Is 2024 the Year of Digital Health?

The widespread adoption of telehealth, catalyzed by the pandemic, reshaped the way medical services are delivered across the U.S.

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In 2024, the landscape of healthcare underwent a profound transformation, marking it as the Year of Digital Health & Wellness. The widespread adoption of telehealth, catalyzed by the COVID-19 pandemic, reshaped the way medical services were delivered across the U.S. 

Prior to the pandemic, telehealth usage was relatively low, with approximately 5 million users nationwide. However, as the need for remote healthcare grew, so did the use of telehealth services, skyrocketing to over 53 million participants among Medicare recipients alone. Now, in 2024, 91% of health systems report having a telehealth program. 

It wasn't just the aging population that embraced telehealth. Even workers' compensation agencies, which previously provided minimal coverage for telehealth services, experienced a significant shift. Before COVID-19, only about 1.2% of all medical bills covered by workers' compensation included telehealth services. However, at the peak of the pandemic in April 2020, this figure surged to approximately 8.8%, indicating a rapid adaptation to remote healthcare solutions. Although the use of telehealth services has since stabilized, it still remains significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels, hovering around 4%.

This unprecedented surge in telehealth usage serves as a critical foundation for the transition toward Digital Health & Wellness. The widespread acceptance and integration of telehealth into mainstream healthcare delivery systems have demonstrated its efficacy and value in providing accessible, convenient and efficient medical care.

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In today's rapidly evolving healthcare landscape, Digital Health & Wellness has emerged as a pivotal force, encompassing the integration of information and technologies to manage health risk and promote wellness. This concept represents the convergence of healthcare and technology, aiming to enhance delivery methods and improve patient outcomes. Often used interchangeably with terms like telehealth, mHealth, eHealth and health informatics, Digital Health & Wellness has gained prominence, particularly in the wake of the pandemic.

The pandemic highlighted the necessity for healthtech solutions and the convenience of receiving medical care from the comfort of one's home. This shift in patient preferences, coupled with advancements in technology, has paved the way for a transformation in healthcare delivery. With the global healthcare market projected to grow by 5.4% annually from 2022 to 2028, there exists a vast and expanding market for Digital Health & Wellness solutions. 

Even the regulatory environment has become more favorable, with the Biden administration prioritizing healthcare innovation as a cornerstone of its agenda.

One focus will be on musculoskeletal conditions (MSK).  MSK conditions, which encompass a range of disorders affecting the muscles, bones, joints and connective tissues, represent a significant portion of healthcare expenditures in the U.S. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), MSK conditions rank among the leading causes of disability and chronic pain in the U.S. 

The scope of the issue is staggering, with an estimated 1.71 billion people worldwide grappling with musculoskeletal conditions, and a notable 30% of individuals over the age of 45 affected by some form of MSK issue. These conditions often coexist with other health-related issues, compounding their impact on overall wellbeing. MSK conditions account for billions of dollars in healthcare spending annually, underscoring the urgency of effective intervention strategies.

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The surge in virtual wellness tools, particularly in the domain of digital physical therapy, offers a promising avenue for addressing MSK concerns. These innovative solutions leverage technology to deliver accessible, personalized and effective care to individuals managing MSK conditions. By providing remote access to expert guidance, monitoring and rehabilitation exercises, digital physical therapy platforms empower patients to take an active role in managing their MSK health. 

The challenge lies in bridging the gap between traditional healthcare models and innovative digital solutions, ensuring that individuals receive comprehensive and integrated care for their MSK wellness needs. This necessitates a holistic approach that encompasses not only symptom management but also prevention, early intervention and continuing support. 

As we navigate the complexities of MSK wellness in the digital age, collaboration between healthcare providers, technology developers, insurers and policymakers is paramount. By harnessing the power of advanced technology, data analytics and patient-centered design, we are paving the way for a future where MSK conditions are effectively managed, healthcare costs are reduced and population health is optimized.

In the rapidly evolving landscape of Digital Health & Wellness, insurance companies are adapting to meet the changing needs of consumers. Recognizing the importance of preventive care and holistic wellbeing, insurance providers have introduced in 2024 additional reimbursement codes and expanded coverage for annual wellness visits. In a significant development, Medicare Advantage programs are now extending coverage to include Digital Health & Wellness memberships, acknowledging the vital role of technology in enhancing healthcare access and outcomes. 

Also, 2024 marks a turning point in the approach to employee wellness, with a sharp uptick in workplace programs focusing on digital solutions. From large corporations to small businesses, there's a concerted effort to prioritize employee health and overall wellbeing. 

At the forefront of this transformation are technological innovations that empower individuals to take control of their health. Digital health platforms, wearable devices and AI-driven solutions are revolutionizing wellness programs, offering personalized insights and actionable data to users. By shifting the focus from reactive healthcare to preventive measures, these technologies are reshaping the healthcare landscape and driving a fundamental change in how we approach wellbeing.

These developments underscore the immense potential for Digital Health & Wellness to revolutionize healthcare delivery and improve patient outcomes. By leveraging new technologies and focusing on wellness, the healthcare industry has a unique opportunity to address longstanding challenges and usher in a new era of patient-centric care. 

As we look to 2024 and beyond, Digital Health & Wellness is poised to play a central role in shaping the future of healthcare, driving innovation and improving access to quality care for all. So, yes, all indications mark 2024 to be the innovative year for health.

MaryRose Reaston

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MaryRose Reaston

Dr. MaryRose Reaston is the co-founder and CEO of Segen-Health. 

She is an expert in diagnostic techniques for the evaluation and management of soft tissue injuries.


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