The dawn of digital medicine

The dawn of digital medicine

The pandemic is ushering in the next trillion-dollar industry

IN JANUARY Stephen Klasko, chief executive of Jefferson Health, which runs hospitals in Philadelphia, chatted to a bank boss. The financier told him that 20 years ago health care and banking were the only industries yet to embrace the consumer and digital revolution. “Now”, Mr Klasko recalls him adding, “you are alone.”

The banker had a point. The McKinsey Global Institute, the in-house think-tank of the eponymous consultancy, reckons that when it comes to digitisation, health care has lagged behind not just banking but travel, retail, carmaking and even packaged goods. Some 70% of American hospitals still fax and post patient records. The CEO of a big hospital in Madrid reports virtually no electronic record-sharing across Spain’s regions when the first wave of covid-19 washed over the country this spring.

By exposing such digital deficiencies, the pandemic is at last spurring change. Confronted with shutdowns and chaos, doctors have embraced digital communication and analytics of the sort that has for years been common in other industries. Patients are growing more comfortable with remote and computer-assisted diagnosis and treatment. And enterprising firms, from health-app startups and hospitals to insurers, pharmacies and tech giants such as Amazon, Apple and Google, are scrambling to provide such services.