Could COVID-19 help to level the playing field for patients?

By: Teun Schutte, Mobiquity

It’s hard to believe that any positives could come out of the COVID-19 pandemic — but there may be a silver lining when it comes to patient care. While this time has posed many unique logistical challenges for businesses, it has also brought attention to the ever-increasing need for more accessible digital services.

Access to healthcares is not always equally divided. These sources of inequality, often referred to as the social determinants of health, are pre-existing circumstances that have a dramatic impact on an individual’s ability to receive the care they need. The global pandemic has exacerbated some of these core issues, as closures and stay-at-home orders placed additional burdens on patients but it has also brought with it new tools that could make it easier to obtain information, self monitor, or remotely access medical professionals.

Understanding the Social Determinants of Health

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the social determinants of health are non-medical factors that influence health outcomes. Conditions such as where someone was born, level of education, race, gender, age, and access to transportation are all examples of social determinants of health that have a profound impact on a person’s overall well-being.

Prior to the adoption of digital services, there were few ways to mitigate these barriers and provide more equitable care to everyone. And while the industry was making strides to implement more digitally accessible services before the pandemic, the large-scale shutdowns of this event truly pushed this effort into hyperdrive.

COVID-19, Technology, and Increased Accessibility

As the pandemic brought about closures and stay-at-home orders, many businesses had to be quick on their feet with implementing widespread digital services for their clients. Here is what new research on this topic is showing:

  • COVID-19 has had a direct impact on the speed of adoption of digital tools by consumers. On average, it is estimated that COVID-19 has caused a global adoption acceleration of for services that are offered either partially or completely in a digital manner.
  • In a survey conducted by Mobiquity, it was found that across all age groups there has been a noticeable increase in digital behaviors like searching the internet for information about chronic illnesses and using health management apps to control medical conditions.
  • Digital services like telehealth and online communications have also steeply increased as a result of the pandemic. According to the , the use of telehealth medical services increased by 154% during the initial shutdowns in March 2020. After this massive boom, many patients are hoping these digital services are here to stay. “My 80-year-old mother now prefers using telehealth options for her doctor appointments,” explained Scott Synder, founder of Mobiquity during a digital disruption seminar . This increase in accessibility is shattering traditional barriers to care and changing people’s behaviors when it comes to getting access to the services they need.

So, it is clear that these advancements in digital services are one way to massively increase the availability of services to a wider subset of people. When traditional life sciences services offer many accessibility barriers, digital services can help people reach the care they need to get earlier diagnoses, better treatment, and more comprehensive services.

“We are just in the dial-up era of digital adoption when it comes to bettering access to care,” explained Cris de Luca, global head of digital investments for Sanofi Ventures during a Mobiquity industry webinar . “COVID-19 has definitely added additional demand for everything to move digital.”

Building a Better Future With Life-Changing Technology

This rapid growth in the digital life sciences space has opened the door to a ton of life-changing technology. Now more accessible than ever before, digital services allow patients to have more control over their health information, support, and care . Some areas where technology is reducing traditional medical barriers include:

1. Increased Ability to Self-Assess, Diagnose and Monitor Medical Conditions from Home

Advances in digital technology are making disease self assessment, and monitoring easier than ever before. Portable at-home ECG monitors, vital monitoring smartwatches, and mobile apps that connect directly to fitness trainers are just a few examples of accessible technology that can have a positive impact on an individual’s overall health. Increased adoption of these technologies has a dual benefit — moving services out of a healthcare facility can reduce pressure on the healthcare system via less unnecessary patient volume and will allow a wider range of people from all walks of life to get better access to the medical care and support they need.

2. Easier Participation in Digital Clinical Trials

Clinical trials for new drugs and rehabilitation technology are essential components to continual medical advancements. By offering more accessible options for participation in these trials, digital options help to increase the number of participants and better maintain compliance throughout the trial. These trials are the beginning steps to life science advancement to improve care for all future generations.

3. Digital Tools Help with Adherence

Staying on track with prescribed medical regimes and care is not always the easiest task. Digital tools like medication reminders and have been very accessible and helpful resources to help high-risk non-compliance patients stay on track with their treatment. Digital tools are an ideal solution for any health recommendation or treatment that requires a change to a patient’s daily patterns and habits because they can offer the personalized reinforcement needed to build a permanent habit. This can include tracking services like voice journaling, step counting, calorie trackers, reminders to hydrate, and more are helping people monitor their habits to live healthier and happier lifestyles.

As the pandemic has been able to prove, digital services are the future of life sciences services. Able to be accessible to a wider audience of people, life sciences businesses need to continue to build their digital footprint to better tackle traditional health disparities caused by the social determinants of health.

About Mobiquity

At Mobiquity, we are proud to be leaders in digital consultancy. We love working with companies of all sizes in the life science space to facilitate conversations and growth in the development of life-changing digital technologies.

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Mobiquity is a digital consultancy that partners with the world’s leading brands to design and deliver compelling digital products and services.