Abhinav Raj

Abhinav Raj, Writer

Over the past two years, COVID-19 became an unlikely harbinger of a technological transformation that changed the healthcare industry as we know it. Here’s a look into what has changed—and what’s changing.

In many ways, the novel coronavirus pandemic was a test for humanity.

In the last two years, the coronavirus infected over 355 million people around the world, challenging our healthcare industry, its infrastructure, and the technology that it leveraged to function and lay bare the inadequacies of our system—pushing public health services to the very limits.

But there’s a silver lining. Unprecedented challenges often drive innovation—and the innovation sparked by the exigency of the pandemic has persisted.

Healthcare Status Quo, Reimagined 

Photo by Artem Podrez on Pexels

Before the onset of the pandemic, the route to integration and widespread adoption of technology in the healthcare industry was impeded by byzantine regulations and bureaucratic red-taping—which immediately became secondary concerns due to the urgency of the health crisis.

COVID-19 has played the role of a catalyst in this paradigm shift in the pace of adoption and integration of technology. Healthcare tech entrepreneurs, providers and administrators in the industry have also played an undeniable part in expediting the deployment of tools, products and services that would enable healthcare services to operate to their maximum potential.

In McKinsey’s survey of 200 organizations across industries, over 90% of company executives have stated that the fallout from COVID-19 will fundamentally change business operations over the next five years, with three-quarters agreeing that the crisis will lead to the genesis of new growth opportunities.

Where some saw challenges, others saw opportunities.

Here’s how tech startups seized the opportunity, helping the healthcare industry to persevere through the global health crisis.

Delivery Through the Air

One way of beating the traffic is taking to the skies, and an American healthcare provider did just that.

Novant Health became the first healthcare system in the U.S. to secure authorization to use drones for the distribution of medical supplies.

Nonprofit healthcare provider Novant Health joined hands with drone logistics service Zipline International to aerially distribute personal protective equipment during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

The drones zoomed through low altitudes at a speed of 80 miles an hour to deliver packages up to 50 miles away—autonomously.

As of 2020, Zipline drones had flown more than 2 million miles, delivering tens of thousands of medical supply packages to healthcare professionals and patients in need, globally.

Test, Trace, Isolate: Contact Tracing Through Mobile Applications

Photo by Markus Winker on Unsplash.

Contact tracing was introduced by many world governments as a public health intervention measure.

Digital contact-tracing solutions in the form of downloadable smartphone applications offered access to testing, self-assessment, medical assistance and advice on isolation. According to reports by the UK government, contact tracing alone reduced the reproduction (R)  number by 2-5% in October 2020.

Contact-tracing enjoyed limited success in other parts of the world, however, the reasons for its shortfall are abundant and complex—ranging from non-compliance by people, poor data protection policies and bad user experience that contributed to lower uptake. After all, bad UX can act as a barrier to information.


Healthcare Anytime, Anywhere: The Rise of Remote Monitoring Systems 

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels

The remote working boom is, beyond the hint of a doubt, one of the most noteworthy shifts in the work culture elicited by the pandemic—and the digital model of providing services naturally extended to the healthcare industry.

Digital models to care for patients have been steadily on the rise across England, and the NHS seems to have made growing virtual monitoring for primary care a directive.

In ‘The NHS Long Term Plan’, the public healthcare system has described its objective to introduce a digital-first approach to healthcare in the next four years to reduce outpatient appointments by one-third of the current volume.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that the effort to safeguard the health and welfare of people has been perennially held back by bureaucratic inertia and administrative urge to stick to the status quo.

The lessons that the global health crisis taught us must become constant reminders of the price associated with inaction. By leveraging the technology and tools at our disposal, we can protect our community better.

After all, why would one take on the invisible enemy with their hands tied behind their back?