The Unsung Heroes of the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Innovators of Digital Health
When COVID-19 came knocking on America’s door back in March, it was the moment digital health had been waiting for. Now, with the UCSF Digital Health Awards 2020 right around the corner, it’s time to celebrate their Herculean effort to keep Americans safe.
COVID-19 at its worst has killed thousands of individuals, broken up families, impacted the education of millions of children, destroyed small businesses, and exacerbated class differences.
In the midst of this, innovators at both large and small digital health companies stepped up to the many challenges that the pandemic presented — misinformation, the danger of in-person doctor’s appointments, slow testing, and even slower results, and safely returning to work — among many others.
Companies either pivoted their products entirely to combat COVID, tweaked certain aspects of their preexisting solutions, or simply saw the pandemic as a new use-case of a perfectly applicable, tried, and tested product.
These products were launched within weeks of the first lock-downs, displaying American ingenuity at its finest. Some of our semi-finalists included:
- GoodRx launched a COVID-19 resource hub in March to demystify the vast amount of information on COVID-19 for Americans with articles by accredited research organizations and media outlets
- Dr.OnDemand launched the first telehealth COVID assessment tools to triage and treat patients at a high risk, now used approximately 200,000 times
- Color offered fast, accurate, and accessible COVID-19 testing after realizing that their expertise in large-scale gene testing & analysis could be used in mass COVID-testing
- ConsejoSano used culturally curated member cohorts to help patients navigate the healthcare system, sharing the critical, life-saving information about COVID in over 20 languages over millions of messages
- Conversa reduced the burden of high call center volume of millions of concerned patients and enabled risk-free employee check-ins that recognized a patient’s text input and guide them to necessary COVID-19 resources
- Mammoth Biosciences used the world’s first CRISPR-based disease detection program to search and identify any disease through DNA or RNA to offer high accuracy COVID detection
- Big Health launched a no-cost Community Access Initiative in March to offer mental health support accessible via app and web with a 70% recovery rate
In all, COVID-19 forced the rapid adoption of digital health technologies, fast-forwarding healthcare into at least the late 2020s. 50% of digital health business plans have been able to achieve three years of progress in one year, simply because patients had to be willing to interact with computers and remote diagnostic devices to safely receive care.
At UCSF Health Hub and other academic institutions across the country, we’ve scoured for solutions that will save the American healthcare system from itself. The reality of the matter is that no one solution alone could overturn decades of inefficiencies. With healthcare eating up 18% of the country’s GDP, we had a severe demand for more accurate, productive, affordable, and accessible care.
COVID-19 was eye-opening. It was the forcing agent the country needed to jolt us into realizing we were operating years behind current technological solutions. Digital health companies flooded in to fill the gaps in healthcare that COVID had caused in its trail of destruction. At UCSF, we even ran our UCSF Volunteer Patriots Program ( Medium post) that matched 250 companies with experts to speed their cures to market. Many of us doing, whatever it took.
Happy to say that amidst it all, America is left with a more well-rounded healthcare system that prevents administrative waste, allows entire communities better access to healthcare, and most importantly raises the bar for the quality of care Americans receive. This is a call for celebration — a celebration to award the digital health innovators that have been at the front lines of the pandemic.
At the 2nd Annual UCSF Digital Health Awards, we aim to do just that. 750+ digital health companies applied all throughout summer for winning the awards in 12 categories, ranging from Patient Cost Savings to New Application of AI, to determine who’s the best of the best in digital health. After our semi-finals last week only 35 companies are left with 12 in the COVID Patriots category alone.
In addition to the solutions mentioned above, Eko, Ejenta, Bluedot, 1Health.io, Ascella Bioystems, Datos, Qventus, Gyant, Collective Health, Elemeno, Glooko, Careteam, Luma Health, CareAngel, Scanwell, Caremerge, and Blue Health Intelligence have all been awarded as quarterfinalists for their impact in saving lives and maintaining a high quality of health in a pandemic.
On September 23rd at 6 PM PT, we will be live streaming the winners of the UCSF Digital Health Awards in one action-packed virtual event celebrating American innovation in healthcare. Let’s be real, we all need an excuse to smile during this incredibly hard year. You can attend for free, find out more about the most innovative and validated healthcare solutions in the market today, and understand more about the frontline of COVID-19 from our distinguished speaker, the “Digital Doctor” himself, Dr. Bob Wachter. Sign up today here. Last year 500 crowded the UCSF SF Mission Bay campus to celebrate our winners in person. This year, we expect to attract 10,000 viewers online — celebrating those that are changing the future of healthcare.
All of us are involved in healthcare because we want to make a difference. We want to help people live their best lives, free of worry. I don’t believe I have ever met a person in digital health who was in it for the money.
From my many years working with the digital health community, I’ve learned that we are supportive, collaborative, and kind. An event like this to celebrate the accomplishment of companies who are actively saving lives is rare. I’m honored to be an Executive Producer for the UCSF Digital Health Awards.
Once again, bravo to all the semi-finalists! I look forward to seeing you online on September 23rd at 6 PM PT for our Grand Finale!…….