Healthcare today and how it will change in the future

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It is hardly news to say that many Filipinos do not particularly pay much attention to the development of the country’s healthcare system. In fact, many typical families are content only to interact with it during the occasional times when someone gets sick or injured. Yet, the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted just how much society relies on this system to keep functioning.

COVID-19 has been somewhat of a wake-up call for many countries all over the world to reassess their healthcare systems and ensure their resilience against any crisis. To fulfill the needs of healthcare providers all over, technological developments such as telehealth and telemedicine are quickly being introduced, being touted as the future of healthcare and changing medical consultations and treatments as we know it.

Yet, the advancements in healthcare do not stop there. In an article published on its website, global intelligence firm Deloitte predicted that more health spend will be devoted to sustaining well-being and preventing illness by 2040, while less will be tied to assessing conditions and treating illness. Towards this, technology will become an invaluable tool for keeping populations healthy.

The key idea is that a greater emphasis on well-being and identifying health risks earlier can result in fewer and less severe diseases, which will reduce health care spending, allowing the reinvestment of this well-being dividend to expand the benefits to the broad population. Along with helping to improve the well-being of individuals, health care stakeholders are expected to become more incentivized to work to improve the overall health of a population.

Using technological innovations like interoperable data and artificial intelligence, health in the future will be monitored continuously for any risks that can be identified early. Rather than assessing patients and treating them, the primary focus will be on sustaining well-being by providing consumers ongoing advice and support.

“We don’t expect disease to have been eliminated entirely by 2040, but the use of actionable health insights — driven by interoperable data and smart AI — could help identify illness early, enable proactive intervention, and improve the understanding of disease progression. This can allow us to avoid many of the catastrophic expenses we have today. Technology might also help break down barriers such as cost and geography that can limit access to health care providers and specialists,” Deloitte wrote.

Envisioning the future of health

Today, many consumers are growing accustomed to wearable devices that track activity. Even many mobile phones come equipped with activity trackers and pedometers promoting an active lifestyle. Such devices can open up new opportunities for healthcare management.

Deloitte’s 2018 US Health Care Consumer Survey found that consumers are tracking their health and fitness data two and a half times more today than they were in 2013. Data-gathering devices will become exponentially more sophisticated and will continuously track activity, health, and environmental factors. This ongoing monitoring can help ensure that health conditions and risks are identified and addressed early. In rare instances when treatment is needed, it can be highly personalized.

“The future of health that we envision is only about 20 years off, but health in 2040 will be a world apart from what we have now. Based on emerging technology, we can be reasonably certain that digital transformation—enabled by radically interoperable data, artificial intelligence (AI), and open, secure platforms—will drive much of this change. Unlike today, we believe care will be organized around the consumer, rather than around the institutions that drive our existing health care system,” Deloitte wrote.

By or even before 2040, Deloitte projects that streams of health data — together with data from other relevant sources — will merge to create a multifaceted and highly personalized picture of every consumer’s well-being. In this future, wearable devices that track every consumer’s steps, sleep patterns, and even heart rate will become integrated into everyone’s lives in ways no one could have imagined.

Many medtech companies are already beginning to incorporate always-on biosensors and software into devices that can generate, gather, and share data. Advanced cognitive technologies could be developed to analyze a significantly large set of parameters and create personalized insights into a consumer’s health. The availability of data and personalized AI can enable precision well-being and real-time microinterventions that allow consumers to get ahead of sickness and far ahead of catastrophic disease.

And while such innovations may take some time before they see popular use here in the Philippines, many Filipinos are increasingly becoming aware of ways to keep track of highly detailed information about their own health. Slowly but surely, consumers are growing accustomed to transformations that have occurred in other sectors, such as e-commerce and mobility, and it is only a matter of time before these consumers will demand that healthcare follow the same path and become an integrated part of their lives.

“In the future of health, incumbents and industry disruptors will share a common purpose. While disease will never be completely eliminated, through science, data, and technology, we will be able to identify it earlier, intervene proactively, and understand its progression to help consumers effectively and actively sustain their well-being. The future will be focused on wellness and managed by companies that assume new roles to drive value in a transformed health ecosystem. If this vision for the future of health is realized, we could see healthier populations and dramatic decreases in health care spending. If we’re right, by 2040, we might not recognize the industry at all,” