Article March 1, 2021

Three digital healthcare trends to look out for in 2021

COVID-19 has brought about profound changes in the way that we interact with the world around us. One of the most significant transformations we’ve seen is in the healthcare industry - particularly the ways in which healthcare services are delivered and received.

According to data published by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), telehealth encounters increased by 154% during the first month of the pandemic, and the number of them which took place are reported to have exceeded a billion in 2020, up from 100 million the previous year.

With high adoption rates and exponential funding levels continuing, there is no sign that the use of telemedicine will slow down in 2021, leading to a huge impact on digital healthcare for years to come. Take a look at our top three predictions for digital health in 2021 to see what’s around the corner.

  1. Mental health is top of the agenda

    Perhaps the most significant knock-on effect of COVID-19 is the devastating impact it has had on worldwide mental health and wellness.

    According to a study from The Lancet Journal on Psychiatry, 27% of UK households reported increased levels of mental distress during the first month of lockdown. Rising demand for mental health services sparked a new wave of new mental telehealth start-ups offering services direct to consumers.

    While the increased availability of telemental health services in the age of COVID-19 is comforting, these services do not come without risk. Potential shortcomings include the possibility of mistakes being made during patient evaluation and poorly developed chatbots overlooking red flags in patient interactions.

    Companies operating in this space should source insurance which provides a robust professional services bodily injury trigger, extending to healthcare and technology activities.

  2. Artificial intelligence joins the fight against COVID-19

    Time is of the essence in a global pandemic, and that means data is an important asset. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning tools, will therefore be evermore more important this year.

    AI and machine learning are being used to battle the effects of the pandemic in research and development, immunology, screening and diagnostics. Machine learning has enabled the rapid development of vaccines, many of which are now being distributed around the world.

    In terms of screening, there has been talk of thermal screening systems being used to identify individuals with high temperatures. In 2021 we can also expect to see a greater reliance on AI integrations in CT scans, for instance helping radiologists detect COVID-19 in scans of pneumonia patients.

    From a risk management perspective, the data sets that these systems rely on are critical. Clinical studies must be conducted to ensure that studies are sound, and accuracy rates are sufficient. And insurance policies must of course be built to cover these increasingly complex risks.

  3. Cybersecurity in the spotlight

    The recent focus on access to telemedicine-based services has meant a relaxation in regulations for communication apps such as Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts and Facetime. Whilst this might be a necessary evil, the easing of cyber and privacy regulations can also be viewed as “blood in the water” for bad actors looking to exploit an already vulnerable area.

    A trend that we are predicting – and hoping – will catch on in 2021 is a shift away from standard consumer communication platforms, and a move to healthcare specific communication platforms. These platforms will be equipped with key security features such as data encryption, multi factor authentication access and data segregation.

    Brokers placing insurance for digital healthcare companies should be wary of any carrier offering terms without a full suite of cyber and privacy covers. Ideally, coverage should include bodily injury arising from cyber events, as well as substantive limits for extortion, ransomware attacks and system outages.

There is little doubt that the impact of COVID-19 on claims activity will be enormous. But with standard claims modelling still being based on decades of incurred losses by traditional health practitioners, it may take years for accurate modelling to be available for the digital healthcare sector. As such, it is vital that brokers remain vigilant when procuring insurance coverage for companies operating in this sector.

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