Given the extreme situation the world is facing these days due to the COVID-19 pandemic, governments, many companies as well as citizen movements are focusing on developing mhealth initiatives so as to keep the people well informed, while also helping to manage the crisis situation.
Healthcare Industry Outlook in The Times of Coronavirus Pandemic
Today the country’s well-developed health system is forced to deal with the new challenges of a pandemic as serious as Coronavirus. Earlier, the health services were all about individual care. However, now they have to start thinking about public health in the context of an outbreak instead.
Bringing about that sort of change in such a short span of time is challenging for any health service. They are required to change the way they think and act – a complete change of approach, in general. Furthermore, a common factor in the times of pandemics is the high numbers of patients who reach the hospitals all at the same time.
This can have a huge impact on even well-progressed healthcare systems as they are not used to coping with such kinds of numbers on a daily basis. Adapting to all this is not an easy task.
So, the best the healthcare systems do right now is thinking about the different approaches, strategies as well as practices that must be employed when confronting an epidemic like the COVID-19.
An early response is the most effective strategy a healthcare must follow in such a time and the key to early response lies in moving beyond centuries-old methods and incorporating advanced strategies that are familiar but are still slow to be adopted in public health. Artificial intelligence, data analytics and smartphone apps today are all making finding and diagnosing people with an infectious disease far more efficient than ever before.
Earlier people who used to develop the typical symptoms of the disease – cough, fever and shortness of breath, used to physically visit a health care provider or a primary-care doctor. However, that’s the last thing people should do if they are potentially infected with such a highly contagious disease. Rather, the health officials are now pleading with them to connect to a doctor remotely via an app who can triage their symptoms while they are still at their home.
Moreover, the clinical brick-and-mortar medicine might be rife with the possibility of virus exposure. Thus, the healthcare industry is urging people to call a telemedicine center and describe their symptoms where the doctors would determine if they require COVID-19 testing without exposing anyone else. Here, comes the significance of mhealth innovations in battling a serious pandemic like Coronavirus.
Growth of mHealth Solutions
- Practicing Medical Distancing:
To fight the coronavirus outbreak, key authorities such as the WHO and CDC have been calling out for ways to diminish any sort of physical contact between the healthcare providers and the patients, which is known as Medical distancing.
In these efforts to minimize the healthcare-specific transmission of COVID-19, telehealth service is becoming a force these days. The effectiveness of telehealth service has been serving as a promising influence in the areas including cardiology, diabetic care, and dermatology, etc. This leads to high-quality remote care, while also saving the time and physical space.
Although telehealth has proved itself as an amazing measure to support medical distancing, there are still certain obstacles that need to be addressed. There are issues around the characteristics of the patients such as age, educational background, etc., unreliabilities around the legal liabilities, in addition to issues of privacy and confidentiality.
Healthcare app development companies have taken a note of such issues and are working to eradicate them.
- Crowdsourced Tracking Apps:
The high occurrence of COVID-19 crises highlight the requirement of tracking the infected on a timely basis as well as their contacts. There are two major and common weaknesses observed in the surveillance systems – Flexibility and timeliness.
Digital health professionals are making it possible to crowdsource disease monitoring through the mode of coronavirus tracing applications. People from across the globe enter their data – travel routes, prospect of them getting infected, etc. for the healthcare experts to track the hotspots as well as the carriers.
- Exchange of Health Information for better interoperability:
Due to the pandemic and the overcrowding of health facilities and patients, a robust health data exchange has become important in the health infrastructure. It has also proved that health data should not just include the medical data of patients, but also a wide data type coming in from the offline and online activity of the individuals.
There will be a lot more HIEs which are going to be observed as well as a number of portals for the patients and the health departments to access the files.
Market Share of mHealth Solutions
The global mHealth solution market in the present year of 2020 is USD 50.8 billion which is expected to reach USD 213.6 billion by the year 2025, at a high CAGR of 33.3%. Below are some of the factors which play a major role in the increasing demand of mhealth solutions among both patients as well as healthcare professionals:
- Increasing adoption of smartphones
- Growing penetration of 3G/4G networks
- Increasing focus on cost containment in the delivery of healthcare
- Rising utilization of connected devices and mHeath apps for the management of chronic diseases
- Increasing focus on patient-centric delivery of healthcare
- Rising demand for home healthcare services
The mHealth solutions market globally is dominated by North America and will continue to do so during the forecast period of 2020-2025. It is closely followed by Europe, the Asia Pacific, Latin America, and the Middle East and Africa.
5 Ways in Which mHealth is Helping Healthcare Delivery
Combating a pandemic as critical as COVID-19 requires immediate measures and tools that facilitate the delivery of right treatment in a variety of settings that can smoothly diagnose the cases of coronavirus infection. Digital tools like telehealth, robots, cloud computing, and AI-based chatbots are playing a major role in limiting the outbreak of the virus.
