For all its ills, COVID-19 has supercharged consumerism in America’s healthcare system, providing tantalizing opportunities for companies interested in reducing health care costs and increasing access to quality medical care .
Speaking recently to CB Insights Consumers can look forward to better access and quality of health care, in addition to lowering costs, courtesy of artificial intelligence driven by the coronavirus, said Deepa Varadarajan, a senior managing analyst at the Future of Health conference, a New York City-based research and analytics firm.
More than 170 startups are running “anytime, anywhere care,” Varadarajan said, noting that he expects this trend to continue. In addition to providing a growth industry for those working to advance AI, improving access and reducing the cost of care could make the lives of time-crunched workers more convenient—especially if tech doctors. Cut down on the time it takes to see or get a test done.
Here are five trends that are affecting healthcare, shared by CB Insights:
1. Bridging the Gap Between Virtual and Personal Care
Telehealth visits are lauded for their convenience, but there is a major limitation with virtual visits when it comes to manual exams. For obvious reasons, a doctor can’t virtually perform a physical exam that limits a full evaluation of the patient—for now, at least.
Enter the Report Monitoring Tool. Digital health company Echo offers an AI-powered stethoscope with a hand-held electrocardiogram, a test that evaluates a person’s heart health. For example, a patient can live stream their heart and lung sounds to their doctor during a virtual visit.
Together, the devices, which have been spreading following the pandemic, proved to be an increased need for virtual care, bringing the medical field closer to fully remote investigations that complement individual visits.
2. Expanding Lab Test Accessibility to Patients
The pandemic is normalizing rapid testing of COVID-19 at home, and this may lead to other home diagnostic tests. Remote clinical testing company Health.io uses computer vision, artificial intelligence, and colorimetric analysis to allow patients to perform an at-home urinary tract infection test or an annual urine test. Varadarajan expects artificial intelligence to gradually eliminate third-party laboratories, at least for some types of tests.
3. Reducing the Cost of Radiology
Artificial intelligence is not only speeding up radiology, but it is also reducing the costs associated with expensive scans and other imaging. It is thanks to the use of AI-assisted computerized tomography (CT) scans that have grown in popularity for the diagnosis of COVID-induced pneumonia.
But seeing the next wave of artificial intelligence shows that AI will go beyond diagnostics to improve the patient experience, Varadarajan says. This could translate to accelerated magnetic logic imaging (MRI). In collaboration with the New York School of Medicine, Facebook is working to improve MRI and aims to create new ways to speed up the scanning process. Varadarajan explains that the hour-long journey can drop to just 15 minutes. And reducing the patient’s time spent in radiation-emitting imaging equipment, such as with X-rays, can reduce the risk dramatically.
4. Drawing Computer Vision
Another unintended benefit of the pandemic: Computer vision is making inroads into specialized care. With computer vision, which is a form of AI where computers learn to recognize and interpret visuals, fields including physical therapy, where patients rely almost exclusively on the direction of a physical therapist, are now able to create virtual connections. See promise.
But as long as a patient is equipped with a smartphone camera, they can now receive care almost anywhere. Kaia Health, a digital therapeutic company in the musculoskeletal space based in both New York City and Munich, is using computer vision for motion and posture tracking to provide patients with real-time feedback on their exercises. And Austin, Texas-based Dental Monitoring is providing dentists and orthodontists with AI-powered technology that the company claims can reduce the need or frequency of in-person follow-up.
5. Deployment of Passive Monitoring Technology
Apple Watches and Fitbits are some of the more classic examples of wearables, but the evolving wearables space is crowded. It can be overwhelming for consumers to have too many choices when it comes to keeping track of different devices, charging them, and monitoring the different applications used by their devices.
But AI passive monitoring technology could disrupt the wearable space by bringing technology that doesn’t require patients to wear a device around the clock. When Google forayed into sleep and wellness tracking with its smartphone device, its mantra was: “Nothing to wear or remember to charge.”
A new approach to monitoring patients is using a contactless in-home monitoring system, which can track sleep movements and respiration with the help of a sensor.
“Big tech and startups are moving into passive monitoring here and as this technology advances, we will move towards more proactive interventions – particularly in senior and acute care settings,” says Varadarajan.