Terveyskyla, a Finnish concept translated to mean Health Village, is an online and mobile platform that aims to transport healthcare from hospitals to homes.1 It comprises of a virtual village of 30 houses, each representing a digital hub pertaining to a symptom, disease or organ. Users and physicians can log in and create their identities while providers at university hospitals are consulted to develop content. In less than a year since the pilot roll-out, the platform has generated more than 1.5 million website visits.
The global population is poised to touch 8.6 billion by 2030,2 and as the population swells, so will outbreaks such as COVID-19, eventually infecting a sizeable number of people.3 Healthcare players need to prepare to meet these new challenges while tackling growing healthcare costs, changing patient demographics and expectations, and complex health ecosystems. Let us look at a few trends that are set to change this industry.
From ‘Sick Care’ to ‘Proactive Health Maintenance’
Research has shown that lifestyle choices are responsible for 80 percent of health outcomes.4 A strong focus on prevention and well-being coupled with the rising use of connected technologies is driving the emergence of Smart Health Communities (SHC). Developed by non-traditional players including commercial ventures, SHCs will focus on empowering proactive health management underpinned by technology, behavioral science and a sense of belonging. They will also create innovative ecosystems outside the traditional healthcare system.
Fueled by data, connected technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT) will provide the much-needed scale and dynamic nature to this model. Engagement of participants will be customized by location, generation, ailments and more. Mobile applications and social networks will be leveraged to enhance engagement on a wider scale to promote better health and lifestyles.
ParkinsonNet is a prime example. More than 70 regional networks in the Netherlands come together on this platform for Parkinson’s Disease (PD) patients. It brings together physicians, neurologists, academics, and more than 3,000 health professionals to deliver high quality and evidence-based PD care. So far, it has enabled a 40 percent cost reduction per patient.5
Value-based Payment Reforms
From the traditional ‘fee-for-service’ reimbursement model, the industry will shift to an outcome-based one. Insurers will increasingly demand evidence of value provided before authorizing reimbursement. Combine the consumer-driven imperatives of personalization, quality and value-consciousness with the insurers’ expectations of financial sustainability – it is easy to see why this trend will rapidly unfold.
Payers will re-imagine managed care models to bring in meaningful engagement in a patient’s care journey. One way of doing this will be in the form of community partnerships and reimbursement mechanisms. For example, a leading U.S. retailer plans to cater to 5 million seniors by 2025 through health monitoring systems deployed in their homes.6 The company is partnering with payers and providers to provide high levels of timely care and manage risks safely in patient’s homes. Similarly, companies such as Uber, Lyft, Meals on Wheels and grocery stores are partnering with healthcare organizations to aid in this development.
Technology-enabled Virtual Healthcare
As people become better informed, and more engaged with decisions on their health, the demand for faster and better access to care will exponentially increase. Healthcare will be delivered through digital and tele-communication technologies to meet these needs. Additionally, the recent COVID-19 situation has clearly highlighted the need for remote healthcare – one that can help curb the spread of infection as well as enable medical practitioners to reach a wider patient base.
The advantage of virtual health is that it works around the patient’s life – and not just their illness. Care is delivered in the manner and place they want it to be, while significantly bringing down costs. Tele-medicine will evolve to provide real-time monitoring of patients outside health providers’ offices, aided by the inclusion of wearables and remote monitoring systems in patient’s discharge plans.
The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) will join forces with tele-medicine to improve profitability as well as patient experience. It is estimated that by 2021, 20 to 30 billion IoMTs will be deployed and the IoT devices market in healthcare will touch USD 136 Billion.7 Cloud computing will evolve to comply with Electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI) regulatory mandates (such as HIPAA and GDPR), and provide seamless access to records while facilitating speedy, secure and stable tele-consultations. Blockchain technologies will provide the required trust, integrity and security through peer-to-peer systems of shared digital ledgers.
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) will play a huge role in educating new medical students and in planning procedures. Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications will enhance speed and accuracy of the diagnoses process, and embedded analytics will enable physicians to plan treatment approaches with speed, driven by accurate insights and predictive options. For example, a U.S.-based start-up, is deploying machine learning and big data analytics to predict potential outbreaks.8 The company’s bot deep dives through 40 databases of weather, and geographical and epidemiological data to deliver results.
Autonomous Supply Chain Management
Supply chain management costs contribute to some of the largest expenses for healthcare and hospital systems. Highly dependent on reliable supply chains, players in the healthcare industry will seek innovative supply chain management and logistics solutions.
Use of drones can serve as an effective antidote. For example, a leading logistics player has partnered with Matternet, a California-based start-up, to deliver medical samples in the hospital campus of WakeMed Health & Hospitals in Raleigh, North Carolina.9 This enables same-day and on-demand delivery of medical specimens and samples, improving patient experience and reducing hospital costs.
Healthcare organizations will need to elevate supply chain functions, and give them a seat at the table to provide end-to-end and personalized healthcare experiences.
The COVID-19 health emergency has highlighted the increasingly fatal nature of pandemics in a connected world. Preparedness is therefore the only solution. Healthcare is no longer the sole responsibility of medical practitioners. A superior healthcare system will require advanced digital capabilities backed by cooperation from all stakeholders concerned.