By Diane Yoo
Seven months into the coronavirus pandemic, the United States alone has seen over 7.4 million cases of COVID-19 and upwards of 210,000 deaths.
Millions of people are currently on lockdown, practicing social distancing, or otherwise restricted in their typical movements — and these restrictions have completely disrupted the basic functions of modern medical care.
Most people today are unable or unwilling to attend routine in-person appointments or visit loved ones staying in care facilities, circumstances that have sown immense fear for high-risk individuals. With a viable vaccine still out of reach, now is the time to invest in health technology that can address the urgent needs of medical professionals and patients whose lives and safety depend on the system’s ability to adapt to the unpredictability of a COVID-19 world.
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To alleviate the pressures felt by patients and care providers, some healthcare innovators are taking matters into their own hands. Leveraging their experiences as patients, former medical professionals and technology leaders, they’re developing immediate solutions to close gaps.
Investing in health technology today will reduce the burden on healthcare professionals in the future and improve outcomes for patients post-pandemic by unlocking better, faster and more accurate tools. By broadening what is possible to achieve in modern patient care, these developments are poised to drive long-term profit in the health technology sector.
The rise of remote care and its lasting benefits
Healthcare companies have democratized advancements in recent years that now prove critical to establishing sustainable systems of care. Improvements to health information technology have elevated collaboration and ease of access to data for medical professionals, and new patient engagement tools have entered the market to improve health outcomes.
Telehealth in particular has played a central role in the digitization of healthcare during COVID-19. Forrester reports that virtual care visits will reach above 1 billion this year — including 900 million visits specifically related to COVID-19; the caveat, experts predict, is the likelihood of a supply crisis. Only 24 percent of U.S. healthcare organizations had established a virtual care program in the first quarter of this year. This is where investment into health tech becomes critical — and it’s why the telehealth industry is booming.
Take, for example, Teladoc Health. Among the best known companies in the space, the virtual health care conglomerate was initially founded in 2002, and company shares spiked in value by over 50 percent in the early months of the pandemic. In August, the company merged with Livongo Health Inc. in a deal valued at $18.5 billion to create a more comprehensive virtual care network. Companies like these allow patients to receive certain types of care without having to enter high-risk areas like hospitals or doctor’s offices, also reducing exposure risk for medical professionals.