By Dr. Salvatore Viscomi, chief medical officer, GoodCell, and an attending physician at Baystate Health.
As we round the corner on the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 sending the country and most parts of the world into lockdown, the pandemic is still ever-present and will have longstanding implications on our health and lifestyle for years to come. Despite the ongoing mass vaccination effort nationwide, the multitude of new variants pose more unprecedented questions about the virus and our overall health and wellbeing.
It’s unsurprising that stressors brought on by the pandemic, from the virus itself to isolation and job uncertainty, have caused many to reassess and take greater agency over their health through the use of direct-to-consumer testing solutions and wearables.
As we continue to see vaccines roll out and sleeves roll up, we’re now looking toward resuming many of our pre-pandemic health practices. Even still, we can expect they will look different in a new era of patient-controlled care brought on by a wave of data-driven individuals who are now more attuned to their health than they were before. Fortunately, this is poised to benefit the physician-patient relationship, including making doctor’s visits more productive, faster and accurate.
Personal health tech is on the rise, and doctors are getting on board
Over the past several months, wearables and direct-to-consumer (DTC) tools have surged in popularity, given the rise of telehealth and remote care as a means to continue healthcare checks amid the global health crisis. Millions of Americans were still forced to delay annual health visits, which resulted in a 56% increase in negative health burdens among clinicians according to a survey conducted by Primary Care Collaborative last year.
This trend is showing no signs of slowing down. Gartner expects end-user spending on wearable devices will reach $81.5 billion by the end of 2021, marking a substantial 18.1% increase since 2020. As a result, we’ve ushered in a new age of health consciousness and control.
What began as testing for genetic predispositions at the dawn of direct-to-consumer testing, has since grown into so much more as patients now have the ability to identify real-time biomarkers indicative of major health conditions, ascertain food sensitivities and much more. Moreover, targeted health screenings paired with digital platforms allow patients to identify, track and monitor their health over time to see how lifestyle choices impact their wellbeing. These offerings, in conjunction with the wealth of data streams available through wearables, is promoting a greater understanding of one’s unique health influencers, including the role of sleep, diet, stress and exercise.
As these data become more comprehensive and accurate, physicians are starting to take notice of these tools as valuable aids in clinical care. A new report found that primary care physicians (PCPs) are becoming significantly more comfortable with DTC Genetic testing information, with 80% of PCPs open to or likely to recommend DTC genetic testing for health if asked about it by their patients.