Finally 2020 is behind us. 2021 also has a lot of potential in the field of digital health. Elements that emerged (or underestimated) also last year, which will be useful or will be abandoned in this one.
Here are some digital health trends that can make a splash (good or bad) in 2021.
1 Proteus has failed, but the Smart Pills have not
In 2017, the Proteus Digital Health made headlines for developing the world's first FDA-approved smart pill. And in 2019, the company had achieved a valuation of $ 1,5 billion. In 2020, like a bolt from the blue, bankruptcy and bankruptcy.
Bad management and excessive costs for this product that combined “smart” pills with a sensor that checked their absorption. You swallowed a capsule and checked that it arrived at its destination and correctly distributed its active ingredients. A digital health center for the treatment of mental disorders.
However, the downfall of a company doesn't necessarily mean the downfall of this technology just 4 years ago it seemed like something out of science fiction. The digital pills continue to offer themselves strongly, and to be developed all over the world. Other digital health companies like etectRx e Infármate are working on their own smart pill. It will take a little more attention, but this year the technology could take off.
2 Covid digital contact tracking was a flop
With COVID-19's rapid transmission rate, governments around the world have turned to digital health technology for assistance. This assistance has come in the form of a contact tracking app. Once downloaded, this was the possibility, it would help health officials determine who was in the immediate vicinity of an infected person.
Admittedly, using these apps posed a risk to privacy and data security. In South Korea, for example, the app he laid bare by mistake sensitive data of citizens. Contact tracking apps used in the UK and Qatar they showed vulnerability. In Italy, our Immuni app it never really took off.
Millions of euros invested in this digital health solution haven't paid off much. The adoption rate remained low. For example, in New York only about 5% of the population downloaded the COVID Alert NY contact locator app. Oxford University researchers estimate that about 60% of the population should use these apps for them to be effective.
Reality shows that we are not ready for these digital health apps against Covid. Will we try again in 2021?
3 Investments in digital health are flourishing
2020 was the year of investments in digital health. In 2016, world spending was 23 billion euros. In 2019 it was 119 billion. In 2027 it will be 890 billion, with an annual increase of about 27%. You do a little bit.
It goes without saying that this investment boost that the digital health industry has received has been further accelerated by the pandemic. The next major investments? They will be directed to companies that offer on-demand health services and remote assistance.
4 Virtual events have replaced those in person
Thousands of face-to-face medical conferences were held every year before Covid. The need to limit physical contact forced medical events to be postponed or canceled in person in 2020. This setback has given medical events the opportunity to adapt to the times, overcome the age of PowerPoint and go digital.
When done well, virtual events not only offer an alternative to physical events, they can be even more useful. Give more information, more effectively. A reality to be preserved even after, to give physical events the palm of "team building" and socializing, leaving the virtual ones the ability to inform at a distance, quickly, completely.
5 Telemedicine has gone mainstream
Lockdowns and the need to practice social distancing while continuing to provide access to healthcare have catapulted telemedicine towards unthinkable horizons in 2019.
Before the COVID-19 public health crisis, 82% of consumers were not using telemedicine services. With the outbreak of the pandemic, the use of some services increased by a staggering 158%. The adoption demonstrated that unnecessary physical hospital visits are avoidable and telemedicine can act as a bridge for this purpose.
6 Digital health is taking a globalized form
The democratization of healthcare is often emphasized in the definition of digital health. Companies that offer quality digital health services, from fitness trackers to home microbiome testing, can reach patients and consumers wherever they are. The COVID-19 pandemic helped clarify this point as well.
Patients from all over the world have turned to mass a digital health solutions, even if the supplier company was in another country or continent. Cancer patients continued their treatment thanks to telemedicine. The demand for wellness apps and fitness wearables has increased. Even the elderly have embraced healthcare technology during the pandemic.
This trend is destined to continue, the train has now left. However, strict regulations will be needed to ensure that quality is offered in both service provision and data protection.
7 Not all digital health technologies hit the market
While investments in digital health have received a huge boost and technologies such as telemedicine and wellness apps have become commonplace in 2020, not all technologies came to market last year.
There is a promising solution in particular that we have been waiting for for a few years now: 3D printed chalks. They exceed the performance of traditional plaster. And they do it in many ways: they are tailor-made, waterproof, easily removable, and even prevent infections and muscle atrophy. However, they are still little seen in common practice.
This poor adoption is attributable to several causes. First of all, the slowness in production and the cost: a 3D printed plaster costs around 100 euro.
The pandemic has accelerated the demand for 3D printers in hospitals to provide for in-house creation of spare parts. Their spread can also make 3D printed casts more common. There are also companies like Xkelet e CastPrint that they push the solution forward in the hope of affirming itself. The future, however, is a step further with "biomorphic" shells that mimic nature and not immobilized the limbs (here I talked about Scaled, a fantastic dynamic brace project).
8 The era of smartwatch patients requires a cultural shift
When someone shows up at the hospital because their smartwatch presents them with bad heart data, that's one more patient. And if the reading of the smartwatch or tracker also turns out to be a false positive, chaos has served, and the health system is unnecessarily overloaded.
The boom in devices that track our health and vital signs presents great opportunities and problems to prevent.
We need a cultural transformation. Hand in hand with the adoption of these tools, all the actors on stage (from politicians to doctors, passing through patients and manufacturers) will have to change their mentality.
First of all, more homogeneous standards are needed. These digital health devices require a small learning curve. It is necessary to train patients and doctors in the use and consultation of these tools.
It is then necessary to prepare specific monitoring and intervention channels.
In short, there is work. In this sense, 2021 will not see revolutions.