Survey: How Corona impacts the global digital health industry

Contrary to the negative economic developments due to the Covid-19 crisis and gloomy expectations in the healthcare industry, the majority of digital health companies are positive about their future. R2G’s new global industry survey on how the Corona crisis impacts the digital health industry provides evidence for that.

The Coronavirus outbreak is, first and foremost, a human tragedy, which affects millions of people worldwide. The foreseen consequences for the global economy are severe, yet the digital health companies expect a breakthrough due to the unravelling pandemic.

Industries are perceiving the Covid-19 lockdown differently. As a result, it is important to figure out how the healthcare industry, and especially digital health companies, are impacted by the pandemic.

Over the last two weeks, R2G has taken the pulse of the digital health companies, questioning them about the impact that the Corona crisis has on their business. The survey was conducted between March 24 and April 8, 2020. The sample size included 513 company representatives from Europe (49%), North America (26%), Asia (8%) and the rest of the world (17%). Download whitepaper Impact Assessment Survey. How Corona Impacts the Global Digital Health Industry.

What is the impact of Covid-19 pandemic on the healthcare business?

Companies have a mixed opinion on the impact of the pandemic on their business. More than a third of them (34%) expect a positive impact, whereas 31% of the respondents perceive it to be negative. Around a quarter of companies (24%) is still not sure, whereas 11% do not expect any major changes.

Companies from Europe and North America show no major difference in their assessment of the pandemic’s impact on business. Companies from Asia have a somewhat more negative view on how their business will be affected by the Corona crisis.

Differences become bigger, when analyzing the impact assessments by company type. Digital health companies clearly stand out with their optimism, as 44% of them are positive about their future.
This is in contrast to the perception of hospitals and healthcare providers whose expectations are rather gloomy: 67% of them expect the pandemic to have a negative impact on their business, whereas only 9% have a positive outlook.

Other healthcare industry segments have a more balanced outlook, factoring in the overall negative impact of the global economy’s downturn on their business. This group includes pharmaceutical companies, venture capitalists (VCs), accelerators and payer organizations. All of them have an approximately balanced number of optimists and pessimists, with a slight shift to negative outlooks in insurance.

What are the expectations of the industry about the impact the crisis will have on the digital health industry?

First, acceptance of patients for digital health solutions and services will increase. Around 53% of the companies expect that during the months of the Corona crisis, patients will become users of digital solutions and stick to them. There are already more than 800 million users of digital health services globally today. It is too early to say how the user base of app-based digital health services will grow, yet expectations are high. See also R2G’s whitepaper Digital Health-in-Corona Times.

Regulations are also expected to become more favorable due to the enormous pressure that health systems are facing to keep infection numbers down. Some 42% of the companies foresee easier market access and smarter security and data protection rules. Hopes are also expressed in relation to an increased acceptance of payers (39%).

According to market participants, the Corona crisis leads to improvements in the general framework conditions for digital health solutions, which is driven by an increased acceptance of digital tools and solutions by all stakeholders. Secondary considerations are that the crisis will stimulate revenues (14%) or drive higher investments in the digital health (17%).

Would the changes last?

Yes, they will, according to the majority of healthcare companies. Around 67% of the companies expect the changes and impact caused by the COVID-19 to be long-lasting. The increased acceptance and usage of digital health solutions among all stakeholders will not be a flash in the pan. In other words, there is a strong belief in the healthcare industry that the Corona pandemic will be the breakthrough event for the digital health industry.

What does this all mean for the digital health industry?

There will be many implications for the digital health industry. According to the majority of participants of this impact assessment, the digital health industry will not radically transform during the pandemic. Yet the Corona crisis will have a significant impact on how the healthcare is delivered.

  1. The impact that digital health solutions and services have on the pandemic’s management is rated as high. Digital health will be an important peace in the puzzle to fight the pandemic.
  2. The impact will last. The expectation is that the increased awareness, acceptance, and usage of digital health services during the Covid-19 outbreak will not vanish after the pandemic is contained.
  3. Some segments of the digital health industry are now in the focus, esp. telehealth, remote monitoring, self-testing, and diagnostic tools. However, the development of the pandemic will highlight other segments, such as robotics, wearable sensors, and mental health solutions in the future.
  4. Usage of digital solutions will go up. The majority of the industry is expecting a breakthrough for digital health usage. The first signs look promising but should be checked again after a few months.
  5. There is and will be choice. The speed with which the (digital) healthcare industry has reacted on the outbreak is enormous. There will be no shortage of digital solutions for all phases of the pandemic’s management.
  6. Governments and healthcare providers should create a portfolio of digital health solutions from existing services rather than build their own from scratch.
  7. Companies from all industries must include digital health solutions and services in their “secure return back to business” strategies and implementations.

The Covid-19 pandemic is evolving rapidly, and digital health companies will have to adapt quickly. Impact assessments on what it means for the digital health industry and the role of digital health solutions in the management of the pandemic will change over the course of the next months. R2G will therefore check the pulse of the healthcare industry again shortly.

For now, the results of this impact assessment survey can be downloaded here. “Impact Assessment Survey. How Corona Impacts the Global Digital Health Industry”.