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How Digital Healthcare Apps Will Evolve in 2022
As you might expect, the pandemic has been sending a shockwave through the digital healthcare sector worldwide for the last two years. At the outset of the COVID-19 outbreak, the number of people receiving virtual care via digital platforms rocketed to 78X the number prior to the outbreak — within a matter of weeks. However, as the population grew accustomed to living with COVID and its disturbing little family of variants, virtual care usage fell back, stabilizing at 38x its pre-pandemic level. Unfortunately, this remarkable new level seems to be staying with us.
We've reached a plateau with a 38x increase, equating to between 13% and 17% of all office and outpatient visits handled remotely. Digital healthcare is now a commonplace thing, with the days of crowded waiting rooms and piles of old National Geographics increasingly a picture from the past.
With all this, app developers are innovating at breakneck speed to meet the new demand. With over 350,000 healthcare apps currently available to patients and consumers today, we will look at the future of digital healthcare and how these apps are likely to evolve in the year to come.
Prevention as Opposed to Cure
Deloitte predicts that healthcare providers will be increasingly focused on sustaining well-being and preventative care. As a result, it is likely that medical apps that help keep users out of the healthcare system in the first place will increase in use and development.
One of the educational upsides to the pandemic was that it increased awareness of the connection between lifestyle and disease in the general population. To this end, we’re going to see many more self-help apps offering a host of telemetry about a user’s diet, exercise regime, and general day-to-day habits. The next main evolution will likely power these pocket-sized digital health gurus in healthcare app technology.
AI for Everyone
Artificial intelligence will be a tremendous player in the coming year. We’re going to see vast advances in the capability of apps to assess a user’s symptoms and recommend a course of action. With these digital doctors available 24/7, they’re not just going to be more convenient. Still, with an AI’s ability to process extensive amounts of healthcare data and identify patterns, these apps are going to be able to determine potential long-term health issues for a user in a remarkable new way. While the ethics and legalities of diagnosis by an app remain a thorny area, AI-driven apps are nonetheless going to be increasingly effective tools in the field of preventive healthcare.
When it comes to exploiting cutting-edge technologies in healthcare apps, blockchains will run a close place second to artificial intelligence. With healthcare apps needing to regularly access and transmit a patient’s medical records, data security has never been more critical.
Blockchains offer a distinct advantage in decentralized networks and are extremely difficult to hack. That said, we’re unlikely to see a stream of blockchain-based healthcare apps running in the immediate future. With blockchains still facing scalability and power consumption issues, they’re not quite ready for widespread app use yet. What 2022 will bring us is considerable research into solving these issues.
Online Doctors’ Appointments
As mentioned, no matter how smart an AI may be, it won’t be able to replace an appointment with a real-life doctor just yet. So people will still need a human assessment — an area with its problems.
Their physical location is the most significant barrier to receiving healthcare for many patients. However, the pandemic has resulted in a massive increase in virtual doctor's appointments. Anyhow, we're going to see apps that offer a wide variety of capabilities when it comes to virtual consultations. These apps will allow users to connect with doctors and specialists via chat, phone, and video. In addition, they're going to allow patients to receive prescriptions delivered to their doorstep.
In the coming year, we’re also going to start witnessing the Asia Pacific markets take the lead in the demand for healthcare apps. With the ever-growing population of these markets, coupled with the need to supply remote rural areas with a cost-effective source of healthcare, app-based medical services are increasingly being seen as the cheap and efficient way to solve these issues.
What’s more, as the Pacific markets invest greater amounts in healthcare app technology, the apps will most likely evolve to meet the specific geographic and population demands of the regions in which they were developed. With healthcare apps destined to become more customized as a result, the one-stop global medical app, although here for the foreseeable future, is likely to start taking a back seat.
2022: A Bump In the Road
The main issue still complicating the unhampered development of healthcare apps is the unwieldy nature of the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard. FHIR is a set of industry guidelines on how medical data can be securely exchanged. Unfortunately, it comes in four different forms. Different healthcare organizations using different versions of the guidelines make efficient data sharing a challenging task. Moreover, with no legal requirement for organizations to upgrade to the latest version of FHIR, the problem is set to continue.
FHIR aside, though, the healthcare app landscape over the coming year looks very promising. With venture capital funding into healthcare app development at an all-time high and developers falling over themselves to get into the market, we should see some significant developments in 2022.
With preventative care and AI at the top of the list, these developments aren’t simply improving users' health but the healthcare industry in general. With smart apps offering users increasingly sophisticated advice on lifestyle and potential health problems, we should start to see a reduction in waiting times for patients in the not too distant future.
In the meantime, stay healthy, keep your phone by your side, and let the apps do the worrying for you.