How Digital Health Has Become Essential Due to Covid-19

During this global pandemic, the importance of social distancing and avoiding unnecessary gatherings has been heightened. Covid-19 has forced us to change our everyday life in order to keep ourselves and families safe. Restrictions have been put into place that prevents patients from going into doctor’s offices, making the use of digital health a necessity.

What is Digital Health and Why Does it Matter?

Digital health is the use of virtual technologies for health and medicine to enhance the efficiency of healthcare and to make medicine more accessible and personalized. Digital health matters because it allows more patients access to the proper care that they need from remote locations. Digital health has grown to encompass many aspects of healthcare including: live-video conferencing, remote patient monitoring services, pharmacy delivery services, electronic mail systems, and mobile health.

Digital Health From Then Until Now

While digital healthcare began in the 1980s, it was not used on a large scale until about six months ago, when Covid-19 hit. Before Covid, there were many restrictions when it came to implementing digital health in order to protect provider and patient privacy. Health insurance companies had been wary to cover digital healthcare visits due to these privacy regulations. This has been the main hindrance as to why digital health has not been implemented on a large scale. However, when the pandemic hit, these strict regulations and policies were lifted to allow patients to access their doctors while following proper social distancing.

Growing Importance of Digital Health

As more and more people continue to rely on digital health during this time, healthcare workers are confident that it will be more widely used even when Covid-19 becomes a thing of the past. Patients are recognizing the ease and simplicity of phone or video consultations rather than a face-to-face visit.

The “new normal” that we are adapting to as a society is going to require the use of digital healthcare; and the level of convenience that it is providing to both parties is only going to encourage its use. Also, digital health is something that patients are appreciating and gravitating towards because of additional benefits like reduced costs and making medicine more personalized.

Success in Digital Health

Below are the four most common and successful ways that companies can implement digital health into their businesses:

  • Live Video Conferencing: The most common and popular type of telehealth is live video meetings with a patient and their healthcare provider.
  • Asynchronous Video: Asynchronous video is the delivery of a patient’s health history sent electronically outside of real-time. This is most commonly used in rural areas where healthcare providers must consult with a specialist in a different location.
  • Remote Patient Monitoring: Used mostly in senior living areas, this form of telehealth is the collection of a patient’s health history in one location and is sent electronically to a healthcare professional for monitoring and review. It is helpful in senior living areas to prevent falls and monitor patient’s vitals.
  • Mobile Health: Mobile health is the use of smart devices and healthcare apps that support healthcare. Apps exist that can help patient’s in many ways; from monitoring diabetic patient’s blood sugar levels to recording one’s daily water intake. Mobile health not only helps with patient’s healthcare needs but also encourages a healthier lifestyle in general.

Opportunities and Risks of Digital Health in Dermatology

Embracing digital health within the dermatology space presents new opportunities for patients and providers. However, in this area, there are also risks that both groups are taking if they choose to use online health platforms.

Opportunities:

  • Time-efficient: Dermatologists can perform follow-up visits through virtual assistants, reducing late appointment and no-show rates.
  • Decreased patient costs: Patients will no longer have to travel and miss work for an appointment.
  • More dermatological education: Online platforms allow providers to upload resources for patients to educate themselves further on their treatment plans.
  • More patients: Digital health allows dermatologists to reach patients outside of their limited geographic regions.

Risks:

  • Video conferences are not equivalent to in person visits
    • Dermatology especially is a very visual field. Dermatologists need to see a patient’s skin in order to make a correct diagnosis. Sometimes, video quality is too poor to see a patient’s skin and make the correct evaluation.
  • Regulations can vary
    • Digital health regulations can vary in different cities and states so it can be difficult to be sure that providers are meeting the laws set-forth to protect themselves and patients.
  • Lack of equipment and technology
    • Digital dermatological services require: software, training, IT staff, purchasing servers and extra equipment. This setup can be too costly and difficult to implement for doctors.

With no signs of slowing down in the United States, Covid-19 is paving the way for digital health to continue to grow and enable more patients to access the doctors and the care that they need.

Author Bio:

Ronak Desai is the Co-Founder of Apotheco Pharmacy Group, a leading Dermatology Pharmacy. He oversees the development and execution of corporate strategies with a focus on Pharmacy growth and development.