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The COVID-19 virus has driven drastic changes in virtually every facet of life. The pandemic has taken its toll on individuals, families, and businesses. It is reshaping industries and anointing new winners and big losers. Many small businesses with only limited cash in the bank are closing.  Meanwhile, others have done a pivot to innovative new solutions to problems that didn’t even exist 3 months earlier.  One such innovation is digital health. It’s no big surprise that a convenient yet virtual interaction with a doctor can do a lot of good and do so cheaply. So here’s the Scoop on digital health, how it works, and why many of us will never consume healthcare the same again.  

What is Digital Health?

digital health check telemedicine oximeterDigital health blends virtual technology with real healthcare providers to improve health and wellness of patients in a convenient and efficient way. Some digital health offerings also incorporate wearable gadgets – like smart watches, pulse oximeters, and even ingestible sensors. It’s almost like something out of Star Trek, Beam Me Up Scottie!  These techealth mash-ups are especially good for people with chronic conditions. 

Another digital health innovation is telemedicine also known as virtual health. Telemedicine connects health practitioners to sick patients remotely.  These virtual visits happen over the phone, video call, or live chat in the health application you are using.  It was developed years ago to treat sick patients in hard-to-reach areas where specialist care was nonexistent. Its also ideal when access to a medical practitioner is not an option – something like a pandemic, just for example.  Virtual health is a definite winner in the wake of the COVID virus.

This technology significantly advances the delivery of modern healthcare for both everyday care as well as chronic disease management and personal health optimization. The options are ‘virtually’ endless, and better health is just a click away. 

The Relevance of Digital Health

Digital health innovations allow people to track their own health, program alerts, and lifestyle reminders. If there is anything unusual artificial intelligence built into the apps could alert the patient, the provider, or even dispatch an ambulance to your location.  Another benefit is continuous diagnostic data is the holy grail when it comes to diagnosis and effective treatment. This sort of information will ultimately lead to patient care tailored to the individual instead of one-size fits-all treatment protocols of yester-year. Health applications are integrating data with individual health goals to support and monitor healthy lifestyle changes. Ultimately improving health and reducing the number of times that they need to see a healthcare provider in person.

Digital innovations are important in identifying and tracking emerging health trends and illnesses. Digital health alternatives are providing doctors with important historical information that can assist and even automate, future diagnosis and treatment. Digital health tools let doctors know about unusual activity much earlier and even suggest the best treatment options. This leads to faster recoveries and less suffering. Early detection is known to be an invaluable thing in a doctor’s bag of tricks, especially in the case of a pandemic.

The Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Digital Health Industry

A white paper by Research2Guidance showed that only 34% of participants thought COVID-19 would help the digital health industry. In light of social distancing (which may be with us for a long time) digital health seems like it’s one of the biggest beneficiaries of the virus. These new virtual options are much better than patients seeking medical attention once their situation becomes serious. Being in public spaces, such as hospitals that have sick patients, is an even greater risk to someone who is experiencing mild symptoms. Because of this, platforms have been created that allow patients to contact their doctors from the comfort of their homes.

When a patient has digital tools that track their symptoms, a doctor can diagnose and treat them without any physical contact. Telemedicine has helped many patients with everyday symptoms. Allowing them to video chat with the doctor first, to see if they really need to come in, or if they just need a prescription phoned in. 

Another interesting innovation is the transparency and ease of accessing and booking medical procedures and purchasing low-cost medications online. These options for medical procedures are cheaper because they are priced and purchased in advance. The digital health platforms are allowing all sorts of medical practitioners to compete on price and quality.  With the cost of healthcare skyrocketing, Americans are able to use these alternatives to save money. This is a much needed advancement in these economically challenging times.

teledoc telemedicine telehealth digital doctor visit

COVID-19: The Catalyst

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the digital health industry was still more like Star Trek than a reality for most people. Companies like Teladoc started out by knocking on the door at some large employers. They promised happy and healthier employees and over time, to lower their cost of health insurance.  Telemedicine has spread gradually over the last five years, until now.   Social distancing has set off an explosion in digital healthcare options, from Virtual-Urgent care at your local hospital to more advanced technology and applications for managing individual health and chronic illness. The COVID-19 pandemic tossed gas on the flames. Demand for telehealth has exploded and the industry is working overtime pumping out new virtual health options for various types of patient needs. 

Digital health has moved to the front burner and the convenience, affordability and improvement in clinical outcomes will keep it there.  Virtual and cloud based healthcare is the single best tool that we have to track and eradicate the viruses like COVID-19. 

The 2020 pandemic is radically changing our world. Expanding digital health options like Telemedicine streamlines quick diagnosis and treatment, without any of the time, cost or risk of actual physical contact in a doctor’s office or clinic.  If more people are receiving virtual care from home, this reduces pressure on the healthcare system. We might actually need less hospitals. This could reduce the number of people seeking healthcare in person. It is bittersweet that a pandemic is the reason why we are paying attention to digital healthcare.  It’s also sad that the traditional doctor patient relationship has been reduced to a short digital interaction.  But, now that we are here, everyone should take advantage of these digital innovations that are available to us.

Scoop Health represents another exciting innovation in healthcare called the Sedera medical cost sharing. It’s a community based approach to paying for expensive healthcare. It’s pretty simple really. By cutting out the insurance company, people can cut their health insurance cost by 50%. The membership is open to individuals, families and employers.  

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