In today’s global environment, digital health technology is more important than ever. In-person visits at hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare institutions carry the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19, as does traveling to and from those locations for those who need to rely on public transit or taxis. These risks are compounded for individuals who have conditions that make them more vulnerable to the coronavirus, and some are missing appointments to manage their health because of this.
Digital health technology has also been indispensable in many countries as a tool for contact tracing and identifying at-risk neighborhoods and regions. By carefully tracking and alerting individuals who may have come in contact with the virus, digital health applications can more quickly find, quarantine, and treat people who have COVID-19, including asymptomatic carriers. This can substantially slow the spread of the virus and reduce the number of new cases that occur.
How does digital health technology benefit patients?
COVID-19 isn’t the only situation in which digital health technology can make substantial improvements to patient health, however. There are many other situations in which telehealth and other digital healthcare solutions are beneficial if not essential. Natural disasters such as wildfires and floods can prevent patients from being able to visit their healthcare providers, and people who have limited mobility may face challenges meeting with providers even without such setbacks. In addition, many people in rural locations can struggle to access healthcare providers.
The global pandemic has led to the adoption of digital health systems that healthcare providers and organizations have been trying to implement for years, including integrated data, digital triage, and telehealth. Once those systems are in place, it becomes easier to introduce them for everyday needs outside of the global pandemic. Not only has the work already been done to implement these systems, but both providers and patients will have become accustomed to the flexibility and cost savings that they can bring, and many will want to continue using them even when it becomes safer to visit hospitals and other healthcare institutions.
What are the roadblocks to the adoption of digital health solutions?
Digital health technology is not without flaws and risks. Without being able to examine a patient in person, the possibility of misdiagnosis increases. There is also additional technology in play that has the potential to malfunction, or for the patient or provider to misuse, both in terms of communication solutions and remote monitoring devices.
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Privacy is a concern as well, as any remote conversation or transfer of medical records faces security risks, and raises questions around government and institutional access to personal records. Many people and organizations, for example, are concerned about how governments might use information that was gathered for contact tracing purposes, and any digital health solution developed for this application should take this into account. If a population doesn’t feel safe providing information to an organization or government, they won’t adopt the technology, and technology with low adoption rates will have limited effectiveness and value for the money spent on it.
The inherent risks aren’t the only downsides to digital health solutions, however. If these solutions do not include plans and provisions for people at different socioeconomic levels, they can exacerbate inequalities and limit healthcare access for people with low income.
Digital healthcare solutions typically require reliable access to mobile devices and internet. Those who cannot afford a phone or tablet, or who don’t have easy access to an internet connection, are therefore unable to access remote healthcare unless provisions are made to assist them. Such provisions can include providing loaner devices, subsidizing phones and phone plans, and providing free wi-fi hotspots. In order to reach the greatest number of people, both digital health systems and their rollout plans should take into account users in rural and low-income areas and make plans to accommodate them. This increases both the potential userbase and the health of the general population.
What’s in store for digital health?
Despite these risks and challenges, digital health technology faces many opportunities both during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. With dramatic decreases in face-to-face appointments for both essential and non-essential purposes, telemedicine and remote monitoring solutions are being developed and implemented at an unprecedented rate, and both digital health companies and healthcare institutions can build on this foundation after the pandemic is over.
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Globally, the digital health market is expected to grow by close to 20% this year, which amounts to an increase of over $200 billion. While APAC and Africa are expected to see the fastest growth in this sector, North America will hold the largest share of the market. The impact of the coronavirus will likely persist for at least half a year after the virus has been contained, meaning that digital health technology will be in demand for some time regardless of whether institutions and governments decide to adopt it more permanently.
While COVID-19 has done much to encourage the adoption of digital health technology around the world, there are still challenges to face in markets around the world. Not only do governments and healthcare institutions need to be willing to integrate this technology with their existing systems, but they also need to have the funds and staff required to do so. Regardless, there are numerous new opportunities for digital health companies right now, as people look for ways to safely provide and receive medical treatment and advice.
Discover other opportunities, challenges, and trends in the global digital health market with Technavio’s industry research report, which includes insights such as:
- CAGR of the market during the forecast period 2020-2024
- Detailed information on factors that will digital health market growth during the next five years
- Precise estimation of the digital health market size and its contribution to the parent market
- Accurate predictions on upcoming trends and changes in consumer behavior
- The growth of the digital health industry across APAC, Europe, MEA, North America, and South America
- A thorough analysis of the market’s competitive landscape and detailed information on vendors
- Comprehensive details of factors that will challenge the growth of digital health market vendors