5 Healthtech Trends to Watch in 2021
After the excesses of the festive season, the start of a new year is typically the signal for a renewed focus on self-improvement. It’s a time when many of us reflect on where we are and how we are living and then resolve to cut out bad habits, learn new skills, or achieve elusive goals. This annual ‘reinvention’ usually starts with our health and fitness; a recent YouGov survey found the most popular pledges by Americans include ‘exercise more’ (50% of those making New Year’s resolutions), ‘eat more healthy’ (43%)’ and ‘lose weight’ (37%). It’s no coincidence that January is the peak month for gym memberships, though fitness app Strava suggests most people quit their ‘new year, new me’ resolution by… January 19.
Of course, things are different this year. Gyms remain closed and group activities are restricted in many areas. Amidst the ongoing trauma of the Covid-19 pandemic, finding the motivation and energy to “be a better you” is difficult - and that’s OK. But there has arguably never been a more suitable time to look more closely at how we manage both our health and the collective healthcare services that we depend on as a society. And part of that is analyzing how technology is revolutionizing the health and fitness industry.
The Rise and Rise of Healthtech
2020 was undoubtedly an inflection point for healthcare, as the Covid-19 crisis forced us to adapt to how we develop, deliver, and receive medical assistance. Yet health technology, or ‘health tech’, was already emerging as a disruptive force in the sector. Consider, for example, the pre-pandemic surge in the popularity of wearables that can track our physical activity and sleep cycles. The data these devices gather, combined with recommendations from mobile apps, are empowering patients to monitor and improve their health at home.
According to McKinsey, the global digital health market was valued at around $350bn in 2019, with this expected to grow to $600bn by 2024. And this may be a conservative forecast given the jolt that the pandemic has given in terms of the evolution and adoption of new technologies. The growing acceptance of, and demand for, machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) will also push the boundaries of what technology can do for healthcare and wellbeing.
With this in mind, here are 5 key health tech trends you should be ready for in 2021:
One of the biggest impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic has been the accelerated use of telemedicine. This is defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as “electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care,” and in practice involves things like online patient portals (with electronic health records), virtual appointments, and remote patient monitoring. One McKinsey study found that physicians now see up to 175 times more patients using virtual interfaces than they did before the pandemic. In the UK, an estimated 99% of local physicians were offering video consultations last year, up from around 10% pre-pandemic. This shift was primarily aimed at reducing the risks of spreading Covid-19, but it can also save physicians valuable time, enabling them to treat more patients and allocate resources more effectively. It can also be used to connect doctors and specialists to improve collaboration and provide better patient care. You can read more about the rise of telemedicine (and telehealth) here.
- The Next Level of Wearables
We mentioned earlier how wearables were already a top trend for fitness and wellbeing, but they are also likely to become more widely used as holistic at-home health devices. We already saw how demand for pulse oximeters surged due to the pandemic, and growth is expected to remain strong in the coming years. A new generation of wearables will be able to monitor people’s vital signs, while also providing specialist information such as how our body reacts to certain foods, whether we are protected from harmful UV rays, or what is causing us stress and anxiety. This will empower patients to make better decisions, while also helping healthcare providers to offer more targeted and preventative medical assistance. Wearables will also be enhanced further with the use of augmented or virtual reality, both inpatient care and in the training of medical professionals.
- Personalized Medicine
Advances in genomics and DNA sequencing will continue to support the development of personalized or ‘precision’ medicine. This involves customizing drugs to match the genetic profile of patients, thereby making treatments more effective and reducing any unwanted side-effects. If medical providers have access to a patient’s genetic code, they can tailor both treatments and recommendations to their specific needs and requirements. Moreover, the information collected from millions of patients can be fed into research and development, so that treatments are continually being updated and improved. This will remain a key area of innovation in health tech over the coming years.
- The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)
The health industry designs and produces hundreds of thousands of devices, ranging from a simple pregnancy test kit to complex heart monitors or MRI scanners. Now, these devices are increasingly being connected to healthcare IT systems, creating the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT). By generating, sending, collating, and analyzing data across a range of medical devices, the IoMT has the potential to radically alter how healthcare services are delivered. Lower costs and improved clinical workflows could support faster diagnoses, more efficient treatments, and real-time patient monitoring.
- Healthcare as a Core Business Function
Despite the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines, healthcare will remain a key focus for individuals, households, governments, and all organizations throughout 2021. Just as the pandemic forced businesses to harness technology and accelerate (or begin) the process of digitization, so the ‘new normal’ will require a greater emphasis on protecting the health of all stakeholders. This includes ensuring a safe work environment for those on-site - whether employees or customers - and establishing protocols to support the mental wellbeing of those working remotely. It also implies measures to make the workplace more resilient to future health disruptions, including the increased use of remote staff and teams. In all cases, technology will be an important ally for organizations adapting to this new reality.
The trends above highlight the disruptive developments in health tech. And the potential for further innovation beyond what we are even considering possible today remains high. Changes in healthcare are already happening, and organizations need top tech teams to keep up and take advantage of what’s coming. At Jobsity we’ve been providing businesses with talented remote developers and software engineers for over a decade now, including major health and pharma players such as Pfizer. If you want to find out more about how we can help your organization adapt to the latest health tech trends, we’d love to hear from you!
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