Pharmaceutical Technology lists the top five terms tweeted on digital pharma in October 2020, based on data from GlobalData’s Influencer Platform. The top tweeted terms are the trending industry discussions happening on Twitter by key individuals (influencers) as tracked by the platform.

1. Digital Health – 307 mentions

Digital health applications, digital health as a disruptive approach to healthcare delivery and the launch of new digital health hubs were popularly discussed in October. According to an article shared by John Nosta, a technology futurist, IBM Watson Health launched a blockchain-powered digital app named IBM Digital Health Pass that allows users to verify their health without sharing it with others. The tool was developed to ease individuals’ return to normal life, while safeguarding their health and privacy.

Digital health also trended in discussions of the technology being a disruptive and transformation approach to deliver healthcare, according to an article shared by Marie Ennis-O’Connor, a healthcare communications strategist. Patient values and preferences should be the centre of all efforts rather than just technology, the article noted. Digital solutions, therefore, should be designed keeping in mind some patient engagement principles such as their goals, desires, needs, and abilities.

In other discussions, Gary Monk, an innovation consultant, shared an article on Novartis’ launch of a new digital health innovation hub in Canada. The Canadian Biome Digital Innovation Hub will help scale digital solutions for healthcare and will be based out of the artificial intelligence (AI) research institute, Mila. Canada has invested $125m in a Pan-Canadian AI strategy to increase the number of graduates and researchers, partner with AI institutes and contribute to the advancement of AI technology.

2. Telehealth – 102 mentions

The rise of telehealth services and a coalition wanting to make telehealth a permanent option were popularly discussed during the month. According to an article shared by Kevin Pho, a physician, the Covid-19 pandemic has triggered a massive shift in healthcare delivery causing non-urgent care to shift towards telehealth services when possible to reduce the burden on clinicians and providers. Both patients and providers have adopted telehealth, a system that is likely to remain permanent although paperwork and workflow challenges remain a problem with healthcare services.

Telehealth also trended with regards to the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) adding 11 new telehealth services, which will be reimbursed by Medicare, according to an article shared by Heather Staples Lavoie, the president and CEO of Geneia, a healthcare and analytics solutions provider. The agency has been pushing to increase the use of telehealth services to eliminate reimbursement barriers. As per the expansion, the 11 telehealth services will be reimbursed during the pandemic.

Among other discussions, Vince Kuraitis, a healthcare consultant, shared an article on the Coalition to Protect Our Telehealth wanting telehealth to remain even after the Covid-19 pandemic subsides in Illinois. The coalition is asking insurance providers and others to treat telehealth like any other in-patient and in-person service so that patients are able to get maximum coverage from all plans such as Medicare and Medicaid, the article highlighted.

3. Artificial Intelligence – 87 mentions

The impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on surgery and how it continues to affect cardiology with improved capabilities were popularly discussed in October. According to an article shared by Rafael Grossmann, a healthcare futurist, AI-enabled surgeries can help deal with the problem of shortage of doctors, improve training methods and drive innovation in healthcare.

Proximie, a London-based firm, for instance, enables surgeons to collaborate through a web-based platform that employs technologies such as augmented reality, audio and video, the article noted. The firm was also awarded a multi-year contract by the UK Ministry of Defence in 2019, to give access to its AR platform to frontline workers and the Royal Navy ships across the world.

Other discussions related to AI was shared by David E Albert, a physician, on how AI continues to impact cardiology making the diagnosis of heart conditions such as atrial fibrillation much easier. According to experts, the technology is being tested for its efficacy in disease management. AI has also facilitated wearable technology to identify heart-related anomalies. For instance, the Apple Heart study has helped in establishing that atrial fibrillation can be identified using smartwatches, the article noted.

4. Covid-19 – 55 mentions

The increasing usage of health apps since the Covid-19 pandemic and the existence of digital divide despite technological innovations were popularly discussed in October. According to an article shared by Gary Monk, an innovation consultant, approximately 26% of the UK public prefer to use a health app rather than visit a doctor or a general practitioner. In addition, the uptake of health apps surged by 37% since the pandemic. The survey conducted by Quin, a digital health start-up, also revealed that more than half the public preferred a diagnosis by the app, and a quarter of them believe in apps since the virus outbreak.

Among other discussions, Ken Congdon, a healthcare solution marketing team lead, shared an article on how despite technological innovations, the pandemic has still disproportionately impacted the vulnerable sections of the society who do not have access to digital technologies.

Experts believe that the digital divide has existed since long and has been used to describe how weaker sections are unable to access or adopt modern digital concepts such as broadband connections to avail telehealth services. In this context, part of the challenge could have been the rapid rollout of technological tools to meet the Covid-19 public health emergency, the article noted.

5. Innovation – 51 mentions

Top pharmaceutical and biotech companies employing innovation and the rise in health innovation funding were popularly discussed in the month. According to an article shared by Lionel Reichardt, a health and digital expert, a study is being conducted across the world to evaluate the best pharmaceutical and biotech companies to work with on the basis of various criteria such as innovation, social responsibility, respect, employee loyalty, and values.

Innovation was also mentioned in the context of health innovation funding rising to $6.6bn in the third quarter of 2020, according to an article shared by Ville Koiste, a digital health expert. This has been the highest funded quarter for the market, which was $1.6bn higher than the next most funded quarter, Q1, the article noted.

Steven Krein, the CEO of StartUp Health, stated that the third quarter was critical for digital health, as health innovation had become a top priority for every company, country, and person. A report StartUp Health also concluded that the total funding for health innovation was $16bn in 2020, more than any previous year.