A major subject of concern amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic spread and related financial crisis is- could this situation be the trigger for a new era of technology and emergence of widespread acclamation of digital health platforms and applications?
The massive outbreak of dreaded coronavirus has brought about a radical change in what is usually perceived as “normal.” With over more than million cases worldwide, COVID-19 has sent a wave of fear across the masses, causing an upheaval not only in their lives but also across various economies and businesses, given the stringent lockdown policies.
Major industry verticals have been touted to be severely affected by the pandemic explosion. However, one of the industries that has been successful in keeping its business alive amid the ongoing financial crisis is the digital health market. The corona pandemic has demonstrated the pivotal role of digital health in the medical fraternity. Although digital health was already on the rise before the humongous pandemic spread, in the wake of the virus, it will become an integral part of the routine medical treatment in the years ahead.
At this time, digital health stands as an ideal solution for both the healthcare professionals and patients as it completely reduces the risk of infection spread while offering complete and accurate healthcare expertise. While the global scientific community is racing towards development of effective vaccines or therapeutics, digital health remains the most essential defense.
The proliferation of artificial intelligence, cutting-edge technologies, and big-data have been majorly responsible for advancing digital health and are expected to drive the demand for the same over the next few years. COVID-19 undeniably, is anticipated to stay for a longer period of time due to delay in proper treatment methods and vaccines.
In this scenario, numerous tech firms are trying to get involved in digital health while undertaking various distinctive measures. For instance, IBM, a tech giant, in March, announced the launch of coronavirus map and application for keeping a track of COVID-19 infections.
According to official sources, the company’s The Weather Channel has introduced new tools for tracking coronavirus infection. The app would showcase estimated COVID-19 cases on the map that would further help individuals and business establishments to keep a track on the spread of virus around them. Above that, the free tools are likely to run on the IBM public cloud and implement IBM Watson with an intent of scrutinizing data from the WHO in tandem with state and national government bodies.
Even before the outbreak, digital technology was at peak in China and was extensively used to accelerate, optimize, and complement health care services, which enabled the region to make use of these in difficult times like the ongoing health crisis.
With the COVID-19 pandemic unleashing its impact on a global scale, numerous nations are scrambling to adopt various strategies and protocols to mitigate further spread of the virus. One common protocol initiated across more than 25 nations is social distancing.
In a bid to ensure this social distancing, worldwide economies have begun the implementation of partial or complete lockdowns. While this is considered to be a largely helpful endeavor, one challenge arising from these lockdowns is limitations in access to healthcare. This presents a significant conundrum for global populations as the need for healthcare access is becoming increasingly important in the current scenario.
Amid these concerns, however, technology presents a lucrative solution; telemedicine.
Many healthcare facilities and regulatory authorities are rapidly seeking alternative healthcare solutions to offer seamless medical aid whilst mitigating risk of exposure. Telemedicine shows immense potential in this regard, by limiting the need for hospital visits, and implementing more optimized allocations of hospital capacity to integral cases, by offering access to robust healthcare through digital means.
The telemedicine market is also witnessing great support from global regulatory authorities like WHO and CDC in recent times, in an effort to safeguard medical staff and other frontline workers, without influencing the delivery of healthcare services.
The evolution of telemedicine
Telemedicine refers to the use of software and electronic communication devices to deliver clinical services to patients, without the need to make in-person visits to the hospital. Telemedicine technology is used extensively for chronic condition management, medication management, follow-up visits, and a host of such healthcare services, via secure audio and video connections.
While telemedicine has emerged as a prominent entity only in recent years, it has been in existence for several years. The origins of the telemedicine industry can be traced as far back as the 1950s, when certain university medial centers and hospital systems began to experiment with methods to share images and information through the telephone. Two Pennsylvania health centers were among the first to achieve success with this technology, through the transmission of radiologic images via telephone.
Over time, telemedicine technologies began to evolve, and witnessed a significant turn with the rise of the internet. With the emergence of smart devices, designed to facilitate high-quality video transmission, delivery of remote healthcare solutions to patients in their workplaces, homes or assisted living facilities became more prevalent, thus presenting an ideal alternative to in-person clinical visits for both specialized and primary healthcare.
Rising risk of COVID-19 transmission through contact is necessitating the development of effective telemedicine solutions
As concerns arising from the global pandemic continue to surge, telemedicine is beginning to emerge as a lucrative and sustainable preventative and treatment solution to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Virtual care services are helping bridge the gap between the population, health systems, and physicians. These solutions enable everybody, particularly symptomatic patients, to seek medical health from the comfort of their homes and communicate seamlessly with their doctors via digital means, thus reducing the risk of exposure for both medical staff as well as the general population.