The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about unprecedented changes to the global healthcare landscape. As much as one may choose to highlight the flip sides, one fact that cannot be ignored is how the pandemic has underscored the importance of a strong, technology-driven response for better healthcare delivery.
The positives that technology has brought about this year are sure to last beyond the health crisis facing us today. It will bring about newer options for patients and providers in terms of preventive care and better healthcare access. Let us take a look at what could be some of the health tech trends one can expect in 2021.
Patients will take the driver’s seat in 2021 for a more personalized healthcare experience. While Covid-19 has been a major catalyst in this regard, consumer behaviour and technology for access to healthcare are other factors. Point of care devices for diagnosis and monitoring aided by machine learning and AI can help in tailoring health care as per individual patient’s health conditions. These technologies provide a lot more of control to the patients and their caregivers in tracking the patient conditions.
This is particularly meaningful in chronic diseases such as diabetes, COPD, Cardiovascular conditions, as a lot of the interventions needed are diet, lifestyle and other actions to be taken by patients themselves. These changes will have an impact on the overall healthcare system and will drive towards longitudinal monitoring and care solutions.
Using these, healthcare service providers would be able to deliver the tailored experience at scale for a more reasonable cost. This will further enable a transition towards proactive health management in the entire healthcare continuum as opposed to the previous reactive and transactional approach.
Remote Monitoring And Virtual Consultations
Technology has already proven its merit in enabling patients to get the same level of care at home as in an outpatient clinic. This is more so in cases of minor health queries or regular check-ups. Covid-19 will be the inflexion point leading to 20% – 25% adoption to teleconsultation which has potential to grow continuously.
A global study by Cisco found that 74% of consumers were ready to get their treatment delivered via telehealth. The pluses that technology in consultation brings include reduced risk of infections, enabling doctors to attend to more patient consultations, among other things.
It will also enable healthcare facilities to free up space for patients needing critical and emergency care – a consideration that is extremely vital in case of a densely populated country like India, with a short supply of healthcare professionals. It is also possible to undertake procedures such as chemotherapy and dialysis at home. Many home healthcare providers have already begun providing these services at home.
Another facet of remote monitoring will also be the development of robotic and autonomous healthcare assistants. They will be able to deliver care right at people’s homes. An example of this is companion robots being introduced into care homes in the UK. The robots have been found to be successful in reducing the likelihood of loneliness and social isolation – especially during the pandemic.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is helping go beyond enabling patients in assessing their symptoms and understanding what they need to do next. In the year ahead, chatbots will even be able to recommend and schedule doctor visits – proving an asset for organizations. Even during the pandemic, chatbots have enabled people to get their queries around the infection answered and even locate where they could access treatment. This trend is likely to pick up in the year ahead.
Changes To Hospital Design
Healthcare entities will use technology to carry out deep cleaning and hygiene measures in facilities. One might just see autonomous robots with emit germ-killing ultraviolet light that can decontaminate a room. RFID technology might be the next big thing in figuring out how frequently employees clean their hands. Even thermal cameras at entryways would become a common sight to detect anyone with an elevated body temperature. Even buildings would undergo design changes such as spaces that are convertible to accommodate more patients, and dedicated, retrofitted rooms with inpatient telehealth and touchscreen tools to avoid overcrowding in other areas.
This technology is not just a fashion fad now. It has become an enabler in providing actionable insights into health for physicians. From smartwatches to other wearable health devices, technology is making it possible to generate more comprehensive and real-time insights around medical parameters.
These can go a long way in helping in the treatment of chronic diseases – and even preventing them – offering more personalized management for consumers. Knowledge of these vital health stats will also ensure that conditions and symptoms which can be managed through teleconsultation are taken care of without the need to visit a healthcare facility.
Various technologies are all set for growth and adoption in the coming year, be it voice recognition and AI for administrative functions, or machine learning and robotics for clinical applications, healthtech firms have risen to the challenge posed by the so-called ‘Black Swan’ event named Covid-19.
Telehealth and other tech-based healthcare tools will enable the shift to value-based care models and help in realizing the full potential of digital transformation. The year ahead could prove to be a landmark one in reducing the digital divide in terms of access to quality healthcare to even the most vulnerable populations. Going forward, this will bring about permanent changes in the approach to healthcare and access to better treatment options. The future of healthcare is here and we might just be witness to the next Eureka moment in this sector.