The future of healthcare, to paraphrase William Gibson, is already here—it’s just not evenly distributed yet. Here are a three things patients, physicians, and payers are telling us in our research.

1. Post-pandemic, a mix of in-person and remote care will be the new normal.

Virtual consultations soared in the U.S. amid the pandemic: As of summer 2020, 80% of physicians reported that they had conducted virtual consultations, up from 21% during spring 2020 and just 9% in 2019, according to DRG’s physician research. More than half planned to continue offering virtual consultations to their patients moving forward.

Patients appreciate the convenience factors, such as time saved and not needing transportation to the doctor’s office—particularly for functions such as routine checkups and prescription refills. However, we’ll still have to go to the doctor’s office for some things. As one U.S. dermatologist told us, “It’s very useful for follow-ups, medication management, or adjustments—but not as much for lesion evaluation.”

2. Data applications will make care provision better informed and less episodic.

Healthcare professionals will be supported in their work by algorithmically driven decision support tools and real-time information on patient health and disease progression. Already, 22% of U.S. physicians have used remote patient monitoring tools, and another 45% are interested in doing so. Pharmaceutical companies have an opportunity to differentiate their products by offering digital value-adds with data components, particularly smart medication devices such as Continuous Glucose Monitoring systems, smart inhalers, and health and wellness tracking apps (e.g., MyFitnessPal, mySugr). A burgeoning field of digital therapeutics apps, such as BlueStar and Happify, promise to help patients stay on track and manage their conditions—and payers are prepared to factor these resources in, provided proof they move the needle on outcomes.

Meanwhile, 46% of U.S. physicians say treatment algorithms helped them provide the best treatment for their patients, although just 15% have used a shared decision-making tool in their electronic health records (EHRs). It’s early days for these technologies yet, but EHRs were something of a novelty just 10 years ago.

3. HCPs, provider organizations, pharmas, and medtechs will take a more holistic and patient-centered approach to care.

In keeping with the shift from a fee-for-service model in the U.S. to a more value-driven one, healthcare stakeholders are beginning to look at the broader patient experience as a means of realizing better health outcomes. For example, gauging need for emotional or nutritional support and identifying unmet needs that may be hobbling provision of care (e.g., medication home deliveries or transportation to infusion centers). Underpinning this shift is a set of increasingly sophisticated tools for understanding the patient journey through social and real-world data. These and other inputs allow providers and life sciences companies to identify barriers to optimal care and address aspects of the patient experience previously invisible to them.

Digital technologies have already transformed healthcare—mostly for the better—and hold tremendous promise to bring patients, providers, and other healthcare stakeholders closer together, and to close the fissures in a fragmented and complex system of care.

  • Matthew Arnold

    Matthew Arnold is Principal Analyst at Decision Resources Group (DRG), a part of Clarivate. Matthew covered the pharmaceutical industry as a journalist for over a decade before joining DRG, where he has worked on the company’s studies of patient, physician, and payer multichannel behavior and preferences for the past 8 years.

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