COVID-19 is Driving the Digital Health Future

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COVID-19 continues to shift how we live, work, and approach various aspects of the future. This is especially true in terms of healthcare, and how patients stay connected to providers and health services. In many cases, systems had to shift overnight to accommodate new ways to engage patients with the broader health ecosystem.

The shift to new formats, new connectivity, and more virtual care is showing greater adoption among patients, and better than normal satisfaction rates. This more digital experience is leading many healthcare systems to reevaluate the future of care, and the potential shift for new revenue.

Transformation to a virtual health system

At the start of the pandemic, as the US and other countries around the world went into lockdown, hospitals and healthcare providers needed to maintain some type of connection to patients while remaining safe. As a result, telemedicine options were immediately deployed for nearly all aspects of care to become nearly 100% virtual.

By using technology to support communication and care, healthcare providers were largely able to maintain or even improve on the patient experience. Surprisingly, patients welcomed the shift, appreciating more personalized interactions, faster response time, and the convenience of home-based care. 60% of patients now say they want to continue using use technology to communicate with providers in the future. Health systems are now discovering the benefits of telemedicine across the ecosystem in delivering a care experience that is as good or better than the traditional format.

Digital health gaining acceptance among patients

As more health systems and providers shifted to telemedicine and other digital health tools to maintain connections, patients discovered a new fondness for the on-demand nature. Use of virtual tools increased across the board as patients switched to at-home treatment during COVID-19 took more advantage of telemedicine, online chat, and digital health apps.

44 percent of patients started using new devices or digital health apps at the start of the pandemic to help manage their condition. From those new users, 90% say the experience is excellent and intend to continue using them. An unintended upside of this new adoption of digital health tools is increased trust in the healthcare ecosystem. Providers saw patient trust increase 60%, and health systems increased 49%. Across the board, all aspects of the ecosystem saw trust increase as the result of deploying digital health tools.

Unity among pharma, providers, payers

Digital health isn’t just for patients, however. The pandemic has also forced new ways for all segments of the healthcare ecosystem to stay connected, while staying apart. The adoption of new tech tools is helping payers, pharma, providers from different focus areas, and care managers all collaborate for patient care through digital means.

Healthcare providers are seeing pharma companies shift communication from traditional means to that of more support services, and patient education through digital means. 69 percent of providers now see pharma using digital patient education and guidance on how to manage conditions during COVID-19. Payers are also shifting to digital means to help patients connect with providers, learn about different treatment options, and offering financial support.

To help unite these efforts, and create a central command for payers, providers, and pharma collaborate on the types of digital health information, Medisafe introduced its Care Connector platform. This central command gives a view into the types of digital health information and guidance available to patients, and the ability to tailor communication for each patient – based on their insurer, specific provider recommendations, and type of medication therapy. This enhanced connectivity means more personalized care, in a digital focus for easier management.

Future of health will see increased digital engagement

As the move to digital health becomes more commonplace, and increased patient adoption takes hold, new engagement strategies will be needed to maintain a connected patient population. There are already new avenues of purely virtual providers that are now available to help treat patients and manage their care. Payers will need to identify and engage virtual doctors who may not currently be part of in-network plans. Similarly, pharma will need to establish new ways of interacting with patients and its model for engagement with more focus on digital support.

However, this trend toward digital and a more virtual experience doesn’t mean a complete escape from a human experience. Many digital health platforms also include a live person to help users navigate through questions and concerns. Nearly all telemedicine options include a direct line to a care administrator, and in many instances can refer to a physician for in-person care.

Technologies are proliferating, but healthcare systems must find a balance between a purely virtual model and the traditional in-person format. Some systems are finding success with initial in-person visits, followed by telemedicine follow-up and digital health apps to maintain connection and coordinate care. Regardless of the format, patients still expect personalized care that is unique to their situation – a sweet spot where digital health has found a strong foothold for a post-pandemic future.