Healthcare has changed dramatically in the last two years. The pandemic forced us to consider, in a way we had not before, the adoption of emerging technology to offer relief for various health system pressures and make it easier to safely receive care from anywhere.
Telehealth is the most notable example; its utilization for office visits and outpatient care has stabilized since peaking in April 2020 (+78%), but remains 38% higher than the pre-COVID baseline. Meanwhile, a booming digital health market continues to see steady growth year over year, with funding in 2021 shattering 2020 records.
As we enter this new year, we find ourselves at a pivotal moment in healthcare history. Finally, people with chronic conditions are in the driver's seat—increasingly savvy consumers are demanding high-quality, easy-to-use solutions tailored to our unique preferences and dynamic health needs. We care about the greater good. And each of us holds the power to take proactive action for better health outside the confines of the traditional healthcare system.
With that in mind, here are four health industry trends I expect to see in 2022:
Trend #1: Person-centric solutions
The United States faces an ongoing pandemic and a mounting chronic condition crisis. As a result, American consumers will seek more control and personalization in health and wellness technology as we search for solutions that meet us where we are.
Many emerging solutions will continue replicating the reactive, symptom-focused healthcare system—designed with payers and providers in mind. However, a growing segment of consumer-facing platforms will prioritize empowering the individual, understanding that doing so can minimize the impact of expensive chronic conditions.
At One Drop, we call our approach precision health. Precision health combines real-time data, predictive insights, and on-demand telehealth to deliver a continuous, dynamic, hyper-personalized care experience. It simplifies decision-making and makes it easier to practice self-care behaviors that benefit our physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Trend #2: Higher standards for wearable health technology
Demand for wearable health technology will continue to heighten. Deloitte Global predicts 320 million consumer health and wellness wearable devices will ship worldwide in 2022, a figure expected to grow exponentially as innovative new offerings hit the market.
The success of any continuous health sensing technology will depend on an ability to spark interest from consumers and establish trust with healthcare experts. Both accomplishments require wearables to meet specific standards, including:
While consumer spending is expected to remain strong in 2022, the cost of health technologies will continue to be a barrier to accessing care for those on the lower end of the socio-economic ladder, where the prevalence of chronic health conditions and compounding effects are heavily concentrated. Therefore, out-of-pocket costs and insurance coverage will remain key considerations for continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) and consumer wearables.
For any product to be successful, it has to be useful, and people need to want it. Design decisions impact functionality and engagement with a product, but aesthetics pull us in before that and can inspire us to try something new based on visual appeal alone.
Until 2017, every glucose meter on the market looked like a garage door opener. That changed when we launched our flagship medical device, the One Drop glucose meter kit (FKA One Drop | Chrome). The sleek, modern design addressed an emotional component of diabetes by allowing me and others to check our blood sugars using a meter that looked more like a high-tech Apple product than an antiquated medical device.
Aesthetics will remain an essential part of creating a positive experience with continuous glucose monitors and other wearable health technology. If it's on our person, it needs to look good.
Data Integration and Security
Biosensors and consumer wearables gather vast amounts of health information, requiring companies to take responsibility for how they use our personal information and comply with certain obligations and requirements. In addition, promising wearable technologies will offer multi-condition support by measuring more than one biometric or analyte or integrating with other data sources to provide a broader context. For example, an optimal CGM experience will relay continuous glucose information in the context of other relevant health data, e.g., medications, physical activity, blood pressure.
Expect an uptick in companies seeking FDA clearance to market their health technologies (e.g., fitness trackers) as medical devices. As the market becomes increasingly saturated with wearables, FDA approval will be an important differentiating factor for consumers and payers alike.
Trend #3: Tackling burnout with behavioral data science
The Great Resignation is not slowing down. Millions of Americans have quit their jobs or exited the workforce entirely, citing increased fatigue and burnout among the top reasons. Anyone managing a chronic condition (six in 10 U.S. adults) is at risk of treatment-related burnout, which can negatively affect our health and job performance.
The intersection of behavioral science and data science—behavioral data science—will strengthen AI-based digital health tools capable of counteracting treatment-related burnout and evolving with individuals' dynamic health needs.
While accurate health predictions shift the focus upstream, personalized recommendations simplify decision-making to lessen the cognitive burden of chronic condition management. Coaching services and digital health technologies can also provide positive reinforcement that keeps people motivated to stay healthy.
Trend #4: TechQuity: Leveraging technology to advance health equity
The design, development, and implementation of digital health will become central to the advancement of health equity. Without a commitment to TechQuity, systemic racism and biases that plague traditional healthcare will continue to appear in emerging technologies. Companies must seize opportunities to invest in communities and leadership to strengthen the foundation for health equity—taking an honest look at data collection, research practices, language use, and other accessibility considerations.What other trends will drive digital health in 2022? Tweet us @onedroptoday and @jeffdachis.