The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented increase in the use of digital technology in healthcare. Digital health technology is the incorporation of information and communication technologies into medicine and other healthcare professions in order to manage illnesses and health risks and promote health.1 The COVID-19 pandemic has been a test for the maturity and efficiency of digital health in areas such as frontline care, disease monitoring, or the discovery of new strategies to combat the virus. As the virus spread globally, healthcare providers and patients turned to digital solutions to ensure that medical services were accessible, efficient, and safe. Here are some of the ways in which COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of digital technology in healthcare to improve service delivery, data sharing, and patient safety.2
Telemedicine, or the use of technology to provide remote healthcare services, became an essential tool during the pandemic.3 With many people hesitant to leave their homes and risk exposure to the virus, telemedicine allowed patients to receive medical consultations and follow-ups from the safety of their own homes. This was particularly important for vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, who are at a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
Telemedicine has also helped to reduce the strain on healthcare systems by reducing the number of in-person visits to clinics and hospitals. This was especially beneficial in areas where healthcare resources were stretched thin due to the pandemic.
Digital Health Monitoring
Digital health monitoring tools, such as wearable devices and mobile apps, became increasingly popular during the pandemic.4 These tools allow patients to monitor their health and track symptoms remotely, providing healthcare providers with valuable data that can inform diagnosis and treatment.
In addition, digital health monitoring was used to help track the spread of the virus. Contact tracing apps, for example, were developed to help identify people who may have been exposed to the virus, allowing for early intervention and prevention of further transmission.5
Remote Patient Monitoring
Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is another digital healthcare solution that became more prevalent during the pandemic.4 RPM allows healthcare providers to monitor patients remotely, providing real-time data on vital signs, medication adherence, and other important metrics.
RPM was particularly useful for COVID-19 patients who were recovering at home. By monitoring patients remotely, healthcare providers could identify any complications or deterioration in health and intervene early, preventing the need for hospitalisation.
Digital Health Records
The pandemic also highlighted the importance of digital (electronic) health records, which allow healthcare providers to access patient information quickly and easily.6 With many patients being treated by multiple providers in different locations, digital health records ensure that all providers have access to up-to-date information, improving the quality and continuity of care.
In addition, digital health records were used to track the spread of the virus and identify potential hotspots. By analysing patient data, healthcare providers can identify patterns and trends that may indicate an outbreak, allowing for early intervention and prevention of further spread, such as the tier system in the UK to provide stronger restrictions on areas with higher infection rates of COVID-19.
As a result of the pandemic and issues with face-to-face meetings, HTA (Health Technology Assessment) bodies such as NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) have moved to virtual committee meetings.7 This has allowed them to become even more accessible to the public, with no travel required, allowing members of the public to attend a greater number of these committee meetings. Furthermore, by hosting these meetings online, observers gain a more ‘front row’ feel to the meeting with a clearer view of all proceedings, as opposed to the traditional in-person NICE committee meetings where observers were situated at the back of the conference room.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital technology in healthcare, bringing with it numerous benefits for both patients and healthcare providers. Telemedicine, digital health monitoring, remote patient monitoring, and digital health records are just some of the ways in which digital technology was and continues to be used to provide safe and effective healthcare since the pandemic, while virtual meetings have provided a platform for HTA bodies to continue operating as normal. As the world continues to navigate the challenges of a post-COVID-19 life, it is likely that digital healthcare solutions will continue to play an increasingly important role in the delivery of medical services.
- Williams N. How has the COVID-19 Pandemic Impacted the Adoption of Digital Health Technology? Medical News. Updated 22/03/2022. Accessed 18/04/2023. https://www.news-medical.net/health/How-has-the-COVID-19-Pandemic-Impacted-the-Adoption-of-Digital-Health-Technology.aspx
- Peek N, Sujan M, Scott P. Digital health and care in pandemic times: impact of COVID-19. BMJ Health & Care Informatics. 2020. doi: 10.1136/bmjhci-2020-100166
- Bahl S, Singh RP, Javaid M, Khan IH, Vaishya R, Suman R. Telemedicine Technologies for Confronting COVID-19 Pandemic: A Review. Journal of Industrial Integration and ManagementVol. 05, No. 04, pp. 547-561 (2020)
- Fagherazzi G, Goetzinger C, Rashid MA, Aguayo GA, Huiart L. Digital Health Strategies to Fight COVID-19 Worldwide: Challenges, Recommendations, and a Call for Papers. J Med Internet Res. 2020
- Sharma S, Singh G, Sharma R, Jones P, Kraus S, Dwivedi YK. Digital Health Innovation: Exploring Adoption of COVID-19 Digital Contact Tracing Apps. IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, doi: 10.1109/TEM.2020.3019033.
- Madhavan S, Bastarache L, Brown JS et al. Use of electronic health records to support a public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States: a perspective from 15 academic medical centers. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, Volume 28, Issue 2, February 2021, Pages 393–401, https://doi.org/10.1093/jamia/ocaa287
- Meetings in Public. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Accessed 24/04/2023. https://www.nice.org.uk/get-involved/meetings-in-public#advisory-committee