COVID-19 has not only changed the world — it has changed the way we approach and perceive the wider planet around us. Nowhere is this more important or apparent than in healthcare, and the obstacles initiated by the global pandemic have forced the entire industry to reevaluate its relationship with new healthcare technology. The old-fashioned preference for face-to-face diagnosis and attention has become outdated and dangerous.
Medical technology has been embraced like never before, as the industry looks to improve patient care management in a brand new set of circumstances, where the human touch is potentially more damaging than healing. All eyes have turned to medical software development as healthcare technologies rise up to meet this unprecedented challenge. There are a whole host of ways in which med tech has stood up, from telemedicine to AI via health-related applications and patient-centered monitoring. These changes were coming, but COVID-19 has well and truly accelerated the process.
In 2020, telemedicine found itself at the center of international attention, as social distancing guidelines made visiting the hospital for simple check-ups very tricky. This trend isn’t new and has been taking place for a long time, but what was a previous glacial pace of change became a true avalanche in 2020. According to some reports, video and online appointments have gone up more than 4,000%, with that being a conservative estimate in some areas. The person-to-person infectiousness of COVID-19 made in-person check-ups impossible, and telemedicine was there to pick up the slack. This is a change that is here to stay, as more sectors begin to accept and appreciate the benefits of telemedicine, namely reduced costs and increased efficiency.
It isn’t just basic appointments that have changed. Medical technology has played a starring role in the fight against COVID-19, notably in government-coordinated track and trace systems designed to restrict the ability of the virus to spread through communities.
Many individuals have also taken the initiative when it comes to keeping track of one’s health and medical technology has been there every step of the way. The international market is packed with health-related applications and wearable devices that allow people to take control of their health, leading to fewer appointments required for menial reasons. COVID-19 has undoubtedly led to increased awareness of physical contact. More and more people have reacted by taking care of the little things themselves, aided immensely by developments in technology and availability. With an ever-greater percentage of the world’s population being told to stay at home, there has been an increased reliance on technology that allows people to monitor their health without leaving the house.
Experts and advocates have been championing the benefits of increased medical technology for many years, and the extreme circumstances initiated by the COVID-19 pandemic have led to an increasingly large number of converts, both in the public and private sectors. For one, the virus spread through close contact, and technology has been instrumental in allowing society to function while many have been stuck at home. In the healthcare industry, medical innovations have stepped up to the plate and alleviated the reliance on manpower and labor within clinics.
Technology has also proven to be every bit as efficient as people, if not more so. This is particularly apparent when it comes to the industry’s increasing reliance on big data and cloud-located systems. Computers are able to identify, locate and evaluate specific pieces of data at a moment’s notice, saving huge amounts of time and lives in the process. Human error has been replaced by the reliable focus and unbeatable efficiency of machines tailor-made for these jobs and situations.
The improvements in Artificial Intelligence (AI) have also become more important during the global pandemic. AI has been able to fill gaps left by missing bodies, performing necessary tasks such as organizing triage cleaning laboratories after use. AI provides better outcomes at a reduced cost, giving credence to the long-uttered belief that getting things right is the best way to keep costs low. Patients and physicians have long been somewhat fearful of machines making decisions, but the pandemic has created an environment where the healthcare industry has no option but to put its trust in technology, and technology has been more than up to the task.
COVID-19 may have created the conditions in which innovation has become essential, but it isn’t the only area of healthcare that continues to benefit from the modernization of healthcare technologies. For instance, HTEC has worked closely with leading electrophysiologists and cardiologists to develop Humeds, a complete telehealth solution that enables patients to easily measure their ECG signals anywhere at any time without the need for complicated skin preparation, signals that are subsequently AI-analysed, providing an efficient diagnosis of the heart. HTEC is defined by innovation and the patients of the world stand to benefit greatly.
What does the future hold?
COVID-19 may have accelerated the process but the cat is well and truly out of the bag, and the future of healthcare is going to be defined by its embracing of medical technology and the development of patient management software. What are the medical trends to look out for in 2021 and beyond? For one, expect the move towards patient-centered care management to continue, with increased dependence on self-monitoring and a deluge of applications and wearables that allow people to track their own health from the comfort of their own homes. This extends to telemedicine, and we can expect the astronomical rise in telemedicine to continue even once the current pandemic is overcome.
The reliance on big data is also going to have a key role to play in the future of medical technologies, along with software that allows clinicians to sift through the mountains of information in order to focus and identify conditions current and future. Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and augmented reality will have a major role to play in this, as a new generation of doctors learns to weave their way through an increasingly digital world. The transparency of data offered by the Internet of Medical Things also promises to make healthcare an altogether fairer industry.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change lives around the world, it can be difficult to identify positive consequences and potential silver linings in these darkest of clouds. Hope is provided by the innovations of medical technologies, patient care management, and medical software development, as the clinicians and creatives of the world continue to revolutionize the way in which we look after ourselves and each other.