Five COVID-19 tech advances that will change healthcare

By Ed Hudson
It’s taken a global pandemic in C-19 to bring everything into sharp focus and accelerate our much-needed adaptation...

The alliance of health and technology has long held huge promise (health tech is second only to fintech in terms of technology revenues in the UK, and funding is at an all-time high in the US). But what once brought benefits to niche pockets of society has been swiftly been adopted into the mainstream, as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

Throughout the industry, technological advances have been quickly accelerated beyond the prototype stage, and the vast majority have proved successful. Here are five areas that touch both healthcare professionals and the general public, that will change the way the industry works for good.

1. Virtual trade shows and conferences

A major part of the life of a healthcare professional the world over, medical congresses and trade shows were one of the first things to be axed. Attempting to replicate these shows digitally was not the answer. Offer people 15 webinars a day back-to-back and participants will end up checking emails in the background and popping off for breaks.

Canny organisers are paring back their events, requesting contributors distil their slot to a punchy 20-minutes and offering a range of formats which suit lockdown life – using podcasts, Facebook Live and panel events, as well as webinars and teleconferencing. It’s also important to make some content available on demand, so participants can dip in and out over a three-day period, say, and save live-streaming for ‘headline acts’. Considering ways that include gamification, rewards and VR can boost engagement.

Virtual or digital, one thing is clear - replicating the offline conference online is not enough. Brands that adopt a broadcast mentality will be most successful. Think about a news channel approach – offering fewer long speeches and instead using an engaging compere to direct proceedings online.

2. Interactive student teaching

Whereas young doctors used to rely on watching operations side-by-side with surgeons, this is significantly more difficult now and, potentially unnecessary with the rise of virtual operations. Making use of augmented reality (AR) means that medical students can not only remotely observe but also interact with surgeries - for example, clicking on body parts to learn more. Companies like Proximie – who harness transformative technology to offer high quality healthcare and training opportunities, regardless of location - will be part of this future momentum.

3. The rise of virtual triaging

No longer a niche preserve undertaken by the likes of Push Doctor, we are all now experiencing successful virtual triaging in our daily lives. Take my foot injury which was diagnosed last week, for example. It was all done over video with my local GP. She discussed it, looked at the injury on her screen and then proceeded to share links to online articles that we looked at together, helping her to explain it to me virtually and presenting possible treatments. The potential for using this approach further in settings such as care homes, in particular, is clear, provided we all have access to the tech and are comfortable using it.

4. A surge in home testing using tech

Home testing was being adopted long before the crisis, and scale will now follow. Companies are successfully using home UTI tests - where a patient gets a test delivered, pees on a stick and uses their smart phone to ascertain if they have an infection, for example. This method holds huge potential for all sorts of areas.

In the UK alone, we know that A&E visits are already down by 50%, which is a worrying trend. People are showing just how scared they are of surgeries and hospitals and so many won’t seek treatment that could be vital. Home C-19 testing has been important in tackling the virus and the next step is to invest in tech to support all types of home tests to work with our new normal – such as easy-to-use apps and pre-recorded explanatory videos.

5. Medical grade diagnostic kits

As we all continue to take health into our own hands, there’s also an opportunity to go one further and introduce medical-grade diagnostic kits, sending results back for clinicians to review and advise remotely. Communication is paramount here - to ensure people understand what they’re assessing, how to use and transport any equipment correctly. To make these a part of our everyday lives, consumer messaging should be clear and easily digestible; non-technical instruction will be key to success.

Transformative, future-focused health tech has been much talking about over the last decade, with multiple shows springing up to showcase innovation. However, in reality it’s taken a global pandemic in C-19 to bring everything into sharp focus and accelerate our much-needed adaptation. Health tech is finally coming of age.

By Ed Hudson, Managing Director, Create Health


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