Four Post-Pandemic Healthcare Trends to Keep an Eye On
A year and a half ago, nobody could have predicted the radical changes about to overwhelm the healthcare industry. Virtual health existed, of course, but it was hardly the dominant option among physicians and patients it would become during the coronavirus pandemic.
These days, people who once never would have considered receiving care from their doctors remotely welcome it as the new normal. According to a Gartner survey, 74% of U.S. consumers said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the care they received during a virtual healthcare visit in 2020, compared to only 8% who said they were unsatisfied. Clearly, people have become comfortable with alternate methods of treatment, and they are more than willing to utilize new technology and devices to monitor their own health.
Healthcare providers and the businesses that serve them have been forced to react quickly to this brave new world. Back in December, we wrote about ways VSA was assisting companies seeking to establish a foothold in virtual health, and some of the keys to adapting to the changing landscape.
One of those keys was keeping up with the latest technology and services. Here are four of the fast-growing healthcare trends that have risen from the pandemic:
1. Telemedicine is here to stay
Telemedicine obviously existed before COVID-19; doctors have long consulted with patients over the telephone or, in more recent years, via video platforms. But its emergence as a viable alternative to in-person visits corresponded directly with the start of the pandemic. In a survey of physicians conducted by healthcare company Merritt Hawkins last April, 48 percent said they were seeing patients through telemedicine, compared to only about 18 percent in 2018.
Fifteen months later, virtual health remains a widespread means of connecting doctors and patients. A report this summer by McKinsey & Company reveals that telehealth usage is 38 times more prevalent than it was before the pandemic.
But fully committing to telemedicine isn’t as simple as asking patients to pick up the phone or hop on a video call. There are hundreds of telemedicine apps on the market and always more coming, so choosing the right fit can be a challenge. The best apps allow for convenient, secure, seamless communication between physician and patient and integrate smoothly with existing electronic health records.
2. The rise of remote patient monitoring
Remote patient monitoring (RPM) enables doctors to keep direct tabs on patients’ health conditions from afar, which became vital during the pandemic. Electronic devices such as glucose monitors for diabetes patients, oximeters for measuring blood-oxygen levels, and digital blood pressure monitors collect and interpret data and transmit it to healthcare staffs, allowing for near real-time evaluation of patients around the clock.
With RPM, doctors can identify potentially dangerous conditions before they become critical, improving patient outcomes and significantly decreasing the number of hospital readmissions (and accompanying penalties) and emergency room visits. Remote heart monitoring is especially important for COVID-19 survivors, who are more susceptible to cardiovascular diseases.
RPM devices come in multiple forms, from sensors placed under the skin to watches, rings, and other wearables. There is a trend toward miniaturization, with devices becoming smaller and less invasive. Regardless of what form it takes, RPM use is expected to grow dramatically; stakeholders have predicted the market will double in the next five years.
3. An onslaught of digital health innovations
Telemedicine and remote patient monitoring are examples of digital health, but the term encompasses so much more. Digital health can be defined as anything that uses technology to provide patient-centric and business-centric solutions—everything from wearable gadgets to robotic care to virtual reality to artificial intelligence to electronic health record systems.
Among the countless innovations that have helped combat the coronavirus are 3D-printed personal protection equipment for health workers and smart thermometers that deliver real-time data to patients. New offerings are always on the horizon; Forbes reports that venture-backed companies raised $14.7 billion in digital health funding through the first half of 2021, already more than all of last year.
4. Increased emphasis on mental health
Even if things feel somewhat back to normal, the emotional toll left by the pandemic isn’t going away. Transitioning back to in-person work or school can be stressful, especially after so many months of fear, uncertainty, and grief. Employees’ mental health has become a major focus of many employers.
Fortunately, the problem has not been ignored. According to a recent report from Fidelity Business Group on Health, 92% of employers have expanded their support for mental health and emotional well-being for 2021, with programs focused on stress management, sleep improvement, and pediatric issues. Meanwhile, 74% of employers have increased programs to support work/life balance. The average total budget for these programs has climbed to $6 million in 2021, up from $4.9 million last year.
There are multiple telehealth software platforms focused specifically on mental health, addressing everything from serious illnesses to day-to-day self-improvement techniques. Telehealth made mental health services more accessible during the pandemic, and that trend is certain to continue.
Keeping pace with the changing face of healthcare over the last year and a half hasn’t been easy. Just when providers think they’ve got the latest technology and trends figured out, along comes new methods of enhancing services and improving patient outcomes. Staying on top of prospects’ ever-changing needs in this unpredictable climate can be an arduous task for B2B healthcare companies.
VSA’s experience in the healthcare and technology industries makes us a perfect partner in facing this challenge. Should you need assistance, just give us a call. No matter what the future holds, we’re always happy to help.