Let's take a look at what new concepts we will see or seen for healthcare
During a time of unease, it’s easy to lose focus of the future and spiral into a heave of negativity. But it’s essential for us, as humans powered by technology, to move forward with hope and innovation in our back pockets.
The pandemic so far has shown how far technology has come, with many companies being able to pivot to remote working structures with relative ease.
With Covid-19, however, we’ve seen a major shift to more telehealth options. Not only this, we’ve seen more movement around robotics as well as more use around automation and artificial intelligence.
Healthcare is now actively transforming, and we’ve seen a huge spurt of startups to boot as well. From the McKinsey Virtual Health Provider Survey, we’ve seen more focus across all segments of virtual health applications.
When healthcare entrepreneur, Raphael Rakowski, attended a call with other health system leaders, one of the CEOs stated:
“One thing is for sure, things simply cannot be the same after Covid.”
One of the biggest focus segments, however, to look at is telemedicine.
The growth of telemedicine treatment
With institutions focused on lowering the exposure of COVID-19, many practices have now introduced mandatory virtual appointments, especially if you have any symptoms remotely close to the virus.
I personally made my first ever telehealth appointment. It was straightforward, and I got my diagnosis without needing to drive and wait for an hour.
It was so simple that I don’t know why I didn’t do it earlier.
In fact, telehealth visits have surged 50% over pre-pandemic levels. IHS Technology predicted that a few years ago, 70 million Americans would use telehealth by 2020. Since then, Forrester Research predicted this number to surge to close to a billion by the end of 2020.
Even the Whitehouse has jumped on board to prioritize the expansion of telehealth access by helping providers navigate some of the legal requirements around data security.
Startups like 98point6 help facilitate these telemedicine appointments. With the pandemic, their membership base skyrocketed by 274% as people looked for medical advice from the comfort of their own home. Founded in 2015, the startup focuses on providing companies with doctors in real-time to their clients.
This points to a future where our homes will become the optimal sites for medical care.
An introduction to virtual hospitals
Pre-Covid-19, I had never heard of a virtual hospital. This concept is, however, nothing short of new.
Decades ago, physicians visiting homes were common, and startups like Medically Home aim to bring this back. Although the term ‘virtual hospitals’ can vary by organization, it generally refers to an ‘E-ICU’ (electronic intensive care units). These can run out of someone’s home where intensive care physicians in a call center can help other providers caring for patients remotely.
In 2020, we’ve seen Australia roll out its first-ever virtual hospitals around the country. This is especially important within rural areas where hospitals are scarce.
“This virtual model which will continuously monitor a patient’s condition is the first of its kind and will have significant benefits for regional healthcare delivery while also taking the pressure off the hospital system,” Minister Coulton said of Armidale in Australia.
“If a patient’s condition worsens, doctors — supported by artificial intelligence — can then decide if the patient can continue treatment at home or should be moved to hospital.”
These setups will become much more efficient and help alleviate the burden from understaffed and overbooked hospitals.
A look at robotics in healthcare
We’ve seen how crucial robotics can be for the healthcare world.
Established businesses like Intuitive and their patented da Vinci surgical systems have helped patients perform minimally invasive surgical procedures (basically lowering the number of cuts and incisions to perform the surgery).
Startups like Auris Health based in California (which has since been acquired by Johnson and Johnson) have also enabled surgeons to perform invasive procedures easier with its robotic solutions. These can range from both minimal to difficult procedures.
Beyond robotics helping operating rooms, they are also easing loads from nurses and doctors through helping with daily tasks. Startups like Diligent Robotics are building medical robots to help with:
- bringing medication
- helping distribute protective gear
- delivering lab test samples
- helping collect dirty clothes as well as bring clean clothes
As we move into 2021 and beyond, we will see different types of robots come into play in hospitals, and it will become an increasingly common sight.
AI and Machine Learning developments
AI has been around for decades but has only just been evolving within healthcare systems. This technology runs all the way from discovering new outbreaks to automating admin work.
For example, the pandemic was actually discovered by AI startups like Bluedot before being reported to media outlets. Bluedot helps track, locate, and thus predict the spread of infectious diseases. Their AI tools help discover potential outbreaks by taking worldwide data and processes it into automated messages and heatmaps (as seen below).
Although discovering outbreaks is one area AI has been evolving in and will most likely expand (to detect new outbreaks beyond COVID-19), there are other areas we will see advancements in as well.
Operational inefficiencies within healthcare systems will always be an issue and create increased costs for providers. Startups like Qventus add value by using AI to help optimize patient and provider flow within these systems. This reduces the need for resources to help manage administration processes, allowing these providers to provide better performance and service.
Although it may sound like a boring area of AI, optimizing the health care systems is a huge value add, especially with the need to scale hospitals and clinics due to COVID-19. Healthcare systems are now looking for ways to become more efficient by cost-cutting, and AI and machine learning are in a perfect position to assist with this.
There is no doubt that technology in healthcare has had a shakeup since COVID-19 has surged across the world. We’ve seen developments that we would have never seen in a matter of a year from these changes.
From telemedicine to robotics, we will see further changes as the vision of healthcare in a post-COVID-19 world will have changed.
It will be a shaky but exciting time to see where this will all lead to. As more money rolls in, we hope to move into areas where we can better improve patient well-being, diagnosis, and efficiency within the healthcare systems.