What did you observe this year?
In 2022 many companies were taking the time to go back and look at what they learned throughout Covid. They were trying to figure out how to incorporate telehealth and other virtual care options into general care — specifically in what they refer to as omni-channel.
We are starting to see insurance companies investing more in technology, adapting a technology-first approach, and thinking how technology can enhance the relationship between the payer and the patient. For instance, many health insurance companies are buying up different health-tech companies because they see how their products can help deliver the best health insurance to members, whether it’s through the company they work for or through telehealth and virtual care.
We are starting to see the foundation laid for that single entry point into healthcare
that features a fully connected ecosystem: there’s a single access point and everybody is on the same health record system. We are moving more and more towards telehealth and that fully connected healthcare system.
In the areas of behavioral health—mental health issues, addictions and the like—telehealth has become very big. We are going to see a continuing shift towards app-based services. If you talk to a therapist and that therapist doesn’t need to touch you in any way, there’s no reason you speak from the comfort of your own home.
We are going to start seeing different types of healthcare needs, and a shift from what we would call “episodic” or “sick care” to “know care,” which is looking at the entire patient record. With some of our clients, we are leveraging AI to look across the whole picture, to know a patient’s health record, and deliver the right information to the doctor at the point where the doctor needs to meet with the patient.
We are seeing a similar trend in lab science, especially when it comes to clinical trials. Decentralized clinical trials are very topical now. A decentralized clinical trial is what we used to refer to as a “hybrid trial,” with some visits virtual and some in-person. Now, wearable technologies that can track certain functions are also incorporated.
We see many pharmaceutical companies looking at how to leverage decentralized trial technology, make clinical trials more efficient, and identify the right patient sooner. It’s the connection of all the information we have on the healthcare side of things—understanding how we can best leverage that to make the right decisions in setting up protocols for clinical trials, so we get the right patients, find the right investigators, the doctors who participate in the clinical trials, and do all of it a lot quicker.
In life sciences, when bringing a new drug to market, you want it to fail quickly if it’s not effective and take your losses as quickly as possible. If it is an effective drug, getting it to market even a week sooner, a month sooner, saves more lives and creates more revenue for the pharmaceutical company. Overall, it’s a win-win for the market.
In pharmacovigilance, after a drug goes to market it’s necessary to keep an eye on what serious adverse events or side effects are occurring. People go on social media and talk about their symptoms and their struggles with the medicine they’re taking. AI can scan all this much quicker than any pharmaceutical company would be able to do. Is anybody mentioning our drug? What are they saying about our drug? What is the sentiment? Did they mention side effects? Are these side effects different from symptoms? AI can help keep a better eye on what’s happening once the drug goes to market across the board, because the Internet is a vast repository for information and too large for a company to monitor.
We’re going to start seeing more and more desire to use VR, specifically in the Medical Quest platform, because right now it really is the main and only real platform that delivers a good experience with VR that is affordable for the average person.
In the HealthTech fitness segment of the market, we are going to see more things being developed. It’s very impressive technology and I think it can be used for many things. When it comes to Alzheimers or dementia, I expect to start seeing requests for systems that perform neurocognitive testing – for example how quickly a patient can tap a certain button — and the platform measures responses and keeps track, indicating whether a person is stable or declining in their responsiveness and ability to process information.
When it comes to a regular tablet or touch-screen computer, you’re only getting some information. When you take those ideas into VR, you can make it more fun for the individual, which increases compliance, and the information that you get back is much more valuable because you can track the movements of their arms, the position of their body—not only how quickly they can touch something, but also how quickly they can move their arms from one position to another. It’s a much more comprehensive way of tracking a patient’s progress, whether they have difficulty with movement, whether they need physical therapy, etc.
The VR world will certainly improve physical and cognitive therapy. The platform is there and it’s ripe for innovation. I haven’t seen as many medical applications on the platform yet, although I’m sure there are some, but there are a lot when it comes to health and fitness. This will amplify physical therapy and similar activities in the future.
VR is going to play a key role in health and fitness, as well as physical and cognitive therapy.
Daniel Piekarz is Head of Healthcare & Life Sciences at DataArt.