What does a COVID-19 future look like for the Digital-Health Market?

Last week we announced our partnership with Latitude IT, a specialist recruitment business that offer placement and talent search services to digital & IT professionals. Alison Evans and James Gildon, co-founders of Latitude IT, are passionate recruitment leaders we have known for many years, they are true experts in their field and share many of the same values and philosophies that underpin our way of working. Few industries are able to demonstrate the true impact innovation and technology has on our lives quite like the MedTech sector. The demand for digital transformation skills within the healthcare space is at an all time high, COVID-19 notwithstanding, the “digital health” market has experienced steady growth over the last few years, with the recent increase in utilisation of telehealth/telemedicine platforms (which I wrote about last week), virtual reality and other AI based solutions, the decision to merge the knowledge and experience from both the commercial healthcare & IT sectors is one that will further benefit our clients and candidates.

We are really excited about our partnership with Latitude IT and the digital health space, but what does the future hold for this relatively new market?

Digital health is in its infancy and covers a large scope of products and treatments. It can cover everything from wearable gadgets to ingestible sensors, from mobile health apps to artificial intelligence, from robotic carers to electronic records. There are already more than 800 million users of digital health services globally and the objectives of this industry are diverse and complicated: preventing disease, helping patients monitor and manage chronic conditions, lowering the cost of healthcare provision, and making medicine more tailored to individual needs.

All of the major tech companies with a consumer presence are looking to get more deeply involved with digital health, but they’re all taking interestingly different paths. Google has probably the most comprehensive strategy when it comes to this space, they have a stake in the health tracking wearables market whilst at the same time pumping some serious resource into its artificial intelligence for healthcare offering through it’s “deep mind” unit. In addition, Alphabet — Google’s parent company — also oversees Verily, its health sciences division. Up until very recently Verily had a significant stake in Verb Surgical robotics and a well documented, yet rather clandestine collaboration with Johnson & Johnson. The collaboration was designed to bring together J&J’s surgical division Ethicon’s capabilities in surgery and advanced instrumentation with the Alphabet company’s expertise in machine learning and data analytics to build robot-assisted interventions for use in open surgery, laparoscopic, percutaneous and endoluminal procedures. Certainly an exciting prospect and an example of how the world of “tech” and healthcare are converging. Apple’s strategy is far more focussed on the here and now, expanding the functionality of the Apple-Watch to make it more health focussed by including ECG and falls detection capabilities, whilst Amazon I believe is ramping up its efforts to remake how healthcare is delivered in the US after acquiring a medication delivery business. You would have to be a brave man to bet against anything Mr Bezos touches!

There’s a number of reasons why tech companies are targeting health in particular: it’s a huge industry and generally speaking, it’s recession proof. As COVID-19 sweeps around the world, we are starting to see countries exit from lockdown, others introducing more stringent lockdown measures and others relying on the resilience of their health and care systems to allow them to focus on protecting their economies and minimising job losses. Health systems are however having to adopt to this strange new world, and the old ways of working, the tried and tested “office visit” seem rather now somewhat outdated and already out of step with how things will be done moving forward. COVID-19 will change the world in many ways, not least the delivery of care and the methods in which that care is provided.

The reliance on medical technology will increase at a pace and scale we have not seen before, the effect COVID-19 is currently having on the digital health sector is unprecedented, with a marked acceleration in the adoption of technology across healthcare systems around the world. My belief is that many of these technologies are here to stay and this market will only increase in size, we will continue to see a spike in demand for unique skillsets that straddle both commercial healthcare & digital transformation. Already we are seeing medical device professionals in Australia move across from clinical environments like Orthopaedics & Structural heart, to digital health start-ups offering unique ways to reduce the cost burden associated with emergency patient care. We will continue to witness this trend develop now and into the future as more digital health companies are born and a greater number of unique job’s are created.

Whatever the world looks like post C-19, my prediction is our healthcare system will look different, largely in part to the focus on a new and emerging market; Digital Health.

Kim Jones


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