If there's one constant in life it's change. The health and wellness space has experienced rapid growth and a big part of that can be attributed to the pandemic. After almost two years of being remote there are some habits we’ve picked up along the way that are likely to stay. Up next are the biggest trends we foresee for 2022.

As a result of physical distancing, virtual care has seen a major increase throughout the last two years, according to a July 2021 McKinsey & Company report the market could reach $250 billion. The use of telehealth has reached levels 38 times higher than before the pandemic. We don’t expect it to overshadow in-person care but telehealth is undoubtedly here to stay, most likely as a hybrid model. There are many instances where virtual video consultations are not only possible but easier and less time consuming. Patients can describe their reason for consultation to a doctor who later assesses the need for an in-person consultation or scheduling relevant tests. For common conditions such as allergies or the flu patients can be issued a prescription without the need for an in person visit. However there are instances such as physical examinations or where tests need to be performed and that’s when in-person care will remain as usual. This hybrid model will save time for patients and physicians alike, making the process of scheduling appointments or doing follow-ups more efficient and convenient for everyone.

Included in this is the rise of teletherapy. As more people start to focus on their mental health and also value the convenience of telehealth we’re going to see a rise in teletherapy software to help therapists and patients schedule appointments and hold virtual sessions.

Even as some app categories return to pre pandemic levels, telehealth has experienced steady growth. This continued success seems to indicate that it might not be easily displaced even as in-person doctor visits become possible again. In Q1 of 2021 downloads for telehealth apps climbed 33%.

Adoption of IoT and wearables
If we must pinpoint something that facilitated the rise of telehealth it’s the presence of remote monitoring wearables and devices. New generation wearable technologies include stress, heart rate, and blood oxygen detectors, which enable healthcare professionals to accurately monitor vital signs. They can monitor their patients by having them wear wearable devices that provide real-time data to help in reducing the number of in-person visits. It also enhances patient convenience by having them be able to manage their own health needs and conditions with for example glucose monitoring devices to help check on their glucose levels.

IoT and wearables have altered people’s lives, especially the elderly, by allowing constant tracking of health conditions. This has especially helped those living alone and their families gain peace of mind because as a result of any disturbance or changes in routine, an alert mechanism can send signals to family members and/or concerned health providers.

Some examples include: glucose-monitoring devices, heart-rate monitoring devices, smart inhalers, blood oxygen detectors, smart scales, among others.

Fitness tech
If there’s something we can thank the pandemic for it’s the fact that we are more health conscious. As a result of fitness centers and gyms shutting down we had to get creative and virtual fitness started trending. Fitness is now more connected and accessible than ever.

As in-person fitness centers in the U.S. closed due to the pandemic, health & fitness apps saw a surge in first-time downloads. According to Sensor Tower downloads peaked in Q2 of 2020 at 120 million, which was the most the category had ever seen in a single quarter. The majority of new downloads came from the U.S. App Store, where downloads grew 52% year-over-year. At-home workouts became a necessity due to the circumstances but studies show many consumers will be keeping at least part of their workout routines in their homes. There is a certain convenience with having everything at the touch of your fingers so workouts don’t get postponed. As a result of this more startups are emerging to offer connected fitness equipment, streaming services, wearables, and more. We all know the famous cycling bikes, rowing machines and smart treadmills. Some other examples include smart jump ropes, the Power Dot (smart muscle recovery and performance tool), smart watches, fitness and health trackers, the Mirror for guided classes and more.

Rise of wellbeing and mindfulness apps
As a consequence of consumers becoming more health conscious there has been a steady increase in the use of wellbeing and mindfulness apps. The term wellbeing encompasses many others and is viewed by consumers as better health, fitness, nutrition, appearance, sleep and mindfulness.

Mental wellness has been a trending topic and the download of apps focusing on meditation, dealing with anxiety and helping users fall asleep is on the rise. According to market-leading digital and mobile intelligence firm Sensor Tower downloads of top English language mental wellness apps surged by 2 Million in April amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sensor Tower table showing top english language mental wellness apps for 2020

Although the momentum of mobile wellness app downloads has slowed since the original spike in Q2 of 2020, Sensor Tower forecasted that the top apps in the category would see more than 1 billion worldwide downloads in 2021, up 42% when compared to about 730 million downloads in 2019.

Employee wellness programs are a big result of this spike. Employers around the world started seeing wellness and mindfulness apps as helpful resources for their employees. We have noticed a rise in employers incorporating wellness into their workplace and their employee’s lives by providing mental health and wellness services. This could look like providing access to meditation and mindfulness apps or providing wellness reimbursements as part of employee benefits.

All in all these trends for 2022 don’t come as a surprise. They can, for the most part, be attributed to the pandemic but even as we transition to a post pandemic life some of the habits we’ve picked up along the way are definitely staying. In most of these cases they have made our lives much more convenient and are also enriching our existence by making us aware of the importance of our personal health, wellness and mindfulness. Have you acquired a habit during the pandemic that you are keeping? Let us know!