The Five Digital Health Trends Reshaping an Industry

Without doubt the COVID-19 pandemic is the greatest health care challenge humanity has faced in living memory.

Still, for all the pains the coronavirus unleashed on the world this last year, it also has been a catalyst for much-needed change, encouraging innovations in health care at an unprecedented level.

For years, the medical industry lagged other key sectors like retail and finance in embracing the full scope of digital’s promise. 

For one, e-commerce giant Amazon paved the way for online shopping, which today is the world’s leading online activity. Global e-commerce sales last year totaled $4.28 trillion. Market share is steadily rising too. Analysts now anticipate online retail’s market share to total 27% by 2025, 33% by 2030, considerably up from 19% in 2020.

Financial services, though slower to embrace digitalization, also enjoyed the benefits of technological development.

FinTech has become a sector in its own right, with consumers increasingly choosing FinTech platforms over conventional banks and credit unions. In the Netherlands, Ireland and the United Kingdom, almost three quarters of digitally active consumers use a FinTech product, according to Statista, a German firm specializing in market and consumer data.

Still, adoption of digital health solutions has been comparatively slow. For the most part, consumers still schedule their doctor appointments by phone, and few, if any, manage their health information in a single, mobile platform. 

It’s not that health care wouldn’t benefit from complete digitalization, but a number of risks still affect the industry more than others:

  1. The stakes are higher; outcomes in health can be matter of life or death. 
  1. Medical devices comprising the Internet of Things (IoT) — wearables, apps, sensors and robotics  — can be at risk to cyberattacks. 
  1. Consumers are reluctant to share sensitive health information online.

Enter 2020: How Covid-19 Changed Everything

As the coronavirus immobilized millions upon millions of people worldwide in early 2020, shocking health systems, governments and economies alike, the focus shifted almost exclusively towards public health and virtual technology.

In 2020, funding for digital health ventures

jumped 72 percent, amounting to $14 billion.

One year later, digital health is now booming.

In 2020, funding for digital health ventures jumped 72 percent, totaling some $14 billion across 440 deals, according to the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. Investments in telehealth alone shattered previous records, soaring 139% to $4.3 billion, according to a new report from market research firm Mercom Capital Group. Data analytics and mobile health apps also received strong support from investors.
But 2021 is likely to be even stronger for digital health

 Already in Q1, digital health companies have raised $7.2 billion worldwide, a significant jump from both the previous quarter and Q1 last year, according to Mercom Capital Group. 

And as far as we know, the years ahead could generate even higher figures.

The Digital Health Renaissance is Here

Not only are investors waking up to the promise of digital health, consumers are as well.

The new models of care utilized during the pandemic will likely stay with us well after the crisis ends. After all, many of these technologies can be used to treat other conditions, from Alzheimer’s to cancer. The possibilities are endless.

A flood of health apps are already available to health-conscious consumers, from supporting general well-being, diabetes management to sleeping habits. Behavioral health apps are becoming popular too. 

So which digital health trends will stay with us long after the Covid-19 crisis ends? 

1.  Telemedicine

For many people, the Covid-19 pandemic signaled the first time they experienced virtual care. Patient willingness to utilize telemedicine increased by as much as 66% during the pandemic. And telehealth investments nearly tripled between 2019 and 2020, growing from $1.1 billion to $3.1 billion. By other accounts, investments in telemedicine soared 139% to $4.3 billion. 

Investments in telehealth alone shattered

previous records, soaring 139% to $4.3 billion.

But it’s not just investors and patients who are bullish, health care facilities also see the benefits. Telemedicine can cut costs and increase efficiency. Moving forward, we are likely to witness a hybrid system of care, finding the right balance between in-person and virtual visits. 

2.   Remote Patient Monitoring [RPM]

Digital health devices will become a key feature of patient health for years to come. Wearables can track behaviors from a person’s own home and deliver remote diagnostics directly to a physician. In fact, RPM devices proved to be vital during the Covid-19 pandemic, expanding physicians’ access to patient data when in-patient visits were limited. 

Funding towards remote monitoring solutions

more than doubled in 2020

from $417 million to $941 million.

Funding towards RPMs more than doubling in 2020 from $417 million to $941 million. 

3.   Technologies Dedicated to Mental Health

As Covid-19 imposed social isolation upon billions of people overnight, more and more individuals became susceptible to serious mental health conditions. 

As a result, domestic violence, depression and suicide became more prevalent. In order to stem a burgeoning crisis parallel to the pandemic, governments and health clinics sought innovative ways to deal with a major social problem. 

Investments in mental health technologies soared

from $599 million to $1.4 billion in 2020.

During the first year of the pandemic, funding for behavioral health technologies soared from $599 million to $1.4 billion. According to research from 7Wire Ventures, some 100 mental health startups were founded last year alone. 

4.  Fresh Focus on the Consumer

The potential for digital health ranges from the simple to the complex. As people increasingly turn to mobile apps to handle their personal finances, shopping and entertainment choices, they’ll increasingly gravitate towards the same technologies to satisfy their other needs such as personal health.

From requesting medication to scheduling their doctor appointments, digital health platforms could make care much more accessible and even enjoyable.

In fact, patients say they want the same seamless digital experiences. From scheduling their doctor appointments to requesting medication, digital platforms could make health care much more accessible, and even enjoyable

5.   Testing, Tracking & Diagnostics

There is nothing quite like a global pandemic to prove just how vital our health records are to ourselves and our communities. Testing and tracking technologies trended high in 2020, underscoring the need for easy and frequent testing and diagnostics. 

Diagnostics platforms won’t go into oblivion;

rather, they’ll be repositioned to treat

a number of other health conditions.

Moving forward, as governments learn to manage the spread of Covid-19, diagnostics platforms won’t go into oblivion; rather, they’ll be repositioned to treat a number of other health conditions.

Public Health 2.0

With all the unique challenges Covid-19 wrought on the world since late 2019, we are starting to enjoy the real rewards of human ingenuity. 

It’s not just the rapid development of viable vaccines to fight the deadly virus, but the deployment of innovative health technologies that will revolutionize the way we provide care for decades to come.