The integration of software in the healthcare sector increases the potential to improve access to healthcare on a global scale. With our progression as a species, healthcare technology is transforming the way we diagnose, treat, and prevent disease.
As we evolve and adapt, our lifestyles and daily habits change too, both on an individual level and as a society. We’re living in more urban areas than ever, and the World Health Organization estimates that two-thirds of the global population will be living in urban areas by 2050.
Health will Always be a Priority
The increasing global population, particularly in urban areas, is adding more pressure on healthcare systems, medical establishments, and clinicians. A growing prevalence of mental health issues and rising risk factors such as smoking, insufficient exercise, and poor diets have led to non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart and lung disease accounting for 70% of global deaths. In other words, our busier and more stressful lifestyles are affecting our physical and mental health.
With 15% of the global population suffering from mental health or substance use disorder, it is apparent that the burdens on our mental health are increasing. Therefore, it is critical for our well-being that we evolve our mental health prevention, treatment, and care services.
In order to improve outcomes for patients across the globe, new channels of investment opportunities are required. The issue of access to healthcare in more vulnerable regions of the world can be addressed by utilizing the benefits of evolving technologies and the roles they play in healthcare.
Health Tech Investment Saves Lives
Primary healthcare can be strengthened via more investments, and consequently, the inequality to access is reduced. The United Nations estimates that around 60 million lives could be saved over the next decade if the annual spending on primary healthcare in low- and middle-income countries was upped by just 5%.
As the world is becoming more and more digital, these budgets are being directed towards the technological side of healthcare, i.e., health tech, and the manners in which this sector can be beneficial and financially efficient.
More resources need to be invested in core health priorities and systems in order to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG 3), “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.” Billions of lives could be saved since at least half the global population today does not receive the quality health services they need.
It is a Crucial Investment in the Wider Economy
Even in the more fortunate regions of the world, when people are dealing with untreated diseases and/or don’t have the right support for disabilities, they are less capable of performing, thus impeding their productivity. It, therefore, goes without saying that poor healthcare, in general, will drastically impair productivity. This then further hinders job prospects and, overall, negatively affects capital development.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit us hard economically, and with the urgent need for things to return to normal, investors turned to healthcare as a respite. The world relied on innovative vaccines to rescue us, which eventually led to businesses being able to reopen and flourish once more.
Furthermore, universal health coverage would allow all people to access the quality health services that they need without the risk of financial impoverishment, thus helping boost the global economy.
What is Healthcare Tech?
The World Health Organization defines health tech as an “application of organized knowledge and skills in the form of devices, medicines, vaccines, procedures, and systems developed to solve a health problem and improve quality of lives.”
AI has the ability to organize and collate global health data and help clinicians develop better patient care based on their individual attributes. It is revolutionizing healthcare, and these technologies have the potential to radically improve access to healthcare on a global scale.
The integration of technology-enabled products and services in healthcare is successfully nurturing the health tech industry. It is transforming the way we can diagnose and treat diseases, as well as enabling us to prevent and even predict them.
Devices at home
Health tech investment has enabled the development of wearable products such as smartwatches that can track seizures or monitor body temperature and detect early-stage viruses before symptoms even present. Diabetes sufferers can now be warned of alternations in glucose levels ahead of time, thanks to IBM’s Watson Health.
Wearables can improve daily life and have the potential to help employers vastly improve productivity. The ability to track basic health at home allows preventative measures to be taken. Fending off sickness means less work time is lost, which in turn can save economies billions of dollars.
Facilitating and Enabling Healthcare Functions
Elderly patients can socially interact with AI and robotics, helping them feel less isolated. Their quality of life enhances, and they can feel more independent for longer. By being able to look after themselves for longer and in a healthier state of mind, the economic burden on care homes and healthcare systems within aging populations is significantly lightened.
Health tech companies can facilitate and provide anything from predictive analytics and medicine and electronic medical records to training for health providers and vaccine delivery and storage.
While individual companies fulfill specific needs such as digitizing core processes, creating clinical trial management software, and providing digital health solutions, the industry as whole covers anything from pharmaceuticals and medical technology down to healthcare providers themselves.
A Safe Investment
While significant advancements in healthcare have increased our lifespan and enabled us to live healthier lives, we are continuously being confronted by infectious disease outbreaks and seasonal recurrences that only remind us of our dependence on the healthcare sector.
This sector has historically held up during times of market uncertainty, and the wide variety within the health tech industry ensures that returns on any investments are predictable and guaranteed. This makes it safer than investing in an individual company or product that fulfills one specific need. People will still be needing and using these services in 10, 20, and 50 years.
Healthcare tech and AI-driven advances are at the forefront of the fight against illnesses and diseases. They are opening new pathways for the vulnerable to access high-quality healthcare. As we evolve and develop, we will keep facing new diseases that require healthcare, making this a safe sector for decades.
The world spends more money each year responding to health emergencies and disease outbreaks than it does preparing for and preventing them. Over $40 billion in productivity was the estimated economic and social cost of the SARS epidemic, and the West African Ebola outbreak between 2014-2016 was estimated at $53 billion. By investing in preparedness and not panicking, we can prevent these huge financial losses.
In the digital and information age we now live in, technology is the focal point. It takes up a major part of our daily lives, and as the world becomes increasingly more digital, it will only continue to make up more of who we are and what we do.
Making Diagnostics More Accessible
The way we reach and treat patients in all corners of the globe has been transformed by rapid changes in technologies and the trend of making devices smaller and more accessible.
Virtual health is being expanded to provide care and support at any time and location, assisting with physical challenges like distance and accessibility. When used in conjunction with wearable technologies, information can be shared with clinicians to assist the process.
Diagnostics influences 70% of healthcare decisions, yet they currently only receive 3-5% of healthcare spending. By simply improving blood glucose measurements, diabetes detection can be improved in among 50% of people in low- and middle-income countries.
The health and fitness wearables market has tripled in the US alone over the past four years, and research suggests that it will grow at an annual 10% to surpass 120 million users by 2023.
As humanity continues to move forward, both the healthcare and technology sectors will always exist in one form or another. The ever-growing technology companies are always looking for ways to advance society in meaningful and creative ways, and health tech can provide successful financial returns as well as humanitarian outcomes.
Healthcare Tech is Here to Stay
In 2019, billions of dollars were invested in more than 100 digital health companies, according to Forbes. Furthermore, governments are also investing in digital healthcare and saving billions of dollars that they can reinvest in front-line care.
The private sector has made a great impact in low- and middle-income countries, emerging as a key player in research, development, and deployment. The current pace of innovation in healthcare technology promises private investors the opportunity to capture real growth value.
In order to truly capitalize on the potential of healthcare technology, new channels of investment are required. Together with novel ways of collaborating with new models of service delivery, we can improve the outcomes for patients across the globe.
Featured Image Credit: Provided by the Author; Thank you!