As everyday experiences across e-commerce, banking, and food ordering shift towards a digital, mobile-first approach, the pressure for healthcare services to follow suit continues to grow.
The pandemic saw many industries adopt a fully remote working policy for staff, with some industries also introducing hybrid working opportunities as restrictions eased. This drove a digital transformation boom and a survey conducted by PwC at the beginning of 2021 indicated over 40% of respondents had improved their digital skills since the beginning of the pandemic.
With more people becoming digitally savvy, remote and hybrid working conditions are quickly becoming the norm, as well as creating new opportunities for remote and hybrid wellness services to help address the growing pressure on healthcare providers. A survey from Vitality revealed that 50% of at-home workers felt increased levels of anxiety and stress, and Medical News Today reported on a survey conducted by The Obesity Society that showed 44% of people across all weight categories had increased the number of unhealthy snacks they consumed throughout the day during the lockdown. Many people also reported increased burnout and loneliness, as well as deteriorating physical health as they were forced to wait longer for appointments.
Coming out of the pandemic, the rising costs of living – including energy and travel – make a hybrid work and healthcare model more affordable, and the balance between in-person and in-clinic services helps put control back into the hands of patients (quite literally) through AI-driven apps. This helps people prioritise their health with improved access to services and is more compatible with the 9-5 work day, as well as reducing waiting times for receiving help. Some patients even reported saving 100+ minutes per visit by switching to video appointments as they did not have to commute.
Focusing on this hybrid approach, Zudu recently worked with Parish Nursing Dundee to redevelop and expand the capabilities of their free iOS and Android app, Dundee Recovery Road Map, which helps to signpost users to wellness and support services in and around Dundee and remove the stigma associated with seeking help. The app aims to help vulnerable people by giving them immediate access to support and promoting mental and physical wellbeing with a mix of online and in-person services in the local area. It also reduces the amount of time people spend researching services and ensures they have accurate and up-to-date information such as opening times and days of operation so no one is turned away.
With the introduction of app-based services that promote mental and physical wellbeing, there is also a distinct, rising trend of highly-tailored and personal online services that reduce the need to arrange in-clinic appointments altogether and save users time and money, as well as minimise the use of transport. This has been particularly crucial for people who are unable to travel or live in remote/rural areas, as well as patients who are uncertain when they would be able to get an appointment.
As waiting lists for hospital and doctor visits increase, patient demand is being satisfied by private services offering at-home testing kits and fast, app-enabled results management. Such apps can introduce a greater level of transparency and improve patients’ understanding of their treatment. DNApal, a company we’re currently working with to develop their custom-built mobile app, use this model to create a highly-tailored health plan by taking samples via an at-home test kit and combining the genetic data with historical records relating to the person’s ancestry and lineage.
Speaking about the project and current digital landscape, Kate – Co-Founder at DNApal, Registered Nutritional Therapist, and Nutrigenomics Specialist – said:
“Although digital health was already on the rise pre-2020, the pandemic really accelerated the need for and adoption of online solutions to meet the needs of people cooped up at home due to the lockdowns. In the past two years, there has been a huge increase in demand for solutions like remote GP consultations, at-home health testing, DIY monitoring of vitals like blood glucose and more. The pandemic also put the state of individual health firmly in the spotlight and made people want to get healthier.
“In the past year in the UK, we have also seen the attention towards menopause increase and cause a surge in demand for better servicing of this previously underserved market. There has been an explosion of different solutions and services as people are focused now more than ever on getting healthier and searching for the best solutions to suit their needs. We have seen the demand for a more personalised approach to health increase, with more and more people wanting to understand their unique needs based on their genetics in order to eat, exercise and supplement accordingly.
“Innovation has risen to meet consumer demand and we are now seeing Healthtech overtake FinTech in terms of seed stage funding in the UK.”
With a new age of personalisation in medication on the horizon, AI-powered technology will be key to improving customer satisfaction and seamlessly integrating with users’ day-to-day activities – matching the example set by other essential service providers and reducing the pressure on in-person healthcare services.
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