Healthcare in 2021 will be all about digital health & virtual care

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2020 or ‘the year of pandemic’ has been remarkable in terms of the scale and the extent to which change is taking place all around us, across every industry, region, and organization. For many, the change was already in the pipeline, which was simply accelerated due to the unprecedented circumstances. Whereas, for others, it has been utter disruption and chaos. 

One industry that has been both disrupted and reinvented is healthcare. The healthcare professionals have been fighting the war against the contagious virus on the frontline. At the same time, the sector is introducing and implementing ways to enhance resource capacity in order to keep the chaos in control as much as possible. As a result of this endeavor, there has been a huge spike observed and noted in the adoption and usage of telehealth or digital health platforms. So much so, that virtual care actually became the preferred means of accessing primary care for patients. Given the surge, it is expected that the telehealth industry will attain the worth of $185.6 billion by 2026. 

Rob Bart, M.D., Chief Medical Information Officer at UPMC, recently said in a statement –  

“Technology has been so essential to the COVID-19 response at UPMC and other health systems that the line now is blurred between traditional health care and digital health. Technology and digital applications that once were not used to their full potential are now a permanent part of providing the best possible care for our patients.” 

Several healthcare executives from across the U.S. recently came together for the Becker’s Healthcare Telehealth Virtual Forum to discuss the challenges and opportunities in the digital health space. They all, too, echoed the growing influence of telemedicine and virtual care services in the health systems. At the same time, they also noted the technological limitations of healthcare providers in embracing such solutions. To overcome those limitations, hospitals and health systems would need to expand their digital capabilities, facilitate end-to-end integration between EHR systems and other digital solutions, onboard the required resources, while incorporating telehealth into their main healthcare delivery model. 

Evidently, this year has accelerated the adoption of telehealth platforms at a warp speed. Let’s now understand how this trend will shape the healthcare sector in 2021. 

Digital health trends in 2021 

Based on the predictions from leading innovation leaders in healthcare, some of the major digital health trends in 2021 are expected to be: 

1. Standardization across medical records 

Jeff Semenchuk, Chief Innovation Officer at Blue Shield of California (Oakland), notes, “To date, sharing and exchanging medical records between all of your doctors and healthcare providers has been nearly impossible because they all operate independently, and the data exists in silos. The COVID-19 pandemic has provided a glaring example for the need to access and share records digitally across your providers. 

Having an inter-operable and standardized healthcare system can do wonders in terms of speed, convenience, and value of care for the patients. We can expect to see a broader implementation of EHRs for keeping medical records digitally in such a way that the data is easily accessible, yet secure. 

2. Digital healthcare connectivity 

2021 will be a year of realignment in digital health. As provider systems adjust to the next normal, they will find that consumer preferences for convenience, experience and cost are even stronger than before the pandemic. This will drive health systems to lean on digital tools to bridge gaps in their care delivery models. Health systems will look to virtual care offerings as differentiators in their competitive markets, especially when coupled with remote monitoring and digital therapeutic offerings that can provide wraparound virtual services. Finally, digital connectivity will be recognized as a social determinant of health, and health systems will begin to partner with internet service providers to bridge the digital divide for their most vulnerable populations”, predicts Omkar Kulkarni, Chief Innovation Officer at Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles. 

3. AI in healthcare 

As of now, the role of AI in healthcare has been limited to chatbots where it acts as a first point of contact between the patient and the care providers. But now with the growing popularity of telehealth platforms, AI-based innovation for advanced healthcare is only a matter of time.  

Alexa, the smart speaker from Amazon, has gained HIPAA recognition. We can expect more such AI-driven platform to come to fore as innovation in healthcare becomes the primary agenda. 

To sum up 

This year, the digital health solutions have evolved from ‘something just for convenience’ to an absolute necessity. From on-demand virtual urgent care and virtual visits, to virtual home health services and tech-enabled home medication administration, the scope and potential of telehealth is immense in improving the value of healthcare. 

As healthcare systems enter this digital-dominant era, it is necessary that they reinforce their technology foundations to realize the full potential of digital health. This necessitates adoption of digital technologies, big data analytics & BI, compliance with a wide regulatory landscape, legacy modernization, transforming process & systems, improving IT efficiencies and ensuring functional efficiency, performance, security, and privacy of applications, data, & devices.  

Cigniti offers software testing solutions for diverse life science and healthcare players such as hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, healthcare services, clinical labs, diagnostic centers, third-party administrators (TPA), payers, medical equipment manufacturers, healthcare ISVs, and research organizations. We prepare the healthcare systems to foray into the digital space with confidence. To understand how we do it, schedule a discussion with our healthcare software testing experts. 

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  • Cigniti is a Global Leader in Independent Quality Engineering & Software Testing Services with offices in US, UK, India, Australia, and Canada.

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