Updated: May 30
With the Covid-19 pandemic, digital healthcare has become a promising solution to help minimize the spread and optimize efficiency within the healthcare workforce. Digital healthcare not only contributed to managing the pandemic, but also played a huge role in research and understanding more about the virus itself. Telehealth, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and wearable technologies were domains mostly used to respond to COVID-19.
In order to avoid in person appointments and reduce time spent in hospitals or clinics, telehealth became fully integrated into healthcare to provide patients with non-emergency care. CDC states that “95% of health centers have reported using telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to 43% in 2019”. Telehealth has not only reduced contamination but is also more convenient for patients due to shorter wait times, fewer missed appointments, and eliminating travel. Although the pandemic has accelerated the meshing of telehealth into healthcare, it is worth considering long-term integration due to how convenient and accessible it is for patients.
A key source to managing the pandemic was having enough information about the virus itself to create the most efficient response, as well as updating the public about this health crisis. AI became extremely useful for processing large amounts of data quickly to learn more about the virus itself. With AI, patient health records were able to be analyzed to find common symptoms we should be looking out for. AI driven software was also used to analyze genetic data. Lastly, AI tools were used for creating diagnostic models as well as predictive models for patient outcomes. For instance PEW Research Center states, “there have been 3 FDA approved AI products that help predict outcomes for COVID-19 patients such as cardiac complications, ventilator use, and respiratory failure”.
Many other types of digital healthcare have been implemented during the pandemic, such as wearables and even AI apps. Wearable technology is used to provide doctors with patient vital signs allowing them to be monitored remotely. Wearable sensors and nano biosensors are used to monitor COVID-19 patients, before and after hospital admission. This helped increase hospital capacity and staff time for patients with more severe cases. Currently, there are many studies regarding the usage of commercialized wearable devices (Fitbit, Apple watch, etc.) and non commercialized wearable sensors to predict infectious disease onset like COVID-19 and predict its severity. Even big companies, like Apple and Amazon have integrated digital health aspects to their AI apps as a result of the pandemic. More specifically, Siri and Alexa were updated to allow users to screen themselves digitally for COVID-19 symptoms.
It is very clear that the pandemic has accelerated digital healthcare to a whole new level. Now more than ever, there are huge markets for digital health tools, to improve quality and accessibility to healthcare. Biotech accelerators and healthcare accelerators are a great option to gain resources and mentoring to enter this growing market.
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