Health Care Trend: Digital Health in the World of COVID-19

Digital health solution apps benefit consumers and providers, and in the case of COVID-19 help uphold social distancing guidelines, but at the rate that new solutions hit the market, navigating this landscape can be overwhelming for plan sponsors. (Estimated reading time: ~3 mins.)
Digital Health Trends

In the wake of COVID-19, many plans have turned to digital health and wellness apps and technology to help manage or improve member health. While the digital health and therapeutics landscape is filled with promise and potential, the pace of change poses many challenges to plans who are trying to navigate an increasingly complex and chaotic virtual world. 

Even, before COVID-19, this trend was particularly apparent in the health care space as the global digital health market was projected to reach $380 billion by 2024, growing 26 percent annually. This is why harnessing digital innovation for the benefit of members was a priority for plan sponsors in 2020 and beyond. From a sheer numbers perspective, there are more than 300,000 digital health applications on the market currently, with approximately 200 more being added each day.

Since the start of the pandemic, the demand for digital solutions is even further accentuated as social distancing guidelines are put in place, which dramatically disrupt the way that health care is delivered and received. First, we’re seeing a decrease in emergency room visits and in-person doctor’s visits. According to recent research, acute hospitalizations fell by as much as 35 percent for some conditions between February and March 2020, likely out of fear for contracting the virus. Second, we see an increase in demand for digital health tools as more consumers are made aware of and becoming comfortable with telehealth and other digital health channels due to the convenience and safety that they provide.

Here’s what else we’ve seen in the first half of 2020 to indicate the staying power and acceleration of digital health:

  • Higher-than-ever patient comfort engaging with digital health solutions, as evidenced by a nearly 10 percent increase in overall utilization of diabetes remote monitoring programs.
  • An increased demand for immediately accessible personalized care, like the specialized, one-on-one support of Express Scripts’ Therapeutic Resource Center® model.
  • Access to more patient data than ever before, due to the increased engagement with digital health and clinical care teams.
  • Patients are becoming more familiar with the benefits available to them, including digital health solutions.
  • Increased usage and adoption of digital tools and apps for pharmacy: Since mid-March when many communities began sheltering in place, Accredo saw a 47 percent increase in average refills per week via the Accredo mobile app and a 37 percent increase in average refills per week via online ordering at


There’s no doubt that this is a challenging time that calls for innovative solutions that can lower costs, improve care, and meet people where they need them — now and in the future. That’s why Express Scripts created the industry-first Digital Health Formulary, a platform that streamlines the process of reviewing digital health tools to ensure clinical effectiveness, usability, security and financial value.

In summary, patients’ demand for digital tools as a means to obtain the care they need where and when they want it is only increasing and is likely to stick around well past COVID-19. So, it’s important for plan sponsors to continue to evaluate the digital health options that they offer as they learn to navigate the space.

To learn more, download our guide that outlines five ways to shape a digital health strategy to help you navigate this evolving space.

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