When the healthcare industry experienced shifts in its landscape due to the onset of the pandemic, digital health and virtual care platforms were at the forefront of it all. Providers, payers and pharma companies all benefited from faster adoption of digital innovation to help successfully deliver patient care and navigate periods of uncertainty. This year, we believe that the momentum of digital and virtual health solutions will only continue. Here’s our perspective on 5 areas ripe for change in 2022:
Telemedicine and virtual care become normalized and grow in new areas
The COVID-19 pandemic was a crash course in telemedicine for providers, payers, patients and regulators. During the height of regional lockdowns, most healthcare providers began offering televisits as the only practical option to patient care.1 As the pandemic progressed, the value of telemedicine and virtual health continued to grow as clinicians experienced enhanced workflows that optimized their time and their patients’ convenience. When lockdown restrictions began to ease, televisits remained as an option. Now, the focus is shifting toward expanding patients and use cases beyond urgent care that would most benefit from continued doctor-patient interaction and continuity of care from the comfort of a patient’s home, such as chronic condition management, mental health and off-hour consultations. For example, at CommonSpirit’s Dignity Health, remote monitoring using the Propeller Health platform in conjunction with telehealth tools have helped decrease COVID-19 exposure risk to vulnerable patients with chronic respiratory issues.2 These efforts will eventually create a permanent space for virtual health in care delivery as clinicians and patients continue to experience its benefits.
“In 2022, we will start to see an intentional shift from ‘virtual-only’ and ‘virtual-first’ to ‘patient-first’ care that is personalized based on condition and severity, motivation, attitude and behavior. Digital health technologies will evolve to enable this at scale.”
– Susa Monacelli, General Manager, Propeller Health
Virtual and hybrid clinical trials find permanence
Although decentralized clinical trials are not new, the sudden need for their rapid adoption demonstrated the importance of being agile. In an industry that is infamously slow to change, we saw growth in this segment increase by 114% in recent years.3 The incorporation of virtual trial designs across early and late-stage clinical protocols allowed pharma and life science companies to start or resume trials that were suspended during the early months of the pandemic. Companies quickly realized that decentralization naturally allowed for improved diversity among enrolled patient populations and better retention due to the more engaging, patient-centric study design. Given such benefits, we believe that the use of and desire for virtual trials will persist in 2022. Methods such as connected drug delivery, remote monitoring, electronic patient-reported outcomes (ePRO) and direct-to-patient (DtP) clinical supply services will all become part of the new normal in clinical development.
“Against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, clinical trials in 2022 will further embrace the new mechanisms and supporting technologies it had to speedily adopt in the past 22 months. Specifically, decentralized clinical trials will continue to be a hot topic, and trial sponsors will include unconventional trial designs to ensure studies succeed in an unpredictable healthcare landscape. The quick turnaround in getting Covid-19 therapeutics and vaccines from laboratory to market will further inspire sponsors to get their respective assets through trial development at warp speed.”
– Yury Rozenman, SVP Life Sciences Partnerships, Propeller Health
Consumers take control of their health with digital health solutions
The consumerization of healthcare was accelerated by the pandemic when most average consumers became more attuned to their healthcare and took greater control over their health and wellness than ever before. In a study based on data from Propeller Health, patients with asthma and COPD demonstrated better medication adherence throughout the pandemic. Unsurprisingly, digital health played a key role in enabling this shift. As patients’ desire and willingness to self-manage their conditions and seek care when and how they want continues to grow, digital health solutions and interventions will continue to expand. This is already generating unprecedented volumes of streaming data. With the compound annual growth rate of healthcare data expected to hit 36% by 2025, there will be even more opportunities to identify unique characteristics of specific patient populations and address socio-economic disparities.4 For the right use cases and with suitable safeguards, digital health will not only become an acceptable norm in care management but also improve healthcare delivery workflows in ways previously unavailable with “brick-and-mortar” analogs, such as getting near real-time insights to identify at-risk patients, inform treatment decisions, and take proactive interventions.
“In 2022, we will start to see digital health become health as healthcare goes through a similar transformation as consumer banking, retail, hospitality and other industries have over the past two decades. The right combination of ‘science and psychology’ delivered through hardware, software and humanware will ensure healthy behaviors that improve outcomes.”
– VJ Bala, SVP Marketing, Propeller Health
Remote therapeutic monitoring becomes a stepping stone to value-based care
We saw how telemedicine opened up the use of remote patient monitoring (RPM). Connected medical devices such as blood pressure monitors, smart watches and other wearables at a patient’s location or on a patient’s person can monitor vital signs and help diagnose conditions, both enriching the telemedicine experience and providing pre- and post-visit case monitoring. Now, most RPM use cases are fully reimbursed. With the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services expanding care access with the introduction of remote therapeutic monitoring (RTM) codes this January, we anticipate an increased adoption of digital therapeutic solutions by providers and payers.
“In 2022, remote therapeutic monitoring will create a unique opportunity for independent clinics and medical practices to care for patients with chronic conditions such as COPD and severe asthma, ensuring adherence to medications and treatment plans while focusing their resources and clinical staff towards supporting patients who need it the most.“
– Jennifer Johns, SVP Healthcare Partnerships, Propeller Health
Healthcare continues to focus on value
The healthcare system has already seen a steady shift to value-based care models, as reflected in increasing healthcare spend and value-based payments.5 Nearly 31% of projected 2022 healthcare spend will be in value-based care segments, up from 18% in 2016 – a threefold increase versus the overall market.6 As this shift continues to progress, digital health players will be focused on the evolution of primary care and innovative care management models (i.e., virtual primary care, telemedicine, digital health and therapeutics). These models will align providers and payers around the patient by driving behavior change through tailored experiences that improve quality of life for patients to live healthier lives as well as clinical and financial outcomes for all stakeholders.
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021)
2 Dignity Health and Propeller Health Bring Asthma and COPD Digital Inhaler Data into EHR (2021)
3 MobiHealthNews (2021)
4 RBC Capital Markets (2021)
5 Penn LDI (2021)
6 HLTH Sessions (October 2021), “Pioneering a Better Healthcare System for Patients and Providers”