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The Hope for Digital Health

As COVID-19 catapulted the healthcare and wellness industry into the public eye, an increased focus on healthcare and wellness presents a tremendous opportunity to reimagine what the healthcare system of tomorrow could and should look like. This transformation—bolstered by technology—leads us to a future of healthcare built on services that support journeys towards more proactive, healthy ways of living, serving both people and patients. 

This tangible vision for the future calls for more accessible care for providers and patients alike, with systems that are simpler to navigate, greater options for healthier lifestyles, and technology that enhances patient care at before, during and after health services. 

Now that the focus on healthcare is stronger than ever before, bright minds from all over the world are creating solutions to mend longstanding issues. Startups in the digital health industry are driving considerable growth and innovation—raising an eye-popping  $29.1 billion across 729 deals in 2021—by developing solutions for at-home care, telemedicine and other healthcare needs. 

Healthcare Is an Everchanging Concept

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For many years the public conception of healthcare involved mainly the diagnosing and treating of diseases. Over time the concept has evolved and broadened its scope to include practices and treatments geared towards overall wellness, such as mental and physical health, which was also expedited by the pandemic. Mental health is now considered to be a critical part of healthcare and has greatly increased the mental health resources available for society.

While this was happening, public health shifted its approach from reactive to proactive, as the industry soon realized it is much better and cost-effective to prevent illnesses than it is to treat them. This has led to the inclusion of nutritionists and fitness professionals in the healthcare space, transforming this complex field in which many actors participate. In fact, employment of dietitians and nutritionists is projected to grow seven percent from 2021 to 2031. About 5,600 openings for dietitians and nutritionists are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

The Intersection of Health and Technology: Where Are We Now?

The evolution of connected digital healthcare came to be as medical institutions and professionals were pushed to leverage new technologies to make medical consultations more available to patients during the pandemic. These virtual consultations over a video call, or telehealth, became the norm during the pandemic. And as we know, digital health is more than video chats, it is remote patient monitoring, fitness wearables, more patient data utilization and many more applications yet to be realized.

Digital Healthcare has also brought on a new dynamic in terms of treatments. Before, people were treated based on a basic data set, for example, considering gender or age. Now, these technologies collect detailed information on each person’s health, which gives way to more personalized care. It also helps lower the cost of general and specialized treatments because they can be applied at a massive scale.

The potential uses surrounding connected health are wide and varied, and healthcare startups today are curating technology to meet industry needs.

Healthcare Will Thrive in the Metaverse

Technological developments give a glimpse of the future possibilities of healthcare—and the next big application environment is within the metaverse. As virtual worlds develop, so will the applications of different goods and services that will help address various health needs.

For example, XRHealth is a healthcare/metaverse startup that provides a VR experience transforming how we think about physical therapy. Users put on a headset to a virtual space where they can perform physical tasks using handheld devices, enabling transformative care that does not require visiting an actual medical office. 

Physical therapy exercises can become mundane, staring at the same space. But with VR, patients can do exciting activities like playing a game involving slicing balloons in front of them. By performing these motions, patients provide valuable information to a system that records every subtle movement and reports this back to the therapist. That way, healthcare professionals can track progress, make adjustments, or plan future interventions more accurately.

A Better Healthcare Platform for Smarter Lifestyles

Artificial intellegence in healthcare is quickly producing exciting results—soon, there will be the potential to build a medical assistant capable of scouring the internet for reliable information about any question one might have regarding their health. The future includes robot-assisted surgeries, the management of data and fraud detection.

Recent advancements have made it easier than ever to marry health, wellness and technology concepts. Fitness wearables and related apps, diagnostics tools, and even at-home patient care are all shaping and encouraging further digital collaboration and services in the industry. Consumers are also more open to products or programs that help them take care of themselves, as McKinsey reports the U.S. wellness market continues to see growth. 

For example, a digital solution called Mindset Medical uses face-scanning technology to look for any anomalies in your system, and the software can be downloaded to devices such as TVs, tablets, or phones. Imagine how useful it could have been looking into your phone camera and instantly knowing if you had COVID-19?

Digital Twinning Is the Future

A digital twin is a virtual representation of something inherently real—whether the human brain, a city, a car or your favorite football stadium—digital twins are gamechangers in all industries. Digital twinning in healthcare is a technique that consists of uploading all of your body’s data to the internet and then testing treatments on your virtual self before performing them on your physical body, affording doctors and patients the ability to predict outcomes before taking action. 

As startups and large corporations continue to innovate the health and wellness industry, the hope is all can work together for an accelerated path to more accessible healthcare. With the agility of the startup and the network and resources of a corporation, partnerships between the two can fast track the next chapter of technological development to better serve our people, our communities, and the planet.

About Joshua: Joshua Di Frances is the Head of Incubation at LG NOVA, the LG Electronics North America Innovation Center, whose mission is to build, nurture and grow innovations, such as Digital Healthcare, that impact the future.  Based in Santa Clara, Calif., LG NOVA is a team focused on bringing innovation from the outside to global leader LG Electronics Inc. Learn more about LG NOVA at www.lgnova.com.   

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