Writing about the positives arising from Covid is perhaps a somewhat shorter perspective than the alternative, but at Polestar we like to understand the hidden value in everything!
Not to belittle any of the devastating impact that has been felt individually and globally as a result of the pandemic, it is nonetheless true some areas have used the impetus created by the pandemic to push much-needed improvements, arguably none more so than healthcare.
Healthcare is a significant and escalating cost for countries across the globe, caught in a pincer movement between population growth and an ever-increasing capability to support and prolong life. Budgetary pressures have led to multiple efforts to curtail ongoing growth in spending, largely focused on the three pillars of education (ensuring individuals are fully aware of the steps to adopting a healthy lifestyle), efficiency gains (waste reduction) and resource sharing (data, information, facilities, best practice).
Reading the linked article on seven healthcare technology trends for 2021, it is evident that the timing of the pandemic has arguably been fortunate in some respects. Many of the technologies on which improvement has been able to accelerate would not have been developed had the pandemic occurred ten years earlier (or even more recently).
Drawing on a few specific points:
The use of virtual appointments has been more widely adopted out of necessity during Covid and, having become accepted, the market is expected to reach $186bn by 2026. The benefits of this rely on accessibility generally through the ubiquitous smart phone and enhanced connectivity, both relatively recently enhanced to the required levels. Ready access to a variety of patient and health data is also a pre-requisite and has therefore only been possible as a result of recent improvements in interconnectivity between different tech and data sources.
AI is an ever-evolving innovation and one without which certainly vaccines would have taken far longer to develop. It also, as the article highlights, impacted the mapping of the progress of the pandemic, and security and prevention through thermal screening and facial recognition with masks.
Education is powerful – if individuals can monitor their own health and take corrective action, this removes some of the need to use medical facilities, whether simply for assurance or later, when more expensive corrective action might be required.
With Covid, even healthy individuals have been disrupted from their daily norms, it is becoming all too easy to switch from one zoom call to the next with perhaps a short hop to the kitchen for a tea every so often – not exactly an active active, even compared to a standard office job and its associated commute. Even amongst the team here at Polestar we now have a majority with Garmin devices tracking activity levels and several clients have a (more or less) friendly rivalry provoked by step counters more generally. A real-life example of “nudge theory” in action!
So perhaps, with the glass half full, we should be grateful that Covid 19 wasn’t Covid 09? If your glass is considered half-empty, and assuming continuing development in technology as we are seeing at Polestar, you could of course adopt the alternative hypothesis that we might have enjoyed further improvements had it not appeared until 2029?
COVID-19 has become an unprecedented disruption to all facets of the healthcare industry in a very short amount of time. Although the healthcare technology industry has been slow growing in the past, innovation is needed to deal with the pandemic. AI in healthcare, as well as other important technologies, are critical to resolving the crisis and for generating future growth.