As any new technology begins to take hold and to become a staple in our lives, it usually has a moment. This is the point when the technology becomes so critical in its function that it reaches a tipping point and moves from a luxury to a necessity. It is when wide-spread adoption begins to take place.
We have seen this many times in our lives. At the beginning of the century, cell phones had a moment. Now, almost everyone carries one in their pocket. A few years ago, streaming services had a moment. Now, you are more likely to have a conversation about the newest Netflix show than you are about the newest show on a major network.
Right now, in 2020, digital health is having a moment. The incredible, tragic, and unforeseen circumstances that came along with the global COVID-19 pandemic have fundamentally changed healthcare. Suddenly, using digital healthcare technology to improve efficiency and effectiveness is no longer an option; it is a necessity.
To explain why digital health is so critical in 2020, we will look at the underlying circumstances brought on by the pandemic and discuss how technology has risen to meet these challenges. Here is why digital health is having a moment.
A Huge Challenge to Meet
It is said that necessity is the mother of invention and nothing in recent memory has caused more necessity than COVID-19. The world was caught mostly unprepared for this pandemic.
When it hit as hard as it did, medical personnel and patients scrambled to figure out how to meet this enormous challenge. The healthcare industry turned to technology in a big way to find the best ways to respond to the ever changing situation.
According to Orthogonal, digital health is accelerating at a breakneck pace. Luckily, much of it was already available, or even in place in some instances, but the pandemic supercharged its use in 2020.
At a time when healthcare systems were overrun by sick patients, technology helped ease the burden and protect both patients and healthcare workers.
Prior to 2020. adoption of digital technology in the healthcare industry was not moving as fast as it was in other industries.
Digital solutions were not considered the quick and easy answer to problems within the industry as they were in manufacturing, media, logistics, and other industries. The daunting challenge of a global pandemic quickly changed that mindset.
Need for Efficiency
The purpose of stay-at-home and work-from-home orders around the world was to “flatten the curve”. This meant to slow the spread of the virus so that already stressed hospitals and medical centers weren’t completely overwhelmed and would still be able to provide care for those who needed it most.
Even though this strategy worked in most cases, many hospitals were stretched beyond any point they had ever before experienced. Healthcare providers needed to provide care as well, as quickly, and as efficiently as possible to deal with the influx of patients. New technology came to the rescue.
Technology such as connected mobile medical devices (CMMD) and Software as a Medical Device (SaMD) gave doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals the ability to remotely monitor and care for patients.
This technology also gave professionals medical devices they could carry in their pockets from patient to patient, even when patients were in multi-purpose rooms or even hallways.
The need for efficiency in this situation was incredible and technology made medical responses as efficient as possible while new information flooded the profession.
Rise in Need for Telemedicine
When the pandemic started and medical facilities became packed with COVID patients, keeping frontline healthcare workers healthy was a top priority.
And, while elective surgeries and other minor healthcare needs were canceled or postponed, it didn’t mean those needs went away. People became sick and injured, even while self-quarantined, and healthcare workers needed to figure out how to respond to their needs.
Enter telemedicine. This technology involved using cloud-based video conferencing to enable patients to consult with medical professionals. Telemedicine was already an option before 2020 but it was not very popular. That all changed during the pandemic.
It was imperative to keep sick people away from medical professionals and to keep patients without COVID away from patients with the virus. Telemedicine solved this issue.
It let healthcare pros connect with patients in a face-to-face manner without having to be in the same physical space. As an added bonus, it is more convenient and less expensive for both the patient and the provider.
The pandemic forced people who otherwise wouldn’t have been comfortable using this new technology to get on board. Many found that they like it just as much, if not more, than the traditional doctor visit.
When a piece of technology has a moment, it often means that it will become the norm shortly thereafter. This is certainly the case for telemedicine.
Speed of Innovation
With technology use suddenly exploding, especially cloud and software-based technology, growing pains are bound to appear. It is always the case that new technology can improve some cases and while it doesn’t perfectly meet certain needs in others. This is to be expected. Digital technology in health was able to meet this challenge in 2020.
Older, hardware-based technology has shortcomings. In order to fix that, medical professionals give feedback to the manufacturer so that the next generation of equipment comes on the market with the discussed improvements. That’s great, but it takes time and usually another major capital investment to get the latest and greatest version.
Digital technology offers an incredibly fast feedback loop. Issues can be raised, discussed, fixed, tested, and fine-tuned very quickly with digital technology. Usually, all that is needed is for the user to install a downloadable update to make these changes once the issue has been addressed on the backend.
A moment happens when technology perfectly addresses the needs of a certain time. If the technology that boomed during COVID wasn’t digital, healthcare providers would have had to wait until after the pandemic had subsided to gain feedback. In 2020, this process could almost be done in real-time, which is just what was needed.
There is no debate that digital health is having a moment in 2020. Although, horrible circumstances conspired to create that moment, the silver lining is that digital technology has risen to meet the challenge.
In a few years, when the next big technological development is having its moment, we’ll look back and compare it to things that are then just accepted as part of everyday life like cellphones, streaming services, and now, digital health technology.