Pandemic is Boom Time of Digital Health Companies
[Thursday, April 16, 2020]
The “Stay at Home” orders have created a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for information tech companies to build and test digital health tools that would live way beyond the pandemic. All those concerns for privacy and of digital health companies exploiting our personal health information for their financial gains have gone out the window while government, political and even public entities looking to find ways to track a person’s location, health and movement information, mostly outside the control or will of the given person. FDA was already pretty liberal with developers of digital health tools and applications, but negative publicity kept the digital health companies in check. With the pandemic that has changed. The pandemic is a special event. This is the time when contact tracking and quarantine tools are direly needed, along with virtual health care tools and information sharing. And these tools and practices are expected to change forever how personal health is managed. This creates a time for tech companies to try out previously hard-to-try products. Numerous products designed for contact tracing to find potential exposure risks involve collecting intrusive information about a person, which inadvertently infringe on privacy of the individual. It is true that in the times of pandemic individual privacy weighs less over the good of the population but once the pandemic is over, these tools can be used for all kinds of applications which could have uses additional to managing health events. Digital health tools that allow remote health monitoring, health care and management, and remote medical record management are indispensable tools in times when travel and gathering restrictions make it necessary to reduce physical visits to clinics. But these come with the price of sharing private health information and remote analytics with little involvement of the patients and their doctors. These are good times for digital health companies to show they potential and build goodwill with public. Digital tools have enabled us to keep working, stay in touch with our friends and family, have all relevant information readily available, and keep a near normal routine without having to venture out of the safety of our homes. It is not just the time of increased need and expectation, but an opportunity to earn respect. Let us hope that this not only turns out to be the time of immense valuation for digital health companies but also a time when we changed our perceptions about digital health tools and the companies that develop them.