The Digital Era of Healthcare


Abhinav Raj

Abhinav Raj, Writer

Necessity drives innovation. The coronavirus pandemic necessitated a transformation in the way healthcare is delivered, and technological innovation in the healthcare industry has made it possible to provide care to those who need it—in newer, faster ways.

It’s not news, but the healthcare ecosystem is not the same as it was two years ago. 

Part of the reason for it is the widespread impact of the novel coronavirus. Infecting over 250 million people across the world, about 3.2% of the global population has had an encounter with SARS-CoV-2. The other part of the reason is that technological innovation has helped the ecosystem adapt to the challenges put forth by the global health crisis. 

Like most industries, the post-pandemic landscape of the healthcare industry has also seen a rise in services provided through digital means. Though this trend has been, in part, catalyzed by the pandemic, it is estimated that the technological impetus will continue to revolutionize the industry. 

With more people accessing healthcare services through mobile apps, the mobile health industry is expanding rapidly. Reports have predicted that the industry’s market size will swell up to $189 billion by 2025, signalling a paradigm shift in the way healthcare is provided. 

The Rise of Virtual Healthcare 

Photo by A. Raj on Canva

The pandemic has played the role of a change agent in delocalizing businesses and service providers. As restrictions to movement came into force, industries had to adapt to the changing times and provide services remotely—a pattern that gave rise to many flexible working practices

Knowledge workers such as physicians, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals could provide teleconsultations through video conferencing to patients, whenever and wherever needed. 

Care: Anytime, Anywhere 

Mobile applications such as Push Doctor have allowed for the emergence of a new relationship between healthcare practitioners and patients. By connecting patients to online GPs, pharmacists and physiotherapists, healthcare mobile applications can enable an individual in need to benefit from a consultation without long waiting times or the need to travel. This allows patients to connect with clinicians safely and remotely, restock or purchase prescription drugs (by having private prescriptions issued through NHS professionals) and obtain health records. 

Through a simple three-step process, one can find their local GP surgery, book an appointment for the time of their choosing and consult their clinician—using a smartphone. 

One for All, All for One

Mobile apps provide a platform for medical practitioners and permit more fluid communication not just with their patients, but with other medical professionals for cooperation as well.

PingMD is a cloud-based platform for physicians to communicate with other physicians, their medical teams, or other care workers while evaluating diagnoses, interpreting information or providing instructions.

The exchange of data between patients and doctors and doctors to doctors is achieved with remarkable efficiency. 

The application brings the concept of a messaging and media-sharing application to the healthcare ecosystem. The principle is simple, and the value to healthcare practitioners is immense. 

Wellness for the Body, Wellness for the Mind 

Photo by 9to5 Mac

While the world was busy counting infections and hospitalizations due to the coronavirus exposure, there was an influx of more insidious, however, less talked about ailments lurking in the dark that didn’t quite reflect on the daily statistics—the ailments of the mind. 

The impact of the global health crisis on mental health is still being understood. However, it is known that since the start of the pandemic, the depression rates in the UK have doubled—a trend that forewarns a mental health crisis. This disturbing rise in the depression rates is one of the many collateral damages of the pandemic. COVID-19 has indeed had its toll on the body, and as much on the mind. 

The Health Foundation’s impact inquiry on COVID-19 reveals that reduced access to mental healthcare may have lasting implications on mental health, inducing more pressure on health services—if not addressed soon. 

Fortunately, an online presence can significantly improve access to care services

Mobile applications such as Sanvello and TalkSpace can provide individuals with behavioural therapy tools and connect them with licensed mental health professionals to cope with anxiety, stress and depression. Mental health solutions offered by these applications are tried, tested and backed by research. Empirical evidence on app-based mental health solutions such as Sanvello confirms that the use of mindfulness features can alleviate the symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression even after the users have stopped using the applications. 

In a world driven by innovation, technology and a passion for care, the mobile application industry can be instrumental in providing healthcare services in the coming era. 

Because when we use our most powerful tools to make lives better, the world becomes a better place.