The COVID-19 pandemic that began early in 2020 put healthcare systems around the world under extreme pressure. Earlier, we have collected some insights about predictions of how digital health was affected and will develop post-COVID in this post. But, as we head into 2021, let’s take a look on how digital health is likely to develop in the coming year. Here are some of the top trends we expect to see in 2021.
Telemedicine skyrocketed during the pandemic to allow remote patient-doctor communications and reduce contact to avoid spreading the highly infectious disease. This practice has demonstrated that consultations via a telemedicine platform are possible, effective and in many cases even preferable. In 2021, telemedicine will continue to grow and the scope will increase, allowing many patients to avoid unnecessary doctor visits. Different areas of telemedicine will continue to develop, including telepsychiatry, ophthalmology, optometry and teledermatology, to name a few. Technologies around telemedicine will advance, become more secure and more accepted by the public. Find out more at DataArt Telemedicine Solutions.
Virtual Waiting Room
Another important trend will likely be the development of a virtual waiting room, influenced by the dangers of a physical waiting room during a pandemic. Technology will enable the virtual waiting room, perhaps in the form of a smartphone application through which patients can receive notification when they can enter the building. Even after the pandemic is over, this technology can help doctors and staff with workflow as well as allow people to avoid unnecessary contact. Many companies are now extending product functionality to include a virtual waiting room.
Remote patient monitoring will continue to develop and advance in 2021. These technologies can track the condition of elderly or chronically ill patients at home, allowing high-risk patients to avoid potentially dangerous office visits. If something goes wrong, an application can give a doctor a quicker way to interact with the patient. Doctors will not monitor patients on a daily basis through technology; the technology will monitor the patient via a wearable device with an alarm system to alert the patient and other designated caregivers.
We anticipate significant growth in the eldercare space in the near future. The world’s population is aging rapidly due to a combination of low fertility with rising life expectancy. According to the World Health Organization, the number of people aged 60 and over will total 1 billion in 2020, and by 2030 the 60+ population will grow to 1.4 billion. Such a large number of older people means higher costs for medical care. With the elderly population growing and the added pressure of COVID, we need to find better ways to care for the elderly. The WHO has developed a digital health technology tool (WHO ICOPE Handbook App) that helps health workers improve care for the elderly. As the children, caregivers, and social workers who care for the elderly are technologically competent, we should see more tools developed to assist in providing care. Different applications can help with medication and appointment notification, while chat bots and other digital tools could support healthy aging.
Augmented Intelligence for Clinical Decision Support
Life sciences companies are leveraging AI to discover and develop new drugs and vaccines.
In healthcare, there are many opportunities to leverage AI, specifically in clinical decision support to help doctors diagnose conditions. That is probably one of the biggest areas where we will see AI advance in 2021.
But as Dan Piekarz, Sr. Vice President — Life Sciences & Healthcare at DataArt, points out:
«it is not going to be artificial intelligence per se, but it will be more augmented intelligence. It is not going to be a computer to diagnose you, but what will happen, and we are making progress towards this, is that we can augment doctors’ ability to diagnose certain conditions.»
AI will indicate the likelihood of certain conditions, but, ultimately, it will remain the doctor's decision. Dan continues to state that “at some point, as AI gets better, we may get to the point where doctors trust AI more than they do their own intuition, but that is going to take a while.”
In 2021, we will see a shift in the development of technology in healthcare. In the past technological development was led by doctors, scientists and insurance companies to collect information they needed. Now we are starting to see a patient-first approach and realize the importance of the patient journey. How do we make it easier for the patient? How can we provide additional value for the patient when we build a system? These questions need to be addressed. So, going into 2021, the focus in healthcare will be on the patient journey as well as on making medicine more efficient. We anticipate a shift towards what we refer to as the consumerization of healthcare. Healthcare providers will leverage technology to provide additional services and attract more patients by providing more value.
These are just some digital healthcare trends to watch out for in 2021. Do you have any more to share?