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COVID-19 and the health tech landscape: the lasting impact

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Amy Humphreys and Ben Cossor on how the pandemic is changing the way we think about healthcare technology.

During the lockdown period, even the most technophobic amongst us have been required to make the leap over to the digital side, especially when it comes to health and wellbeing.

So, what does this acceleration across many areas of health tech mean for the post-COVID landscape? Are the digital practices we have adopted here to stay, and, if so, what does this mean for the industry moving forward?

Home diagnostics

During the coronavirus crisis, healthcare providers have understandably been laser-focused on tackling the pandemic and flattening the curve.

Although this has meant that many non-urgent checkups, consultations, and treatments have been on pause, it certainly hasn’t put the brakes on consumers wanting to feel empowered and knowledgeable about their health.

As a result, home diagnostic tests for a growing number of health issues have taken a prominent position across the consumer health tech landscape, and certainly look like they are here to stay.

From checking vitamin D levels, thyroid issues, and blood glucose levels, to women’s health and gluten sensitivities; all via a simple finger prick blood test or urine sample – home diagnostic brands are revolutionizing the way we manage our wellbeing and get answers to health concerns at our fingertips.

Fertility

The fertility industry has been hit hard during Covid-19 with many fertility clinics forced to close their doors for a significant chunk of time, and a complete freeze on treatment.

Whilst this has brought huge challenges for those in the midst of treatment plans, it has also effected a second group of people – those who are at the start of their fertility journeys.

This group may have been trying to conceive for a while and started to consider AST options however, the outbreak of Covid-19 and the closure of clinics has foiled their plans – so they’ve needed to turn to fertility tech to try and find some answers.

Period tracking apps have been around for a few years now but Covid-19 has seen an emergence of increasingly sophisticated ovulation tracking devices.

Alongside this, we are also now seeing the growth of more male-focused fertility tech with start-up brands ExSeed and Legacy both reporting spikes in sales during the coronavirus period.

Although as it currently stands fertility tech certainly can’t replace traditional treatment options, increasingly it does seem to be a gateway for couples and individuals at the start of the fertility process.

Mindfulness

If being confined to our homes during lockdown has taught us anything, it is the importance of taking care of ourselves and our mental wellbeing.

Downloads for mindfulness apps reached 750,000 during the week of 29th March, according to analytics platform App Annie – a 25 per cent increase on the weekly average in January and February this year.

The widespread adoption of mindfulness as a means to improve wellbeing has accelerated further in the last three months. Apps catering for this increase in demand have had to find new ways to engage people, when we have never spent so much time away from friends and family.

Apps that promote the benefits of controlled breathing are now providing virtual breathing classes, and meditation apps that people have traditionally used for some alone time away from the noise of everyday life are now offering live sessions to join at a scheduled time each day, creating a sense of community for people all over the world.

Creating a healthier home

Spending more time at home has forced us to adapt our living spaces to suit our new needs – kitchen tables have doubled up as desks, bedrooms have become offices and living rooms have become workout areas.

But, as a result of lockdown there has also been a rise in technology and innovations which actually make our homes healthier, more wholesome places to live long-term.

In recent years we have got used to seeing a lot of individual smart health devices – from gadgets for the home, to fitness wearables – enter the market one after another, but few of these technologies are designed for clinical use and therefore can’t diagnose medical conditions.

For example, while a Fitbit tracker can keep track of your heart rate, and the Apple Watch can run an ECG test, it is currently unrealistic to expect either to be able to diagnose a heart attack.

Therefore, if we are going to continue to spend more time at home and there is a demand to conduct more self-diagnosis, more innovative steps will be needed to make true health monitoring in the home a reality.

Data suggests that adoption of Internet of Things applications that relate directly to Covid-19 has surged, and this is anticipated to be one of the most important growth areas in the coming months.

Virtual Reality is leading the way here and enabling the future of connected home health, bringing technology that was once restricted to hospitals into the mainstream, helping to usher in the next phase of smart health devices and supporting people spending lots of their time at home with easy and reliable self-monitoring and rehabilitation systems.

Looking ahead

Health tech businesses will benefit by harnessing the momentum in the industry post-Covid-19, following the rapid adoption of technology in response to combatting the challenges created by the pandemic and supporting the healthcare system deliver essential new ways of working, while the whole country adapts to a new way of living.

The DCMS has said that, by the time the Covid-19 pandemic has passed, it will have driven the equivalent of a decade of digital transformation, such is the speed with which the UK health tech sector has responded to demand at every level of research and healthcare delivery.

This can only be a good thing for health tech, a fascinating sector where we are excited to see innovation continue to flourish as it reacts to a growing demand for smart devices, at-home diagnosis and overall a more health-conscious population.

Amy Humphreys and Ben Cossor represent London PR firm The PHA Group, which has a substantial healthcare division.

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  1. Pingback: The wearables trends to track in the year ahead - Health Tech World

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