As we continue through the response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is tempting to imagine a post-COVID future that includes some silver linings. As terrible as the situation is today, this calamity will lead to some lasting, positive changes, particularly in healthcare.
Virtual Care (often referred to in common parlance as simply telemedicine, and we will use them interchangeably here) has emerged as the poster child for this line of thinking. Providers and patients have dramatically increased the use of telemedicine to ensure continued access to quality healthcare services while maintaining social distance and modulating the enormous burden on our healthcare workers and facilities. Regulators and payers are encouraging and enabling this shift by temporarily relaxing policies that have historically limited telemedicine. Adjacent areas of digital health including digital therapeutics, digital disease management, and remote monitoring have followed suit, finding similarly relaxed policies, more accessible reimbursement, and increased adoption by providers and patients alike. Many have questioned whether these changes will endure as life returns to a “new normal”, or if policies will be reverted and accelerated growth will subside.
We begin by examining the potential for COVID-19 to drive lasting change for various categories of digital health technologies. Given the large scale of virtual care, in combination with its potential for lasting COVID-19 impact, we then will dive deeply into this category as a leading indicator of other areas of digital health. Because the US experience has been so widely covered (and to some degree, it is still playing out in real time), we highlight key characteristics and trends across Asia Pacific (APAC) and European markets.
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