Braeden Lichti: Digital Health Trends in 2020
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - DelhiScan -- 2020 was the largest funding year ever for digital health, primarily because COVID-19's social distancing requirements necessitated a shift to digital health via telemedicine.  According to Rock Health, the "stock market's sharp recovery and pandemic-initiated policy and regulation changes that have enabled large competitive moves and commercialization activities."  Looking ahead to the ensuing years, new entrants to digital health, such as major tech players Amazon, Google, and Apple, will continue to disrupt the standard care delivery model by developing novel digital health solutions.

2019 saw six major IPOs: Livongo (LVGO), Change Healthcare (CHNG), Health Catalyst (HCAT), Phreesia (PHR), Progyny (PGNY), and Peloton (PTON).  In late 2020, Livongo merged with Teledoc, in a deal that only took three months.  Teladoc paid $18.5 billion in cash and stock for Livongo, a company providing diabetes monitoring and remote monitoring.  The merger created, as Fierce Healthcare writes, a "health technology giant" just in time for the increased need for virtual health due to the pandemic. Teladoc's acquisition of Livongo is anticipated to bring revenue growth of 30% to 40% in the next few years.

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The digital health care space continues to evolve as tech companies and retailers partner with health care companies to fulfill consumer needs.  Amazon recently launched Amazon pharmacy, an online drugstore that allows patients to obtain prescriptions via the retail commerce website.  In 2019, digital health therapeutics company DarioHealth finalized a deal with Walmart to distribute its diabetes management system.  Dario Health (DRIO)'s Q3 2020 financial results represented a 9.3% increase in revenues since Q3 2019.  This growth stems from the scaling of U.S. commercial sales and marketing infrastructure, as well as agreements with companies such as Vitality Group and HMC Healthworks.

Two digital health trends in 2019 that continued this year are behavioral health and the adoption of digital health tools.

Behavioral health covers service areas from basic wellness, to treatment of disease, and to company platforms which offer different services.  For example, a variety of digital apps provide online therapy via telehealth sessions.  Therapists may have specific areas of expertise, such as anxiety, depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), addiction, and so on.  Because the pandemic has exacerbated mental health problems, digital behavioral health can be an easy way to gain access to mental health services at a time when it is most needed.

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Adoption of digital health tools has taken off during the COVID-19 pandemic as well, as people find themselves with less access to physical doctor's offices.  Research by RockHealth shows an especially big jump has occurred in the tracking of digital health, and people who track their digital health are also more likely to share their personal information with their physician.  Consumers most often track measures related to chronic conditions, such as diabetes, obesity, and hypertension.  These three conditions are also three of the most common predictors of severe COVID-19 in people who contract the disease, so managing these conditions and controlling them without access to high-risk areas such as hospitals has been essential.

The digital health industry will continue to grow into 2021.  Innovation in the diagnosis and management of other chronic conditions beyond diabetes, obesity, and hypertension are ripe for disruption and should draw attention.  Harvard Business Review suggests that behavioral phenotyping could be a way for digital health solutions to become more personalized and effective.  Such technology is already part of digital platforms not related to health, such as Amazon or Netflix's product recommendations.

Expedited growth and mergers & acquisitions (M&A) should be expected among companies developing novel digital diagnostics, remote patient monitoring, virtual continued care, and decentralized health data solutions for the other leading chronic diseases such as chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cardiovascular diseases.

Source: Braeden Lichti
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