How covid-19 took the global digital health industry by surprise

Around the world, the digital health industry largely underestimated the positive impact that the COVID-19 pandemic would have on their business. R2G released a new survey summarizing these impacts, and other changes in the industry since the beginning of the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted lives, societies, and economies around the world. Seemingly overnight, the rules of day-to-day life and business changed, leaving individuals and companies unsure of their future. But while sectors around the world experienced significant losses, digital health gained a rare moment in the spotlight. As healthcare delivery suddenly became an international priority, and social distancing rules limited face to face interactions, digital health companies and business models grew in popularity.

To understand the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the industry, and what has changed over the year, R2G conducted an extensive survey with members of the digital health community. The results of this survey and that of a similar exercise conducted at the beginning of the pandemic, are summarized in our new whitepaper entitled “R2G 2021 Global Covid 19 Survey: One year into the pandemic, how has the digital health industry changed?” The whitepaper is free for download and can be found here.

Members of the digital health community overall felt much more optimistic towards business outcomes during the pandemic than the original, more pessimistic expectations. Responses were quite segmented by company type, with those coming directly from digital health service providers having experienced much more positive outcomes than those from traditional healthcare deliver sectors, such as pharma, insurance, and hospitals.

Our analysis of survey results from 2020 and 2021 lead to eight key insights on how the digital health industry:

UNDERESTIMATED PANDEMIC: The digital health industry largely underestimated how long the pandemic would last. One year ago, 86% believed that the pandemic will be over within a year. One year later, 59% estimate the pandemic will last at least one more year.

INCREASED OPTIMISM: Impact assessment improved over the course of the year. 54% see a positive influence of the pandemic on the digital health industry today, versus only 34% a year ago.

EXPERIENCES DIFFER BETWEEN HEALTHCARE SEGMENTS: 75% of respondents from digital health companies agreed COVID-19 had a positive impact on their business over the last year, though the impact for healthcare providers was much less optimistic, with over 40% having experienced negative impacts on their businesses.

INCREASED ACCEPTANCE BY PATIENTS IS THE MAIN DRIVER: 52% and 43% of respondents agree that the pandemic increased acceptance of digital health services from users and payors, respectively, agreeing with initial 2020 projections.

BROADENED DIGITAL HEALTH OFFERING: In 2021, about half of respondents (46%) have developed a COVID-specific service offering, almost doubling since the beginning of the pandemic. In 2020, only 25% of respondents had already launched a COVID-specific service offering.

TELEHEALTH AND RPM BUSINESS BENEFITED THE MOST: Telehealth (73%) and remote patient monitoring solutions (53%) were the two most impacted subsegments of the digital health industry. This fulfilled an initial hypothesis from the 2020 survey that these two segments would see the most growth for services not directly related to COVID.

TELEHEALTH AND APPOINTMENT SCHEDULING TOOLS ARE MOST USED TODAY: Telehealth (85%), digital appointment scheduling (42%), and patient education services (35%) are today the most important digital tools used to directly manage the pandemic. The importance of diagnosing tools has decreased since 2020, from 49% to 18% of respondents agreeing it was a crucial component of COVID management.

DIGITAL VACCINATION MANAGEMENT SERVICES WILL BE IMPORTANT IN THE FUTURE: Tracking and tracing tools (65%) and vaccine management software (53%) will be the most important digital tools for COVID management in the future.

R2G’s whitepaper takes a deep dive into each insight, describing the major changes after one year, sharing direct experiences from the sectors most impacted, and key examples from successful companies. The whitepaper can be downloaded here.

At Research2Guidance, we provide high-quality, informed market research and strategy consulting from our headquarters in Berlin, Germany. Specializing in only digital health, we have assisted clients from large pharmaceutical companies to small service providers in shaping their go-to-market strategy both in Germany and beyond. Interested in learning more about how the industry has changed in the COVID era, and how your company can benefit? Do not hesitate to get in touch with us!

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