Digital health has grown in the wake of COVID-19… but which segments were most impacted?

One year into the pandemic, some industries have benefited from the shift to a remote-first approach – including digital health. But even within this industry, not all subsegments have been affected equally. Which business models within digital health have experienced the most growth? And which continue to have high potential, even after the COVID pandemic is over?

COVID-19 been disastrous for both human lives and industries around the world. But digital services – including digital health- was one sector which did experience newfound importance. Investors and business interests turned their attention towards healthcare as a sector with a large need for digitization and modernization. After all, unstable or underprepared healthcare systems around the world is part of what permitted the pandemic to spread rapidly.

In March 2020, R2G conducted a global survey with members of the digital health community, to understand their expectations about how the pandemic would affect the industry. (The results of this survey can be found on our website here)

Now, one year later, we ran the same survey to understand what has changed over the course of a year, collecting the opinions and experiences of 293 industry experts. Our survey sought to answer several key questions: How has the pandemic impacted the digital health industry? Which changes are here to stay? How were digital tools used to manage the pandemic and how are these different than initial expectations? The results of our survey, and key insights, can be accessed on our newest white paper, called 2021 Global COVID-19 Survey!

While digital health was positively impacted in general, this is true for some subsectors more so than others.

Telehealth still was the most impacted digital health segment by the pandemic according to 73% of survey participants. This impact came in the form of increased acceptance and use for both patients and providers. One survey correspondent claimed his business experienced a “phenomenal” volume of patients interested in remote care, both for monitoring solutions and one time telehealth consultations.

Remote patient monitoring was the second industry subsegment most positively impacted, accurately predicted by respondents in 2020. Similarly, to telehealth, this service allowed for treatment without face to face contact or unnecessary exposure. While the RPM market did not grow in size or revenue, several countries released reimbursement codes to incentivize its use, prompting companies to adjust service offerings.

Digital appointment scheduling services became relevant. While respondents of the 2020 survey did not see much relevance of this service at the beginning of the pandemic (15%), it has grown to be a significant business (51%), especially within Europe. Perhaps the pandemic provided a much-needed impulse for this rather basic digital innovation, which was already more commonplace in healthcare systems like the U.S.

Certain companies within Europe have especially monopolized the online space for appointment scheduling. One company (e.g. Doctolib) has partnered with local governments in both France and Germany to manage all COVID vaccination scheduling for key cities. Since the start of the pandemic, over 2.5 million appointments have been booked on its online platform.

During the pandemic, digital mental health gained media attention and investments. The psychological burden of the pandemic only furthered a need for accessible mental health care in many countries around the world. For individuals struggling with diagnosed conditions such as depression or anxiety, or experiencing general mental health concerns, these can replace therapy options or bridge the waiting time between diagnosing and care.

While payors and companies were already turning their attention to digital mental health solutions, investments in this area peaked in 2020. An estimated 1.2 billion USD were invested into digital mental health solutions, doubling since 2019. Companies such as Headspace and Lyra Health, offering digital meditation services and employee mental health benefits respectively, each raised millions of dollars and gained new attention in the media. If you are interested in learning more about the growing hype surrounding digital mental health solutions, check out recent blog post.

Today, it remains clear that the pandemic will last much longer- and its effects will be much more profound- than was originally anticipated. In the eyes of our respondents and the wider industry, digital health especially experienced growth. As healthcare seekers and providers both sought ways to reduce face to face contact, and healthcare gained a new importance for everyone, digital solutions came to the forefront. While we might not be sure what the transition to a post COVID reality will look like for the healthcare space, one thing remains clear. Telehealth and other methods of digital innovation are here to stay.

We are happy to share our opinions and connect!

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