As part of the COVID-19 containment measures, in-person treatment and talking therapies have faced severe limitations. Many digital health products have been created during this period to ensure patients keep accessing much-needed healthcare services. Most of these innovative solutions are likely to witness long term adoption.
What Factors Influence the Adoption of Digital Health Solutions?
The success of telehealth products is dependent on these four key factors:
1. Organizational Ability
The development and deployment of virtual health services take time. It requires significant investment in software research, equipment purchases, engaging medical practitioners, paying salaries, training, and IT support. The process moves faster if the government and major health organizations already have digitized health records.
2. Technological Preparedness
Data is a precious and sought-after resource for both healthcare providers and bad actors. As a user, you’re also concerned about data privacy. While developers might want the software to be as comprehensive as possible, they must avoid infringing on users’ civil rights. If you’re a telehealth provider, place special emphasis on how you collect, use, and disclose sensitive medical data.
While you might have state-of-the-art software development and testing resources, the same can’t be said of your consumers. Consider broadband or WiFi quality, as well as general IT infrastructure.
3. Regulatory Policies
Various states require physicians to be licensed before attending to patients in their jurisdictions. Does the same apply to telehealth solutions? Can you seek the virtual services of a doctor across state lines? These are some of the regulatory issues that must be addressed for digital health to work successfully. Health insurance companies should also clarify whether they’ll reimburse for virtual sessions.
4. Societal Readiness
However beneficial your digital health solution appears, you must convince users to adopt it. Physicians might be resistant to change because they’ve been comfortable with traditional consultation methods. Solutions include raising awareness, holding pilot tests, and encouraging feedback from relevant stakeholders. If done right, you’re likely to have a smooth implementation.
Types of Digital Health Solutions During COVID
Although several telemedicine products were released during the pandemic, we could classify them in six major categories. The first is contact tracing, which was done mainly through GSM technology and smartphone apps. Some of the most popular apps in this category were Australia’s COVIDSafe and Singapore’s TraceTogether. Other telehealth categories are:
- Tracking: Major tech companies such as Facebook, Apple, Google, and Amazon helped governments track the spread of COVID-19. One solution involved voluntary reports by users, which helped these companies create accurate, real-time heat maps.
- Screening: Digital thermometers, thermal cameras, mobile apps, and AI are some of the tools that allow accurate screening of symptoms. Apart from collecting vital information on disease prevalence, medical experts can also identify those that need further attention.
- Quarantine and self-isolation: These solutions help infected individuals to monitor their conditions during isolation. They also allow medical providers to evaluate their progress. Their effectiveness relies on technologies such as AI, QR codes, digital recorders, and smartphone apps.
- Clinical management: Through virtual interactions and machine learning, physicians can safely diagnose infections and predict clinical outcomes. This phase provides crucial data on diseases, which enables further innovation of digital health platforms.
- Medical supplies: Digital solutions can simplify complex medical supply chains and regulations. They make use of technologies such as machine learning, automation, and data analytics. They also power processes such as warehousing, fulfillment, and timely shipping.
Benefits of Telemedicine in Managing COVID
One of the biggest benefits of digital health is that it enables accurate data management, which ultimately improves healthcare. Physicians can make diagnoses, create customized treatment plans, and ensure you receive genuine medication in the correct dosage. Telehealth provides transparent pricing and seamless interactions across a variety of devices.
Data analytics allows healthcare providers to examine trends and initiate corrective measures when they find anomalies. Other benefits are:
(i) They minimize the risk of exposure to healthcare workers and other people around them. Their loved ones can sleep soundly, safe in the knowledge that they’re working hard to control the pandemic while minimizing unnecessary infections. Telehealth consultations make it possible through apps such as Zoom.
(ii) Digital health solutions expand healthcare provision. Diagnosis is as easy as using a digital thermometer and entering your symptoms in an app. It catches diseases early when they’re easier to manage, which ultimately reduces your financial burden.
(iii) It reduces overall wastage for medical practices and the government. The bureaucracy and paperwork associated with traditional hospital visits are no longer necessary. A lean supply chain reduces the likelihood of delayed prescriptions and expired drugs.
Although digital health has taken off during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s clear to see its long term potential. Telehealth can deliver high-quality and affordable medical solutions to under-served sections of society. It’s also applicable across the entire healthcare industry due to its adaptability and scalability. As providers collect more data and tweak their innovations, all stakeholders stand to reap the benefits.
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