The days when your doctor’s surgery was populated by rows of filing cabinets or card indexes is long gone. Healthcare, along with every other aspect of our daily lives is going digital.
Room for growth
The global electronic health records (EHR) market was valued at around US$30 billion in 2020. It's a market that's had an interesting history.
Despite the rapid digitalisation of the business world, as recently as 2019, EHR was in decline, with reduced sales and demand as the market contracted by 2.7%.
That has all changed and it is now expected to see considerable growth during the rest of the decade.
Reports differ over growth levels. But it is expected to be between a quarter and a third over the next seven years with compound annual growth rates (CAGRs) vary between 3.7% from today to 2028 and 6.4% between 2021 and 2027. That will place the value of the market at between just under US$40 billion and US$45 billion.
Going digital is a no brainer
There are a number of reasons for increased EHR adoption, but the watershed moment was the arrival of COVID-19. The need for rapid triage of patients while keeping people physically distant required a new way of working. That meant it had to be digital.
COVID-19 has increased the understanding and appreciation of the benefits of EHR, while rapidly increasing their adoption.
The main driver over the coming seven years will be government backed initiatives designed to deliver a more efficient, and preferably cheaper, healthcare system for all citizens.
All over the place
COVID-19 identified the gaps not only in healthcare provision, but inefficiencies in how it was managed. All too often, digital systems were isolated and required rapid integration.
Increased digitalisation will now be driven by projects to centralise and streamline healthcare administration. EHR will of course replace the unnecessary duplication and transportation of paper documents and X-rays between different hospital departments and medical institutions. But EHR offers so many more opportunities.
More, better managed digital records make it easier to interrogate the data held in the system. Just as big data generates useful data about customers for e-commerce giants, so it can for healthcare. EHR data will inform practitioners of trends among their patients, but also the wider population, assisting in more efficient deployment of resources.
The increasing use of wearable technology has allowed consumers to benefit from healthcare insurance savings in some markets. But it can also provide immediate clinical care for individual patients through the monitoring of general physical activity, or conditions such as type one and type two diabetes or cardiovascular illness.
Where healthcare meets e-commerce
That doesn’t mean EHR is a market where the streets are paved with gold. The growth EHR experienced in the decade from 2009, was limited by structural problems that still exist today.
In the US, the Obama administration pumped US$38 billion into the EHR market and made their use compulsory in certain situations. However, insufficient oversight and a lack of a mandate to ensure integration resulted in many inadequate systems that could not communicate.
However, work done by tech giants Apple and Amazon have provided consumers with access to their data from EHR systems. Google is also moving into this market with its Cloud Healthcare API that allows developers to analyse different types of EHR data.
These mega disruptors are just as likely to be responsible for the development of EHR as they have been in media and e-commerce. In the future, EHRs will need to satisfy the requirements of the patient just as much as the CTO of a healthcare trust.
The role of consumers
Healthcare is increasingly being ‘consumed’ through the intermediation of smartphones. Telemedicine has been seen to be a necessary evil for some during the pandemic, but also suits those who find it difficult to attend healthcare appointments in person.
Under COVID-19, telemedicine grew exponentially. In the US, as few as 18% of US consumers had used it before the pandemic. Yet, one app saw usage increase by more than 150% across the US and by 650% in just one state. This level of growth was replicated across other nations where it was adopted during the crisis.
This is just one of the many developments that have flourished under COVID-19 which are also focused on the individual patient.
If telemedicine is to become the new norm, so mental health – in terms of general wellness for consumers – has very clearly been marked as an essential component of good health. This has become particularly important in the workplace and is likely to become a major focus for corporates in the coming years.
Another growth area is lifestyle medicine, which encourages a more healthy lifestyle among families. This may rely on a combination of telemedicine, wearable tech and is often supported by health insurance carriers who offer incentives to those who improve their health and thereby reduce risk.
Show me the money
Despite the difficulties posed by the pandemic, the top 150 digital health startups raised more than US$20B in funding by the end of the third quarter. .
This included 12 unicorns (valued at more than US$1billion) across a range of digital health solutions, though dominated by telemedicine (31%), followed by remote monitoring and diagnostics (27%).
Much of this is dominated by the US market where by Q3 the US$9.5 billion total was ahead of the previous record of US$8.4 billion from 2018. That followed a slow start to the year, when investors were unsure how the pandemic would play out.
Since then, the Biden administration’s commitment to expanding the Veteran Association’s healthcare support has boosted the confidence already apparent from the successful delivery of a series of vaccinations to counter COVID-19.
Everyone is involved
Growth will not be contained to just the US market, however. Many developed markets across Europe and Asia are seeking to improve EHR capabilities. In some markets, this has been supported by partnerships between healthcare systems and insurance providers.
Others are seeking to keep up with the pace of change, rather than be left behind.
India, which is currently struggling to deal with huge COVID-19 infection rates, has embraced digitalisation. India alone expects to see more than 6% growth in EHR adoption.
Opportunities for all
All governments will be focused on rebuilding their economies as their societies move out of a period of lockdown. But they will remember how ill prepared their healthcare systems were for this once in a century event. As a result, they will have an eye on the future to ensure history does not repeat itself.
This provides a huge array of opportunities for businesses that can deliver efficiencies and value to healthcare practitioners through EHR. Particularly if those products and services meet the needs of their masters, the end consumer.