These Six Trends Will Further Propel Digital Health In 2022

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Posted on January 5, 2022 by James Bateman

Health-tech entrepreneur and co-founder and CEO of Medchart. Motivated by solving novel transformative problems.

We’ve heard the term “the new normal” a lot since the onset of the pandemic, but what exactly does that look like? For the health data and healthcare industries, the change is reflected in a disruption to how patients view care. Over the last two years, they have increasingly demanded more connected capabilities, and providers are working tirelessly to meet this new demand.

In the middle are digital health companies innovating new technology — for both patients and providers — for more efficient care. I believe several trends will continue to encourage even greater demand for digital capabilities in the healthcare industry in 2022.

1. APIs take center stage. Healthcare organizations will continue to work toward compliance with the 21st Century Cures Act, a mandate that requires providers to give patients easy, digital access to their medical records via application programming interfaces (APIs). The API development trend could also be bolstered by the reintroduction of digital projects delayed by the pandemic. And, given consumers’ continued use of a wide range of health apps that collect and share health data, the demand for technology-centered health data will continue to rise in the coming year.

2. FHIR confusion continues. The Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard is a non-mandatory guideline to simplify the secure exchange of health information. While some forward-thinking healthcare organizations have adopted the fourth version of FHIR standards, many are still working under the first three versions. Since each version has varying specifications for interoperability processes, organizations will have difficulty sharing data while negotiating multiple standards. Without a mandate to upgrade to the latest versions of FHIR, many organizations will maintain the status quo to avoid the additional costs and business disruption of updating. In all likelihood, these organizations will take their cues from large tech or health companies — e.g., Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Epic. When big tech moves, others will follow to avoid being left behind.

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3. Developers move into health tech. Some of the best and brightest developers will transition from traditional tech and begin building breakthrough innovation in the healthcare space. With the momentum in healthcare app development, we could see bidding wars for talented developers. A move to health tech would not only be a lucrative move; it would also offer developers the opportunity to create something that holds the potential to contribute to the greater good. Additionally, many health-tech apps are in their early stages, which will appeal to developers inspired by building something big from the ground floor.

4. VC funding surges in digital health. Venture capital funding was at an all-time high in 2021, and the digital health industry received several impressive funding rounds. I expect to see this funding momentum continue due to the demand for connected health data. In their quest to take greater control of their health, consumers are in search of cutting-edge technology to help them better understand everything within their care ecosystem. Meanwhile, healthcare providers are trying to maintain compliance with various standards requiring greater interoperability.

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5. Momentum toward decentralization of health data via blockchain builds. While the reality of decentralized health data won’t come to fruition in the coming year, it will become a more frequent discussion. Patients are demanding not only greater control of their health data, but also its security. Blockchain has the potential to do just that. In 2022, healthcare organizations and digital health companies will ramp up research in developing ways to harness the power of blockchain in healthcare.

6. Virtual care increases. People learned how to work and play virtually during the pandemic and proved that this remote, distributed model can work very well for matters that don’t require in-person meetings. Virtual care saw a strong uptake in 2021, reportedly 38 times higher compared to the pre-Covid baseline. Over the next year, we will see increased adoption of telehealth apps and a supporting health data infrastructure to maintain this direction.

The pandemic, regulations and patient demand created a perfect storm for healthcare tech. Past performance does indicate a strong future for this industry. The stage is set for innovation by digital health companies to create an environment of frictionless collaboration between patients and all of their providers. The end result? Unprecedented care.