There have been many predictions about what the post-Covid ‘new normal’' will look like. Some seem more likely than others and there is almost certainly an extent to which the degree of likely societal change is being overestimated amidst the current uncertainty.
However, one area where we can confidently predict that Covid-19 will leave a lasting impact is on the DigiHealth sphere. We can say this confidently because things already have changed. Previous regulatory restrictions on virtual consultations have been loosened or dropped; in the UK, the NHS is partnering with Big Tech to create data models to support clinical decision making; and, in Germany, the government changed the law to allow doctors to prescribe medical apps to patients, with the costs covered by insurance. These are changes which it is difficult to see being reversed once patients have become accustomed to them.
This change in attitude has some predicting a new spate of investment by Big Tech into the DigiHealth arena. Many of the big players have made some early forays but have come up against challenges of both complex regulation and mis-trust amongst clinicians and patients alike. A gradual change in perception and an increased acknowledgement of the power of technology like AI to bring huge public benefit mean, however, that further investment seems likely to be on the horizon.
Challenges do however persist. Health data still remains, for most people, amongst their most sensitive information, and healthcare regulation is still complex and jurisdiction-specific. The difficult, but increasingly important, area of data ethics is also highly relevant to the deployment of DigiHealth solutions - there’s no way to tank an investment quite like deploying technology which inadvertently discriminates against certain groups.
In summary, to be successful, new technology solutions must ensure that they not only comply with laws, but must also win public trust. However, for those willing to make the investment, this is undoubtedly an area of enormous potential.
Big Tech also needs to show it can forge partnerships across the healthcare industry, while at the same time winning the trust of patients and satisfying regulators.