Challenges of Digital Health Post-COVID-19

Sep 11, 2020

Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted economic and health systems and strained world systems to their limits.

In the United States, digital health is one of the sectors that has been thriving in the pandemic. More than any first quarter of any year since 2016, investors pumped in $3.1 billion into digital-health related companies.

This might have been a lucrative venture, given the fact that more Americans opted more for virtual doctor visits. Online drug purchases and at-home medical testing were also on the rise following the stay-at-home and social-distancing regulations.

The New Normal

An outbreak like the COVID-19 pandemic opened a new page in the health system. This is particular to patients with chronic diseases such as cancer, residents in rural areas, and elderly patients.

At a time when traveling meant danger and exposure to the coronavirus, many switched to telehealth. Patients who were in danger of relapse had to fix virtual appointments with their doctors. Wearable technology devices were worn by people living with chronic diseases such as heart diseases and renal diseases. They were used to monitor physical changes in real-time and questionable results or symptoms were immediately reported.

Prescription drugs are more often than not purchased and delivered via mail – now with its recent delays. On-demand health services have become the order of the day. Digital health services, due to convenience and safety, have experienced a impressive amount of patronage.

Challenges Abound

Despite its widespread fame and use, chances are digital health may face major challenges post-covid-19. Dr. Pravene Nath, MD, Global Head, Digital Health Strategy, Personalized Health Care, Roche, USA, noted certain challenges. At the HIMSS &Health 2.0 European Conference, he pointed out three board areas where digital health could be stalled. The three areas highlighted were access and administration, operations, and personalization.

He stated that digital health is still very uneven in addressing all populations and in the experience needed. Concerning operations, he said that technology is ready for demand forecasting, management of supply chain, and capacity management. However, these tech tools need to be handed to healthcare providers. If they can, then healthcare providers can do operational decision making in real-time in real data.

Finally, Dr. Nath mentioned that there is still some way to go in digital-enabled, condition-focused (personalized) care. This covers things such as remote patient monitoring when coupled to a care delivery model.

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