As China commenced its response to the deadly virus, it inclined towards its technological domain, AI (artificial intelligence), data science so as to effectively track and fight the pandemic. Here are some of the ways in which mhealth is tracking and battling the coronavirus pandemic.
- Use of Telemedicine
The use of telemedicine is making headway as a sustainable solution for the treatment and subsequent prevention of COVID-19. It allows patients to stay at their home and seek medical help virtually from physicians and decrease the spread of the virus. Health services are being encouraged to make use of telemedicine technologies and self-assessment tools so as to provide remote care for patients who are not having urgent medical help.
A number of telemedicine technology companies are expanding their use of telehealth solutions to examine, diagnose and treat patients remotely at home while also providing them with professional guidance, clinical data and reduce any kind of physical contact so as to avoid the spread of the virus.
- Contact Tracing Apps
Smartphones today are playing a crucial role in monitoring the health of a patient. Apps have been built to monitor the people infected with coronavirus and aimed at tracking the registered individuals with the help of their phone’s GPS.
It allows people to record their movements and match them up to those of known patients with COVID-19, with the help of filtered data given through national departments of public health. Furthermore, the users will also be interrogated about if they are infected, providing an effective way to identify any potential transmission.
Additionally, Apple has also launched an application, Apple COVID-19 to help in screening users. It provides an online screening tool with some guidance on when to opt for the testing of COVID-19. The users will also get answers to their frequently asked queries regarding COVID-19 on this app.
- Use of Drones and Robots For Contactless Delivery
When it comes to providing valuable goods to people who buy online and are quarantined at home, Robots and drones prove to be quite beneficial. These are immune to infection and help in delivering food and supplies. Robots can be used for distribution of drugs and food, disinfection, and assessment of vital signs.
Many tech companies are stepping out to get more robots in force so as to deliver medical supplies within healthcare environments. Drones are also being used to carry out contactless disinfection of areas and spray disinfectants on a large scale.
Drones through thermal sensing, are also assisting crowd control officials and realizing people with elevated body temperatures indicating the potential of infection with the virus.
- AI to Identify, Track, and Diagnose Outbreaks
Expeditious mhealth innovations that include new applications of AI (artificial intelligence) and ML (machine learning) to screen people and assess risks of infection have made AI a significant contributor to recognize, track and diagnose outbreaks.
Additionally, technology like NLP (Natural Language Processing), ML (Machine Learning) and location monitoring can diagnose the potential places where the outbreak has the possibility to take place.
AI can also combine population, travel, and disease data so as to predict where and how rapidly the infection might spread. Healthcare organizations and governments are making use of this information so as to respond to the disease quickly. This also helps to make better treatment decisions as per medical imaging.
AI can also assist in uncovering new viruses by examining data from any similar kind of viral disease and then using the data to track the types of medicines and vaccines that would be most effective. For instance, data from the chest X-rays of the coronavirus patients can serve as the guidance for AI models, so that doctors can provide diagnoses more rapidly.
- Wearables For Remote Monitoring
COVID-19 has taken all of us by surprise and early detection is the absolute key to monitor the spread of the disease and eventually improve the survival rates.
The popular wearable health devices, such as Garmins and Fitbits, are quite effective in monitoring a range of physical parameters such as body temperature, heart rate, sleep, movement, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation levels. They generate a distinct lack of actionable information. When this data is combined and cross-checked, it gives a more compatible profile of the overall health. It continuously examines and analyzes coughing and respiratory activity in ways that are not possible with traditional monitoring systems.
mHealth in The Post-Coronavirus World
The Post-Coronavirus world is going to be remembered as when medical communications such as management of several non-communicable diseases or provision to primary care transferred by default to digital mode, as opposed to exceptions. The impact of COVID-19 is going to be huge on the global digital health industry, with the acceptance of digital health as the new normal.
The new world after the pandemic will also likely empower other technologies such as AI, IoT, 5G, video conferencing etc. to help us all connect in an entirely new variety of approaches. We are already witnessing all this happening in real-time in this global pandemic, and in a never-imaginable pace.
Primary care has now finally started to embrace telehealth and has been delivering a digital approach so as to manage streaming care to the appropriate places.
Although, there’s a lot still left to be done. There is a dire need for the incorporation of a strong governance in deployment of all these approaches. There should also be a strong clinic decision support within the deployments as a rule in place of exceptions.
The next significant modification which can be seen promoting is an adoption of precision health, both in personalized as well as predictive health setup. We will witness the use of digital technology in making people empowered to self-manage themselves.
Furthermore, we need to understand that this new world of medical infrastructure is going to be quite different from the healthcare world that we are used to. It would need us to remain open as well as adaptive. The one thing which is for sure is that the mhealth world is going to change for the good!