It’s been a big few years for digital healthcare. An American Medical Association (AMA) study released in September 2022 found the percentage of physicians using telehealth and virtual patient care has grown from 14% in 2016 to 80% in 2022, while the average number of digital healthcare tools in use has increased from 2.2 to 3.8.
As the threat of COVID lessened, adoption of telehealth services declined — but still remained higher than it was pre-pandemic, suggesting patients, like physicians, recognize digital healthcare is more than just an alternative. With Acumen forecasting the global digital health market is set to experience a CAGR of 21.6% by 2030, it looks like the changes catalyzed by COVID are just the beginning of medicine’s next chapter.
Let’s take a closer look at five areas of digital healthcare we believe will be important in 2023 and beyond:
According to the AMA report, the largest area of physician adoption is digital tools that assist in remote patient care, while remote monitoring devices were the second most popular digital healthcare tool among surveyed physicians. And for good reason. Remote care can not only alleviate pressure on hospitals and doctors' offices, save patients money, and improve physician efficiency, it is also a powerful tool for collecting comprehensive data — and improving patient outcomes through digitized patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs). PROMs are surveys traditionally administered by clinicians to discern a patient’s symptoms and other health indicators, but the ability to gather this information remotely has been a game-changer for physicians and patients alike.
Whether it’s developing the PRISM app to increase the adoption of PROMs, helping patients taper off opiates through asynchronous remote monitoring, or making at-home cardiac rehab more accessible, we are proud to continue pioneering the advancement of remote healthcare technology.
COVID not only increased telehealth visits in the U.S., it was also the driving force behind the infrastructural change necessary to accommodate expanded digital healthcare services. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HH&S) reports that in the first year of COVID, 28 million Medicare beneficiaries — more than 2 out of 5 — used telehealth services. Though telehealth adoption declined after its peak in 2020, the overall increase in virtual healthcare visits led the House of Representatives to pass the “Advancing Telehealth Beyond COVID-19 Act” in July 2022, which expanded Medicaid coverage of telehealth services through 2024. Private insurance companies are following suit; according to the telehealth division of HH&S, “42 states and the District of Columbia require private insurance providers to reimburse telemedicine.”
With Forbes reporting “patients can save over $130 using telehealth compared to Urgent Care, and up to $2,000 in comparison to the ER,” the value proposition of telehealthcare is clear. And as demand for this affordable alternative to in-person healthcare increases, expect insurance carriers of all sizes to expand their coverage to meet it.
For digital healthcare tools like electronic health records (EHRs) to be useful, there must be a secure way to communicate the data they collect between other digital platforms. Improving the interoperability of digital healthcare tools is a principal concern. AMA reported “integration with their EHR” was surveyed physicians’ second most important consideration for adoption of digital healthcare tools, while Health IT Consultant’s recent survey found interoperability was the third “biggest health IT industry focus for the year.”
To combat interoperability issues, developers rely on fast healthcare interoperability resources (FHIR) — a centralized standard by which digital healthcare information can be securely exchanged. When developing PRISM, the app used to improve collection of PROM data, we ran up against interoperability issues when the client’s EHR failed to support all of the resources the app needed to function. We solved this interoperability challenge by building FHIR House, a cloud-agnostic middleware designed to integrate and transmit secure healthcare data between multiple apps. Realizing FHIR House could be used to fix interoperability issues for other apps, we released an open-source version available to other healthcare developers. With further innovation and collaboration, we’re hopeful interoperability will become the standard, not a challenge to overcome.
Wearable wellness technology has long been a staple of exercise enthusiasts, but biometric data is increasingly being used to monitor health conditions — and even help prevent them. As interoperability improves, we believe physicians and patients will have more opportunities to integrate biometric data from healthcare wearables into their EHR, contributing to a more holistic picture of a patient’s health than the insights derived from a yearly physical.
Wearables may also have a part to play in insurance incentives. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), “Some companies have provided employees with health trackers to leverage insurance discounts and to incentivize staff to embrace healthier lifestyles.” SHRM predicts wearables will be a “significant investment area during the next three years.” A 2022 report on wearable medical devices agrees, projecting the global market will increase by a CAGR of 15.8% from 2021 to 2026.
Augmented intelligence — a subset of artificial intelligence (AI) machine learning (ML) — has started to trickle into healthcare. AMA reports, “Two in 5 physicians plan to adopt augmented intelligence in the next year, while nearly 1 in 5 physicians are currently using augmented intelligence in their practices.” It’s poised to become a significant factor for future innovation. BusinessWire reports the global AR/VR market is expected to see a 22.50% CAGR from 2023-2027, while VentureBeat describes the healthcare AI market as “bullish,” citing a 2021 survey from Optum insurance that found “almost half of healthcare executives use AI, while around 85% say they have an AI strategy.”
How AI is being used in healthcare is as variable as the technology itself, but one of the primary uses is to predict outcomes. Forbes explains, “Organizations are using AI to predict everything from emergency department volumes (to get a better handle on staffing and triage) to predicting which treatments might be most effective for women who develop breast cancer.”
Combine the predictive powers of AI with insightful PROMs and biometric data, and patient care can transform from a series of two-dimensional assessments to a multi-dimensional, comprehensive picture of a person’s health. Here at Vessel Partners, we are proud to be developing the kinds of digital healthcare tools necessary to make this future vision a reality.
The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.
A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!