Imagine a time when a device alerts you to the onset of a disease in your body long before it’s a problem. Or when your disease is diagnosed in Shanghai, based on the medical scan you did in Kenya. This future is far closer that you might think due to rapid advances in connected devices and sensors, big data and the integration of health services. Combined, these innovations are introducing a new era in healthcare and personal well-being.
In only a few years, mobile technologies have spawned tremendous innovation of consumer-level health tools. The emerging solutions are focusing on health conditions over a person’s lifetime and on holistic care. They generate constant insights through analytics and algorithms that identify patterns and behaviours. Social technologies enable better collaboration and interconnected digital propositions that reach out to communities of people with similar conditions, engaging them in ways which were never before possible.
We are starting to get a taste of what the consumerization of healthcare will mean in the future. In two to three years, analysing your personal health data will become commonplace for large parts of the population in many countries. Also, it is very likely that for the first time it will not be the chronically ill but the healthy people who will invest the most in managing their health.
Digitization and consumerization will rattle the healthcare industry. It is already tearing at the very fabric of the traditional healthcare companies and providers. Innovation is not only about just adding a new channel or connecting a product. It is also a complete redesign of business models, adjustment of systems and processes and, most importantly, it calls for changing the culture in companies to reflect the new opportunities – and challenges – presented by the digital world.
To drive true industry transformation, companies need to collaborate and continue to learn from each other. Great strides will be made in alliances, which, for example, will deliver open, cloud-based healthcare platforms that combine customer engagement with leading medical technology, and clinical applications and informatics.
The game will not only be played by the traditional healthcare providers. With consumerization, even companies without healthcare expertise, but with strong consumer engagement and trust, could potentially become healthcare companies. Big multinationals invest incremental budgets in developing new propositions and count on their global user bases or professional networks to gain a foothold in the market.
And in parallel, a raft of start-ups are attempting to transform the worlds of preventive or curative healthcare – in many cases, limited only by their imaginations. For example, we may see virtual reality technology moving from gaming industry to healthcare for improving patients’ rehabilitation after a stroke. Or we may see facial recognition software become common in monitoring and guiding patients’ daily medical routines.
While these new propositions tackle a number of healthcare industry’s core concerns and provide solutions to completely new areas, these propositions still need to mature. They need to become scalable, reliable, open, and the user experience needs to be harmonized.
But perhaps one of the most important challenges is related to people’s behaviour and preferences. Regardless of whether these new and existing companies are analysing health data, using virtual reality or reading people’s vital signs, they all need ample time to become trusted and accepted in the emerging digital health care space. Especially for the new entrants, obtaining the right level of credibility will be one of the key success factors.
Consumers, patients and professionals alike, will need the right motivation, reassurance and mindsets to adopt these new solutions. The companies that know how to offer us tailored, cutting-edge solutions, combined with meaningful advice and trustworthiness, will be the winners and become our trusted advisers in health.
Author: Jeroen Tas is CEO, Informatics Solutions & Services, Philips Healthcare
Image: Professor Karl Oldhafer, chief physician of general and visceral surgery at the Asklepios Hospital Hamburg-Barmbek, puts a tablet computer into a sterile bag before liver surgery, one of the first surgeries of its kind in Germany with the support of a tablet computer to access and visualize planning data, in Hamburg August 15, 2013. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer