In the early days of COVID-19, the pandemic wreaked havoc in pretty much every industry around the world. Production delays, severe supply chain disruptions, inability to travel added to the necessity of coping with WFH adjustments — in one way or another, most businesses have been affected by the virus. For apparent reasons, along with the travel and entertainment industries, the domain of healthcare has been hit the hardest. In this article, we’ll discuss the problems faced by the healthcare sector, the pace of digital transformation, and what new technological approaches are worth for future use.
The Healthcare Industry and Remote Health
Following the first months of the lockdown, the healthcare industry experienced a slowdown in its nonessential sectors. Experts had advised at-risk patients to avoid clinics due to the high probability of contracting COVID-19, with patients putting off their non-urgent appointments such as regular dental and other health checks. However, those measures proved to be insufficient, and the situation eventually resulted in health complications that otherwise could have been easily prevented via routine health checks. Therefore, to avoid further complications, the industry professionals resorted to telehealth and digital healthcare systems.
In their turn, governments rushed to change telehealth legislation. For the sake of providing instant help, many regulatory barriers have been temporarily lowered. While countries such as Germany and France have been at the forefront of connected care adoption, it’s turned up to be quite a task for the rest of the world. For instance, to speed up the process of digitization, the US COVID-19 Telehealth Program offers $200 million in funding to help healthcare organizations to provide ITC services and purchase the necessary equipment. The trend has taken off even in developing countries such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Papua New Guinea where citizens receive medical advice via hotlines.
As a result, the industry has seen an unprecedented surge of ITC technologies and rapid technological advances. Some examples of new technologies in place are:
- Online consultation platforms such as the VSee HIPAA Clinic app that allow patients to report their health issues and contact medical staff online or via phone.
- Virtual examination rooms: video conferencing tools based on Akveo’s Remote Patient Monitoring template allow doctors to examine their patients online. These systems are compliant with government regulations, such as HIPAA, and secured via encryption. Some solutions are even paired with the ultrasound scan that patients can use on their own during their examination.
- Remote monitoring: remote sensors and gadgets like smartwatches monitor vitals such as heart rate and blood pressure. Some of these devices can even administer medication to the patients. They allow both medical providers and patients to observe health conditions in the long term, or to react urgently in case of an emergency.
Apart from that, the COVID-influenced reality brought remote surveillance to hospitals, such as Google Nest’s implementation at Mount Sinai. The hospital staff added room cameras to remotely supervise patients with minimal person-to-person interaction.
In March 2020, the US government launched the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset (CORD-19), freely available to researchers around the world. The officials assumed that recent advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning would help with the analysis and understanding of available research papers. Alibaba has also launched its own version in Global MediXchange.
In China, the cradle of the pandemic, new technologies such as AI, facial recognition, thermal sensors, and drones (repurposed to spray disinfectant over public areas, or to deliver supplies to quarantined areas) helped to prevent the spread of the virus. However, the Chinese government has been accused of using those technologies to violate its citizens’ human rights. Same with the Alipay Health Code, that assigns to citizens a nifty color-coded rating (green, yellow, or red) depending on their risk of contracting the virus. The app forwards this data to the police and health authorities, but there are strong suspicions that the technology keeps an eye on dissidents.
The emergence of Hanwang’s and SenseTime’s facial recognition software for people wearing masks is an apparent sign of the times. SenseTime’s contactless software detects the temperature at underground stations, schools, and community centers in major cities across China. Hanwang claims that its facial recognition technology can identify masked people 95% of the time. Apple has also announced the introduction of similar technology. Available via the latest update, the Face ID function will unlock iPhones even if a user is wearing a mask. While this technology is a direct outcome of the virus outbreak, it’s highly likely that once the pandemic is over, the feature will remain within the basic set of functionalities.
To Sum Up
Deadly diseases and wars change the lives of mankind for good. In 2003, the SARS epidemic in China made e-commerce companies like Alibaba (AliExpress) or Taobao flourish, and shopping on the Internet became a common thing. Over these 17 years, people have learned to cover almost all of their needs without leaving their houses.
In their survey, Deloitte claims that 57% of respondents are willing to try telehealth. It would be fair to conclude that the coronavirus has closed the second chapter of the global digital transformation. Many businesses have successfully migrated online, and new trends in the workplace such as remote work are in full swing now. What’s more important, the pandemic forced companies to use the most recent technology like artificial intelligence and big data for the sake of saving lives. “We have moved forward a decade in the use of telemedicine and it’s going to become, and will remain, an increasingly important part of physician practices going forward”, commented Todd Askew, the AMA’s senior vice president of advocacy.
In regard to beneficial regulatory changes and the second wave of the pandemic to come, the global telehealth market size is expected to reach a whopping $266.8 billion by 2026. At the same time, with the bewildering boom of disruptive technologies, finding the right vendor to build a product feels a little like looking for a needle in a haystack.
Do you want to be a part of the growing MedTech trend and enable digital healthcare? When time is a critical matter, low-code/no-code solutions by Akveo help businesses to quickly implement new solutions based on the Healthcare Dashboard For Delivery Companies that helps delivery services track couriers’ health and the Digital Clinic Mobile Template, providing remote patient monitoring in telemedicine. For more information, check out Akveo’s website here.
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