The vast disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have brought a drastic change in how we maintain a healthy population. Healthcare is seeing a shift towards the virtual world, whether it is doctor-patient interaction, self-care, population monitoring, or disease and vaccine research.

Governments, health maintenance organizations and the private sector are all adapting to a post-corona reality where the patient is the center, the cloud is the medium, and the skies are the limit.


A Changed Relationship with Healthtech

The digital world has assumed a central role in our lives over the past decade, bringing the world into our screens, and the screens into our pockets. The healthcare system was not spared, with diagnosis and treatment progressing in giant leaps. Meanwhile, care delivery and patient management evolved in subtler ways , and to a large extent resisted the allure of digital advances. Our healthcare system was a “sickcare” system, where ill people come to a specialized facility to be checked and guided through a network of health services, one appointment at a time. Authorities have also been slow to implement the technology for properly tracking and analyzing diseases in the population.

Then the Coronavirus came along.

By all criteria, Covid-19 is considered the deadliest medical challenge since the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. The virus caught us unprepared, despite ubiquitous warning signs of such scenarios. This crisis has changed nearly all aspects of our lives, and in particular, our relationship to digital health – technology-based healthcare.


Bringing Healthcare to our Homes

The flooded hospitals, confined population, and disrupted supply chains required a digital bridge between the health system and the home. One Georgian doctor addressed the lack of access to medical advice for stay-at-home patients by setting up virtual clinics.

Named Project Atlas, Dr. Mrelashvili’s initiative links up a diverse medical staff and patients in a series of virtual, cloud-based chat rooms.

Besides teleconsultation, home-care had to take another unprecedented leap: home testing has helped the confined stay informed and healthy, prevented exposure to and spreading of the infection, and the medical centers from becoming overflooded.

The FDA has approved hundreds of COVID-19 tests, fifty of which have been authorized for home use: molecular diagnostics, antibody and antigen test, and collection kits, some even offering results within minutes without the need to send samples to a lab.


Monitoring via Apps and Data Collection

Beyond the individual needs of patients, the tremendous challenge in monitoring and tracking the confirmed or potential infections in the population has called for the use of mHealth, or mobile health. Mobile applications have made it possible for governments to monitor the spread of the disease, obtaining real-time information on its progression and mitigating its impact.

For example, South Korea controlled disease spread with the help of a mobile application that directed citizens to drive-through testing centers and monitored the movement of people who tested positive.

Besides monitoring and mitigating problems, digital health tech has been used for optimizing solutions. The successful vaccination campaign in Israel has provided Pfizer with vast epidemiological statistics to track the impact of the vaccine on the entire population.

This endeavor owes some of its success to the local Health Maintenance Organizations, to which almost every citizen belongs. These HMOs have been storing each citizen’s medical history, a priceless trove of medical data that is key to the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, enabling efficient monitoring of patients and data research.


Healthcare meets the Forefront of Science and Technology

Our fight against the pandemic has not only recruited familiar technologies, but also put to the test the developments at the forefront of innovation, with artificial intelligence prime among them.

From the very onset of the pandemic, Canadian startup BlueDot’s AI sounded the alarm on a small-scale outbreak in Wuhan, China. The algorithm sifted through countless reports, airline data, and indications of animal disease outbreaks to detect the concerning trend.

Another AI has proven its worth for care delivery: PyXy is a computerized auscultation device, providing expert lung and heart-checkup. It analyzes numerous physiological parameters, such as heart rate and body temperature, in order to diagnose COVID-19 and track its progress – and all this without any human assistance.

When talking about digital technology’s place in the pandemic, it is impossible to overlook the role of Big Tech.

While the pandemic has been disastrous for the global economy, the FAMAG stocks – Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, and Google – have soared, reaching an average growth of 44% since last year. The pandemic highlighted the enormous power and importance of the tech giants. Governments relied heavily on these few huge companies for vital technological infrastructure and the development of contact tracing apps. With their great power, the Big Five have also shown a measure of responsibility towards the public, fact-checking and keeping everyone informed and connected.


The Future of Healthcare

It is very likely that the healthcare trends accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic will only continue to evolve.

First, healthcare will become consumer-centered. Patients will digitally interact with the health system from anywhere, managing their own care outside of the doctor’s office and dictating the value and activity of health services. Such means might include patient portals, virtual care, telehealth, smart homes, and AI for targeted data analytics. With a shift of this magnitude, future hospitals will lose much of their functionality, transitioning from brick-and-mortar to a digital presence.

Tomorrow’s health approach will be about well-being and prevention rather than sickness treatment. The Corona crisis has revealed the power of digital monitoring and data collection: streams of health and non-health data will merge to create a multifaceted and highly personalized picture of every person’s well-being, detecting risks early on and thwarting off any potential illness.

MHealth will break the boundaries between patients, relying on data from other users to anticipate and devise health plans for every individual.


There were few moments in history when all of humanity was united by disaster. As we struggle against the virus, we should also remember to look at the bright side: we have proven our ability to work together, adapt and innovate. Besides, the current crisis is forcing a welcome change in our healthcare system and leaves us far more prepared for future challenges of the kind.