronic diseases while adopting those that help build immunity against these diseases are now big business.
These include dieting, exercise, and sleep apps. According to Research and Markets, the fitness app market alone will grow to $13.02 billion in 2025 from about $3.3 billion in 2019.
Telehealth to shield the elderly and remote patients
Telehealth or remote healthcare broadly refers to healthcare solutions that seek to address patient needs without in-person hospital visits.
The approach can provide distant monitoring of things such as pacemakers and the management of ongoing conditions. It also integrates healthcare IT ecosystems with insurance providers for a more holistic patient overview.
Although the practice has been around for some time, the covid-19 outbreak has accelerated telehealth adoption.
As noted earlier, 9.0 million people used the service during the pandemic compared to only 1.3 million before the pandemic. The trend will grow even further post covid-19 as the solutions become available and doctors and patients alike change their perception of remote healthcare.
VR in stress management and pain relief
Virtual Reality (VR) isn’t a surprise inclusion on this list. Although the technology has stagnated in the last two or so years, it remains one of the technologies with the biggest potential, given that it has applications in virtually all industries.
In healthcare and wellness, patients are already using the technology to follow exercise regimens from home and practice meditation exercises in an immersive environment, among others.
More recently, researchers have been looking at the potential of using VR to alleviate stress and pain symptoms, particularly, in clinical settings during traumatic medical procedures.
According to the NCBI, when VR is used in painful operations, participants report less pain, less stress, and overall reduced anxiety.
AI to drive future healthcare innovation
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is so powerful that some experts see it as the linchpin in future medical innovation. You only need to look at the support from investors to draw your conclusions.
In 2014, investors poured $4 billion into healthcare AI, up from about $2.7 billion in 2018. Accenture predicts that investment in the area in 2021 will reach $6.6 billion.
Chatbots and virtual healthcare assistants are the main applications of AI in healthcare so far. However, according to many experts, there’s even more potential for the technology in precision care, gene work, imaging, and drug discovery. Once we tap the full capabilities of AI, healthcare will benefit from the rapid and accurate discovery, diagnostics, and treatment.
Health and fitness apps, telehealth, VR, and AI are just four in a long list of potential digital healthcare solutions. Gamification, the implementation of game design mechanics and techniques to non-game applications, and a faster product development life cycle are other areas where the digital shift will have a massive impact.
Every health facility must find ways to position its organization to extract maximum benefit from this shift. This may mean keeping an eye on the trends, bringing in the talent to quickly decipher innovations, and working closely with investors and relevant institutions to acquire new solutions as they become available.
Nix Solutions can help. A leader in emerging digital solutions, we help businesses stay on top of innovative technologies and quickly acquire the solutions that give them a competitive advantage.