The introduction of digital services will be among the most important factors in transforming healthcare over the next decade. Yet while few industries have the potential to be changed so profoundly by digital technology as healthcare, the challenges facing innovators should not be underestimated. Regulatory barriers, economic hurdles and difficulties in effectively digitizing patient data awaiting those who wish to launch pioneering services.
The stakes could hardly be higher. By almost any measure, global health has improved dramatically in recent decades. However, the current model for providing healthcare is being slowly torn apart by the opposing forces of an ageing population and greater restraints on government spending. Maintaining the status quo is not an option. To deliver continued improvements to the world's health, healthcare will need to be transformed, with digital playing a vital role.
The healthcare system of the future will look very different, with a crucial change being the move to ‘consumer-centric’ healthcare, allowing citizens to have much more responsibility for managing their healthcare and that of their families.
The two expected big shifts will be disruptions to the location of care (for instance, moving care out of the hospital and closer to home) and disruptions to the type of care (‘diagnose and treat’ to ‘prevent and manage’).1 Rather than the inpatient setting, the outpatient setting will now be the optimal medium of care.
As such, the home will become an important new location of care, and virtual care will broaden access to healthcare in rural areas, especially in emerging economies. This will result in a new structure for the healthcare system, with less focus on building new beds and more on developing services to provide improved access and quality of care at lower cost.
The advent of patient-centric healthcare will allow greater emphasis to be placed on prevention and access, using digital tools to improve productivity (by reducing the need for specialized labor), boost efficiency and drive down costs.
Moreover, with around $7.5 trillion spent globally each year on health, the rewards are likely to be substantial for those current players and new entrants in the healthcare industry that successfully create transformational digital services at scale.
Four digital themes – smart care, care anywhere, empowered care and intelligent healthcare enterprise – have been identified, which will be of crucial importance to the digital transformation of healthcare over the next decade.
Smart Care will improve patient outcomes and lower the cost of healthcare through the use of precision medicine, robotics and medical printing.
Care Anywhere will see healthcare move closer to the home, through advances in the connected home and virtual care, which will also help broaden access, especially in maturing economies.
Empowered Care, through the development of living services, will enable citizens to take a more active role in managing their own well-being and healthcare.
Intelligent Health Enterprises will provide data-driven solutions that enable healthcare workers and their enterprises to maximize their efficiency and allow patient health to be monitored more effectively in real time.
Digital is supporting and accelerating the systemic shift to value-based healthcare. New intelligence, in hardware and other objects, is bridging the gap between the digital and the physical worlds. Hospitals, physicians’ offices and payers are accessible with a click, tap or scroll. Highly connected hardware components, along with smart sensors and devices, help payers and providers give consumers what they want: better health outcomes at lower cost, coupled with convenience and a better experience.