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The momentum of digital healthcare

Several economic sectors are going to change massively post Covid-19, but healthcare is probably the market that will face the biggest transformation in the delivery of its service.

Covid-19 is making everyone rethink ways in which healthcare is delivered, and accelerating the pace of change towards digital.

In the span of a few weeks, the NHS estimates suggest that digital or phone consultations have gone from about 15 percent of primary care appointments to around 92 percent.

NHS Digital estimates that only 0.6% of GPs appointments were online in the year before Covid-19 arrived and just 13.5% of appointments were delivered by phone.

For some time now, the roadblocks to digitisation in healthcare have not been technological, but cultural. Those barriers are now falling and interests are aligning.

Many doctors perceived digitisation as a danger – a stalking horse for cost-cutting and a way of undermining their knowledge and professionalism. But with the need to contain the spread of Covid-19, doctors have turned from resisting telemedicine to becoming its staunchest supporters.

The rise of digital healthcare should be a boost for digital apps like Babylon and LIVI that were already collaborating with the NHS pre Covid-19.

But things are more complicated than what it seems for some of the some of the healthcare apps.

Babylon, the poster child of the digital healthcare- that has raised almost £1bn in venture capital funding-, has taken advantage of the government's job retention scheme to furlough 5% of its 2,000-strong workforce.

In a letter to staff, chief executive Ali Parsa said ideas his company had pioneered, such as the provision of healthcare on a mobile phone, had now become commonplace.

"There are many others who are doing the same thing and the current crisis has forced mass adoption and commoditisation of these technologies," he wrote.

Babylon no longer considered itself a telemedicine company, and was shifting its focus to AI.

It seems the disrupter (Babylon) has been disrupted, and digital healthcare companies need to innovate much more to play a bigger role in transforming healthcare delivery in the UK.

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