STORY INLINE POST
More than two years into the pandemic, the coronavirus is still present, dominating the attention and resources of health systems: according to Reuters figures, from the start of the pandemic to February 2022 there were more than 428 million infections reported in the world and a number of deaths greater than 6 million. In Mexico, infections exceed 5.4 million and deaths total almost 317,000.
Health workers are experiencing emotional, physical and professional stress. For their part, patients are postponing or forgoing a wide variety of health services unrelated to the coronavirus, so the long-term effects of a lack of early intervention, lack of chronic disease management, and undiagnosed conditions will be significant.
Against this scenario, the health sector has a powerful opportunity to accelerate innovation and reinvent itself. The pandemic, with all the negative change it represents, can also be the catalyst to activate this transformation.
Some of the changes that the pandemic has already accelerated are emerging healthcare trends, such as new consumer preferences, the integration of life sciences with healthcare, rapidly evolving digital health technologies, and new models of care provision.
One of the indicators of the evolution in health services is the growing investment in health software, even in the pre-COVID era. According to information from Medgadget, they held a leading position in the global e-health software and services market in 2019, with a 69.6 percent share in terms of value.
By 2021, the global e-health software and services market was valued at just over US$210 billion and is projected to reach a value of over US$450 billion by 2028, with an annual growth rate of 11.8 percent between 2022 and 2028.
Deloitte's 2022 Global Health Care Outlook calls on those in the healthcare industry to remain vigilant and flexible in dealing with the changes they are already experiencing and lists six major challenges to overcome.
The first is related to equity, where health service provider organizations play a key role in ensuring equitable access to healthcare. Second, health services have a unique opportunity to respond and adapt to climate change with new sustainable operating models in preparation for a greener future.
A third challenge to overcome is the wave of mental health problems that originated with the pandemic and are still accompanying it. Here, digital technologies have great potential to transform global mental health systems to be more accessible, affordable, scalable and fit for purpose.
The fourth challenge has to do with digital transformation. Healthcare provision has come under increasing pressure and scrutiny during the pandemic, as health systems grapple with rising patient numbers, employee burnout, supply chain disruptions and equipment shortages and insufficient and obsolete facilities. One solution lies in the digital transformation that is already underway. In 2021, Doctoralia alone booked 590,000 reservations for online consultations, an alternative that is here to stay after the pandemic.
Hospitals and health systems are turning to cloud computing, 5G telecommunications, artificial intelligence (AI), and interoperable data and analytics to create digitally-powered models for the future of health. Similarly, remote patient care has become essential to treat diseases that are not related to COVID and to continue the treatment of chronic conditions.
Two more challenges that the health sector faces two years into the pandemic are adapting to the technological advances in medical science that are dramatically changing the way different diseases are diagnosed and treated. And finally, it is essential to accept and overcome the vulnerabilities in public health systems that the pandemic has exposed.
A Deloitte study on the future of health indicates that the healthcare industry is on the brink of large-scale disruption. In just a few years, the healthcare industry will be defined by interoperable data, open yet secure platforms, and consumer-driven care, more empowered than ever.
The pandemic accelerated the transition to digital health. Now, new tools and technologies promise more precise and expansive care, along with greater efficiency. Without a doubt, the future of health systems is digital.