- Telemedicine, robotic and streaming surgery, augmented reality, patient care from the pharmacy, big data and machine learning, the big health trends of 2021, beyond COVID-19.
Barcelona, January 15, 2020 – 2020 has been a year marked by the global pandemic of COVID 19, pushing the functioning and capacity of the healthcare system to the limit and forcing it to reinvent itself in record time. A record that has led to accelerate the transformation of this system, bringing it closer to the year 2025, a period in which experts estimate that the home will become the usual place for routine health care and monitoring, and in which 70% of Spaniards will have a videoconsultation. But that time has come, and it is here to stay. Top Doctors, an online platform for finding and contacting the best medical specialists in private healthcare, takes a look at the keys to research and technological development, as well as the trends and advances in healthcare that will mark 2021.
Telemedicine arrived in 2018 in Spain to facilitate medical care, improving patients’ quality of life and making it easier for doctors to apply treatments. However, until now, its progress was being slow, fundamentally because of trust barriers. But 2020 has established telemedicine as the essential tool to care for all patients, whether affected by COVID-19, chronic or with any other pathology. This technology allows for consultations, therapies, rehabilitation and check-ups, clinical sessions, medical meetings, document exchange and electronic prescriptions. “At Top Doctors alone during the peak of the pandemic there were almost 1,500 new doctors and centers activating the telemedicine service in just 3 weeks, and the number of medical consultations via telemedicine multiplied by 60. When in April face-to-face medical appointments fell by more than 70% compared to the first two months of the year, telemedicine services soared, reaching 44,000 online consultations. Our forecast for 2021 is that the number of consultations through the teleconsultation system will continue to rise, as a practice already internalized among patients,” explains Alberto E. Porciani, CEO and Founder of Top Doctors.
- Robotic and Streaming Surgical Surgery
Operating rooms have also required a technological boost, becoming smarter thanks to the implementation of technological devices. Robotic surgery helps doctors to perform minimally invasive surgeries through minimal incisions, and to operate with much more precise movements, which reduces the professional’s learning curve and reduces the intervention time and the rate of complications in selected patients. A current example is the Da Vinci Robot, equipped with several millimeter-precision arms that the surgeon can operate from the other side of the room, although he could do so from any other city or country. This platform is indicated for multiple surgical procedures and in Spain more than 8,300 interventions have been performed with this device this year, and it is expected that 10% more will be performed by 2021. Speaking of international referents in our country, Dr. Antonio De Lacy and his team are also referents in the field of robotic surgery applied to various pathologies, such as robotic surgery for cancer or obesity.
On the other hand, guided interventions via streaming allow the medical community to witness live operations and learn about interventions and state-of-the-art medical equipment from anywhere in the world. With this goal of democratizing medical education worldwide, Dr. Antonio De Lacy founded AIS Channel, the world’s leading medical education platform. Continuing in the field of remote tele-assistance (made possible by AIS Channel’s proprietary technology), Dr Antonio de Lacy performed the world’s first tele-assisted surgery via 5G.
- Patient assistance in pharmacy
During the period of confinement, the need to supply products and services to patients without them having to travel made pharmacists aware of the need to have an online store. In fact, according to data from Top Farma, those pharmacies that had this sales channel managed to multiply sales sevenfold in that period. But the work of pharmacies, and the support that technology can offer to this sector, goes beyond that. It is increasingly necessary for pharmacies to be more specialized and to provide healthcare value to patients. “Technology will help the pharmacy to capitalize on its great values, its capillarity and its health competencies. It is a great opportunity for pharmacies that will certainly change the healthcare ecosystem,” explains Xavier Mercadé, Managing Director of Spain at Top Farma.
- Big data and machine learning in healthcare
Technology generates a large amount of user and behavioral data that can improve the work of experts and the patient experience. Thanks to data analysis, the healthcare system can multiply its knowledge at different levels (clinical, social, administrative, care, hospital…) in order to make diagnosis and prevention more agile and simpler. At the same time, this information is essential for research, which is able to access and structure increasingly precise and personalized results, with millions of variables. For patients, this technology offers them the opportunity to find everything they need in their healthcare journey. Different studies estimate that in 2021, investment in AI applied to the ehealth sector will be around 6.6 billion dollars. The use of this technology will improve diagnostic results by up to 40% and reduce the cost of treatments by up to 50%.
- Augmented reality in ehealth
Augmented reality will be one of the technological areas in which investment in ehealth is expected to concentrate large amounts. According to data from the company Global Data, it is estimated that this market will have a compound annual growth in investment of 13% until 2030, when it will reach 28 million dollars.* Augmented reality, in addition to being useful in training and medical education, can also be used for image-guided treatment, neuropsychological conditions, visual impairment or rehabilitation, among others.
- Young consumers of personalized health insurance and private consultations
More and more young people are opting for private medical consultations, whether or not they have health insurance. But the truth is that this year there has also been a clear increase in the interest of this public in taking out private health insurance. The type of insurance that interests young people does not have the same characteristics as those that were traditionally demanded, with pay-as-you-go health services or packaged and personalized offers being the most sought-after options.
- The search for emotional health and self-esteem
The pandemic has also posed a challenge for the population on an emotional level, in which Top Doctors’ experts are detecting to a greater or lesser extent obsessive behaviors, phobias or temporary psychological disorders. It has also meant a readjustment in the way of living and in the chain of values. People have turned to meditation and mindfulness practices, as well as consultations with psychologists, psychiatrists or therapists to cope and develop a higher level of inner awareness as a path to individual well-being. And this is set to continue in 2021. “It is scientifically proven that we spend 80% of our time thinking negatively. And thinking has a direct impact on emotion. So this negativity will sooner or later lead to suffering from the disease of the 21st century, which is made up of stress, anxiety and sadness, and this will be reflected in consultations,” says Marina Bassas Vivó, a clinical psychologist and member of Top Doctors.
- Boom in medical and wellness tourism
Although this year the exceptional situation has caused health tourism to slow down, during 2019 there were more than 140,000 people who came to Spain for health reasons, which made an expenditure of 600
million euros, according to data from the Patronal del Turismo Sanitario. And the fact is that it is increasingly common for tourists to include health experiences in their trips to receive therapeutic, beauty or recovery treatments. It is also becoming more and more common for foreigners to demand Spanish experts. In fact, according to Top Doctors data, Dermatology, Gynecology and Traumatology are the most demanded medical specialties by foreign patients and tourists in Spain. And this is mainly thanks to the high quality of Spanish private medicine, to treatments that they do not have in their country or to not having so many waiting lists, among others.