After 2019 was touted as the “year of the digital health IPO,” few would have predicted what would come to pass in 2020. As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, many people have accessed telehealth visits for the first time, or turned to digital tools to manage their health from home.
It’s difficult to overstate the effect of the novel coronavirus, which has spread swiftly across the U.S. in the winter months. Nearly 300,000 Americans have died from Covid-19 at the time of writing. Lightened telehealth regulations during this public health emergency and efforts to prevent the spread of the virus by maintaining distance have led to swift adoption of a number of digital health tools.
Now, with one authorized vaccine, it’s easier to see the light at the end of the tunnel. How will digital health fit into this new future? Boston Consulting Group Digital Ventures predicted many of these changes will be here to stay.
- Telehealth will continue to grow
In March and April, many telehealth companies saw use skyrocket as patients cancelled nonessential appointments or opted not to go to in-person visits. But as cases eased over the summer and early fall, patients started to return to in-person visits again. BCG Digital Ventures’ Managing Director and Partner Ashkan Afkhami still expects that virtual visits will continue to grow, as Medicare more permanently expands telehealth coverage and other payers follow suit. Austin Gispanski, BCG’s venture architect director, also expects to see telehealth expand beyond a quick diagnostic tool to become more integrated patients’ care, an ambition that was hinted at with Teladoc’s $18.5 billion acquisition of Livongo.
- A digital therapeutic will secure insurance reimbursement
A longtime goal for many digital health companies, next year a digital therapeutic might secure a major reimbursement deal with an insurer, predicts managing director and partner Nate Beyor. He cited several examples of smaller deals, such as Minnesota Blues making Omada’s type 2 diabetes management program available to employers at the beginning of the year.
“Step by step, DTx solutions are proving out their commercial model, and one major deal will be enough to change the risk equation from faith-based to revenue multiples,” Beyor wrote.
To keep this momentum over the long term, digital therapeutics companies will need to provide more clinical validation, wrote Sawan Ruparel, engineering director for BCG Digital Ventures. Omada, Pear Therapeutics, and other companies have also been publishing results to prove out the value of their digital tools to payers.
- Remote patient monitoring will become more prevalent
The use of remote patient monitoring tools is expected to continue after the pandemic. Grace Davey, a strategic design director for BCG Digital Ventures, expects to see these tools used more frequently after patients are discharged from the hospital. The pandemic has also created an urgency to better manage chronic diseases, especially at home.
“Adoption of remote monitoring technologies by clinicians will inevitably increase as patients continue to avoid the doctor’s office, and as patient-generated data becomes more cohesively integrated into clinician workflows,” wrote Syuzi Pakhchyan, an experience design director with BCG.
- Healthcare will become more decentralized
As people turn to telemedicine visits, apps that offer health tracking and coaching, virtual consultations, and tailored treatment plans, healthcare will become more decentralized.
“Telemedicine enables small practices and single doctors to access patients everywhere. This means that large hospitals and provider groups will become less relevant in the consultation process,” wrote André Heeg, a managing director and partner with BCG Digital Ventures. “Easy-to-adopt plug-and-play solutions will level the playing field for all doctors, including small practices.”
- Rise of in-home testing
Unsurprisingly, the pandemic has increased demand for at-home testing, including Covid-19 tests offered by LabCorp, Everlywell and many others. But it has also led to renewed interest in at-home testing and diagnostics from investors, Afkhami wrote. For example, San Diego-based startup Cue Health was recently picked as part of a five-state pilot by the Department of Health and Human Services using its rapid, point-of-care Covid-19 test. Before the pandemic, it had been developing an at-home flu test.
Photo credit: Andrey Suslov, Getty
Correction: The headline of this article has been updated with the correct year: 2021.