Realize a brave new world of health technology

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In 1816, René Laennec invented the stethoscope, the first tool a physician could use to treat patients, opening the doors to a new era in medical diagnostics. And yet, it took the industry three decades to adopt it on a large scale, as medical associations were reluctant to use a “gadget” on patients.

Fast forward to the present day, and the first digital stethoscope is no longer a fictitious fact, with AI-powered algorithms on the back of the device listening to the thoroughness of the patient’s abnormalities and relaying those results to doctors. The doctor does not even have to be near the patient – the digital stethoscope can be sent to areas with a doctor shortage, where an app will guide the patient through its use and a doctor can listen from distant continents.

This breakthrough technology is faster, more efficient and half the cost of previous analog stethoscopes. And your doctor is most likely not using it. Why? Remember the three decades it took for the first stethoscope – actually a wooden tube – to be adopted. Now consider the speed of digital innovation unfolding before our eyes; the myriad of new technologies becoming available every day, in addition to the exponentially growing amount of medical research and studies available, and the lack of a real curriculum to help healthcare professionals improve their skills and integrate them in their daily practices.

Over the past year, we’ve witnessed the greatest accelerator of disruption and digital adoption the healthcare industry has ever seen. A seismic transition has been forced in the wake of the pandemic epidemic, in consumer attitudes towards digital healthcare adoption and in how the industry must respond. Like never before, he must keep pace with the disruption.

Choice, Concern and Convenience: Changing the Dynamics

A new study from VMware of more than 6,000 European consumers found that nearly half (44%) are now comfortable with replacing routine medical consultations with virtual remote appointments. And it’s not just the younger, typically “tech-savvy” generations; The 45-54 year olds were among the most enthusiastic about a new virtual world of healthcare, where their regular consultations are conducted via technology rather than in person.

Take the UK as an example; before the virus, video appointments made only 1% of the 340 million annual visits UK National Health Service primary care doctors and nurses. But as the epidemic accelerated, we have seen A&E physical visits to all types of units decrease by 57% (compared to the previous year) while online physician platforms like Push Doctor have seen a 70% weekly increase in consultations.

The pandemic has removed the choice of having routine face-to-face consultations, forcing many to overcome long-standing concerns about the safety and security of virtual meetings with medical professionals. As this convenience begins to trump concerns in some healthcare scenarios, consumers are realizing the broader opportunities that new digital services can bring.

We are now much more courageous and confident in emerging digital health technologies like AI; today, 40% of consumers would trust a computer that can detect and recognize abnormalities, such as cancer cells, rather than a human doctor. And distrust of the use of data in health care – which was previously a huge hurdle to overcome – is fading; 60% are now comfortable with the fact that doctors have perfectly precise data on their daily life, while 45% of Europeans are comfortable or enthusiastic about a more qualified doctor performing invasive surgery via robotics at distance than a less qualified doctor operating in person.

Life after the great digital shift: the appetite for innovation

While the pandemic was the big digital shift and a major catalyst for change, what is now fueling the growing consumer enthusiasm for digital healthcare? I believe a domino-style adoption of new technologies erodes doubt, fear and skepticism about the role of “digital” in protecting ourselves, our friends and our family.

Consider the step we have already taken beyond using a quick Google search to “diagnose” general symptoms, as evidenced by the explosion of online services such as Doctorlink, the digital doctor with AI who can suggest treatment plans or apps like Ada, built by a neuroscientist and physician, who has performed 20 million symptom assessments.

This is before the potential to properly exploit cutting-edge applications such as augmented and virtual reality and AI. The results and the variety of use cases here are mind-boggling. From the rapid analysis of certain pathological patterns to the identification of the risk of respiratory diseases via an algorithm that simply scans the radiographic images of the patients’ thorax; AI can help us make decisions faster and better, by combining endless different data sources that we as humans cannot.

Realizing the future of healthcare

The message from consumers is that they want more of these innovations. Two-thirds now identify as “digital curious” or “digital explorers”, an audience ready and receptive to new digital services. 58% of consumers, for example, are comfortable or excited that family members with chronic / long-term illnesses can have the freedom to live further away from medical facilities, thanks to sensors and monitoring real-time data that predict when they’ll need medical attention. assistance.

Additionally, nearly half are confident in the technology that will dramatically reduce the risk of invasive surgery over the next five years, as 51% believe it can significantly improve the quality of life for vulnerable people, such as those in need. elderly or disabled.

It is this consumer belief in digital health services that poses the challenge to industry and government. As with the introduction of the stethoscope, the first steps are sometimes the most difficult, but the great digital shift of 2020 has sparked this wave of enthusiasm, where consumers clearly feel less wary of technology in the marketplace. care of their patients.

Additionally, given the intense and ever-increasing pressures on healthcare workers and the systems themselves, I am confident that we will see an even greater digital appetite from a larger portion of the population to find a future-proof system that works for everyone. A new virtual world of health technology awaits you, we just have to make it happen.


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