The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted an urgent need for the utilisation of digital health technology in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of the illness.
Digital health essentially uses connected technology to help improve individuals' health and wellness. It includes a wide range of technologies, including electronic records and appointment booking systems; wearable gadgets and ingestible sensors; mobile health apps; artificial intelligence; and even going as far as robotic carers. It is the application of digital transformation, through disruptive technologies and cultural change, to the healthcare sector.
It is crucial during this pandemic in the way patients, whether affected by the virus or vulnerable to its effects, are assessed and treated without leaving self-isolation or visiting their GP. It is also vital in research and treatment efforts, for accessing records, in diagnostic and modelling tools, and simply for sharing information.
Significant investments have been made into digital health technology over a number of years, and it remains a very broad and growing sector in the UK and worldwide. However, there are certain barriers to the widespread adoption of digital health, not least the significant cost in procuring the more complex aspects of the technology, new collaborations with tech and telco partners, patient compliance or even lack of user confidence.
Now many leading technology companies have come forward to remove the first of those barriers, at least temporarily, to assist with the UK and worldwide effort to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 virus.
Universities and healthcare providers in South East Asia have developed, in collaboration with each other, innovative technology which uses artificial intelligence for the modelling and analysis of pulmonary CT scans. Significantly the technology has been released as freeware for download meaning it can be used in a clinical setting, and also for research and teaching purposes.
Closer to home, several leading providers of primary care software in the UK have offered to make video consultation software free of charge for a limited period of at least 12 weeks, if not more. Not only is this crucial in the early identification of patients who may be at risk of complications from the COVID-19 virus, but non-coronavirus patients who still have urgent or chronic healthcare needs, can be assessed and treated quickly.
The COVID-19 pandemic may ultimately result in improved user confidence in digital health, meaning there could be significant improvement in the take up of this vital area of connected technology