While telemedicine is growing in times of Covid-19, the healthcare industry isn’t immune to the recession. The global pandemic has reduced inpatient visits by almost a third, has insurance providers knocking at Congress’s door, and plummeted the FTSE All Share by about 20 per cent. But what sounds like a bad diagnosis is actually a ripe opportunity to cure the healthcare industry’s chronic resistance to digital medicine and healthcare e-commerce.
It’s a rare opportunity too. Recessions have fostered some of the most impactful businesses in history – GE, HP and Disney among them – but the healthcare industry hasn’t wavered enough since the Great Depression, which we can thank for bringing us health insurance, to pose an opening for real disruption.
While healthcare isn’t entirely recession-proof, it’s much more resilient than other industries in the face of economic uncertainty. The industry’s unemployment rate was affected little to none during the Great Recession and has since flourished.
Covid-19 has shaken healthcare a bit harder than past recessions due to a drastic shift in consumer and patient behaviour as the world transitioned to almost global stay-at-home orders.
A variety of data sources reveal the healthcare categories that are ripe for innovation.
With Covid-19, the world had no choice but to get more comfortable with visiting the doctor from their home, with data showing a 12 per cent increase in telemedicine visits since Covid-19. In fact, 31 per cent of healthcare IT investment volume post-Covid-19 was within the telemedicine sector, up from an average of 14 per cent.
This increase correlates with a 68 per cent increase in page views across publisher sites in the US related to telemedicine.
Looking deeper into the data, we see that it’s not only remote care that people are interested in, but rather tackling telemedicine through voice technology.
An analysis of over 742,000 page views from readers interested in healthcare topics revealed the strongest parallel interest in voice technology, namely Alexa and the Amazon Echo.
We quantify a correlated interest between topics by ‘scoring’ how likely a healthcare reader is to read another article on another subject. A score of one indicates they’re just as likely to read something as any other user. A score of two means they’re twice as likely. Here, healthcare readers are almost seven times as likely to read articles about voice technologies from Amazon and Apple than the average reader.
While some organisations have jumped on the Alexa bandwagon, Alexa’s HIPAA compliant healthcare skills are only a year old, and less than 2,000 skills exist.
Meanwhile, consumers are interacting with voice technology more frequently. According to eMarketer, 65 per cent of US internet consumers have asked Alexa about an ailment, disease or health condition.
Those healthcare startups that can pave the road to voice-automated healthcare services will tap into a less saturated and quickly growing facet of healthcare.
Video Games To Soothe Anxiety
People everywhere are feeling more anxious and Healthline reports this increase in anxiety is directly related to Covid-19. Three in five Americans reported that they fear they’ll contract the virus, according to YouGov’s Covid-19 tracker conducted between 13-20 April.
Consumers aren’t just feeling more anxious, they’re looking for solutions. Google trends showed a 156 per cent increase in searches for the term “managing anxiety” at the peak of global lockdowns, which has since levelled out to a roughly 12 per cent increase overall.
Data from US publisher sites shows almost nonexistent interest in the topic before Covid-19 was declared a pandemic. Afterwards, page views increased drastically, totalling to over 15 million page views in 90 days.
It may seem obvious that the world is getting more anxious. What’s less obvious is exactly how they’re looking to deal with that anxiety.
Our correlation analysis also showed a heightened interest in gaming amongst healthcare readers, with a specific focus on video games and online play.
There is some evidence that in serious cases, gaming can increase anxiety, but for most, playing video games is a healthy way to relieve stress.
Some video games developers are creating games with the goal of relief from depression and anxiety in mind.
The most successful will be those that leverage partnerships with healthcare providers and professionals for real, tangible impact.
Healthcare is poised for disruption in this recession
Before Covid-19, it may have taken us years to ask Alexa for a diagnosis, or to play a game to find remedy for anxiety, but with a global pandemic as a big part of our lives for the past five months, our behaviour has been forced to change. The healthcare industry is poised for disruption in more ways than one, posing multiple business opportunities all around the world. This is just the beginning.
The Jetsons’ HealthNation might be a lot closer than we think – and Covid-19 is the catalyst. This iconic cartoon painted a picture of telemedicine preventing a mischievous child from skipping school, but the future it portrays just got a lot closer as society grapples with living amongst a global pandemic.
Adam Singolda is a non-executive co-founder, investor and board member of K-Health