This has been an unprecedented year by all accounts. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the entire world for most of the year, changing the way businesses operate, schools educate, friends and families socialize, and even how healthcare organizations treat patients and members.
Across industries, it’s been a year of adjustment, with technology and remote tools becoming the stars of the show. These aren’t new tools – just solutions that haven’t been fully leveraged while legacy technologies and processes were available. The pandemic changed that.
Connected health has been emerging as a viable alternative to traditional healthcare delivery models for many years now, as a way to improve care delivery, address inefficiencies in the healthcare system, alleviate the strain on providers, and increase access to care. But, its adoption has been slower than expected – until the circumstances of 2020 forced connected health into the mainstream, and the results can’t be ignored. While it has been poised for significant growth for several years, 2020 was truly the year connected health turned the corner.
Here are some of the key takeaways from this past year, along with links to our take on them.
Connected Health Devices
It started in January, when things were still “normal” at the annual CES tradeshow (the 2021 edition will be an all-virtual event). With a host of new connected health devices, the show was indicative of the potential digital healthcare tools hold. Each new device promises to help drive awareness of not only connected health capabilities among patient populations but can also help drive patient engagement and their awareness of their health and wellness needs, ultimately benefitting providers, too, by reducing their burden.
Another trend impacting many industries, including healthcare, was digital transformation. Traditional care models and technologies no longer are effective in maintaining an efficient system based on the waste the system creates annually and the shortage of physicians the country is experiencing. Healthcare providers need to look to technology to alleviate some of the pressure and help them deliver better, faster, and more personalized care. Connected healthcare can drive the industry in the right direction.
Mental Health Care
It’s no secret the mental health care doesn’t always get the same attention other healthcare needs do, and patient often avoid treatment to avoid the stigma attached to mental health disorders. Among other benefits, connected health can help connect patients and providers remotely, making it easier for patients to seek treatment.
Obviously, COVID-19 was the biggest story of 2020, period. Connected health played a major role in pandemic response, as countless providers and organizations implemented telehealth services to drive their pandemic response strategies and to enable effective patient care while promoting disease containment practices. In fact, our entire COVID-19 Series featured numerous ways connected health enabled healthcare providers to continue serving their patients while minimizing risk.
In addition to patient and physician acceptance, regulatory changes are helping increase the use of connected health solutions. In response to the pandemic, government agencies acted quickly to scale back many of the restrictions that had previously created obstacles to widespread use of telehealth services. Since then, many government officials and entities have strongly supported the expansion of many of the temporary telehealth legislation and provisions to permanent status.
Connected Health Adoption Grows
While doctors may have believed in the future of digital healthcare, many were not ready to embrace it before this year. Though adoption had started to increase slowly, the circumstances of 2020 made connected health an imperative. Once forced to use new technologies, the majority of physicians have more positive views regarding their use of and comfort with connected health.
Clearly, this year has to be considered a success for connected health. Despite the circumstances surrounding its emergence as a mainstream healthcare model, digital health has proven its value. The stage has been set and there’s no turning back, considering the momentum the connected health industry has built over the past 12 months. The question now is, how quickly will new innovations, regulatory changes, and healthcare models be developed leveraging digital health tools, and how quickly will we see widespread change in the healthcare system? That’s what we look forward to exploring in 2021.
To learn more about how to effectively leverage the new connected health tools that are revolutionizing healthcare, visit us here.