How is AI and digital technologies benefiting the healthcare industry?

A strong demand for digital health technologies made us look at the increasing importance of AI and digital technologies, like tele health and virtual trials in healthcare, and how these technologies can help alleviate the strain on hospitals, medical workers, and patients amid the current COVID-19 health crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the importance of a single vaccine – for our health, for our connection to family and friends, and for economies around the world.

Patient-facing digital technologies are playing an important role in clinical trials for new drugs and vaccines, to the point where conducting virtual trials is becoming mainstream.

The use of patient-facing technologies helps widen the pool of trial participants, increase retention, improve the quality of data, and improve the overall patient experience.

Patient recruitment remains a challenge for pharma companies, and the greater patient centricity in trials would improve recruitment and retention. These efforts are also expected to improve the quality of patients participating in trials. The ability of patient-facing technologies to generate regular patient interactions and provide reminders is integral to keeping patients motivated to continue with the trial.

One of the most exciting developments in healthcare for 2020 will be telehealth. According to a recent study conducted by GlobalWebIndex, half of U.S. and UK consumers say the ability to consult with a doctor by a phone/video call instead of in-person would help them manage their healthcare more effectively. This spikes to 58% for those in the highest income group, where they have a keener interest for most health technologies. But even among internet users in the lowest income group, 47% say they would like the ability to consult with their doctor digitally.

Many governments around the world are urging patients to steer clear of hospitals and their doctors if they show symptoms of COVID-19. Instead, they are advising patients to self-isolate at home and, only when necessary, seek medical help. As a result, telehealth efforts have stepped up in a bid to relieve the strain on hospitals and medical workers, keep medical workers safe, and ease the worry for patients. Providers like Babylon Health in the UK and Teladoc in the U.S. offer patients access to medical professionals through video or phone calls, and many have symptom checkers that offer guidance for patients.

From custom research run by GlobalWebIndex, in the U.S. and UK in early March 2020, 6 in 10 consumers believe that digital health appointments are effective in managing the spread of the virus and close to half would consider using digital health services if they were available (12% already do).

With digital health services, consumers do not have to wait weeks to get an appointment or spend hours in a waiting room. This also has benefits for the healthcare system more broadly. By handling minor patient issues digitally or by reassuring people who are worried, it helps to free up doctors’ time to focus on more urgent cases in-person – such as in the current pandemic.

As with everything, digital health services are not perfect. One of the potential downsides is it removes the face-to-face, personal interaction. This highlights that even though digital services will become a core part of healthcare moving forward, it will always need some form of human input.