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Covid propels the world toward digital healthcare tech

Tāmaki Makaurau – The impact of the global health crisis has compelled the world to rapidly adopt digital healthcare technologies.

The challenge remains to address global inequalities as 47 percent of the world is not online.

The World Health Organisation  has warned of the economic devastation from a global pandemic. The World Bank estimated that a global influenza pandemic akin to the scale and virulence of the Spanish flu in 1918 would cost $US3 trillion.

A Massachusetts University paper said pandemics depress the economy, public health interventions do not, was evident from the 1918 flu.

Health changes must accelerate. To ensure social distancing and avoid infection, healthcare practices in many countries shifted from in-person consultations to telemedicine.

Nearly two-thirds of healthcare providers across 14 global markets are now investing heavily in digital health.

In developing countries, digital healthcare is also helping, with remote access to specialists.

Senior healthcare leaders say strengthening resilience and preparing for future crises is a top priority, according to a new report commissioned by Royal Philips.

Medical services leaders in countries including the US, Germany and India were asked about their plans for digitalisation over the next three years.

The pandemic has seen many countries shift from in-person medical consultations to telemedicine, using apps, phone and video appointments. Industry analyst IDC predicts that by 2023 nearly two-thirds of patients will have accessed healthcare via a digital front end.

Improving resilience and planning for future crises is the top priority for more than two-thirds of senior healthcare leaders surveyed, with France, the Netherlands and Germany scoring the highest.

Second in line is the continued shift to remote and virtual care (42 percent), led by India, the Netherlands and the US.

Accordingly, 64 percent of healthcare leaders are investing heavily in digital health technology at the moment, but the number drops to 40 percent when they were asked about their investment levels in three years’ time.

This may be because respondents expect solid foundations to have been laid by then or due to continued uncertainty about healthcare funding beyond the pandemic.

A major focus for future health technology investments is the deployment of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning.

Nineteen percent of healthcare leaders polled said they are prioritising investments in AI, but 37 percent said they plan to do so over the next three years. The aim is to have AI help with clinical decision-making and to predict clinical outcomes.

This ties in with a growing shift from volume-based care targets to value-based care, where predicting patient outcomes will play a key role.

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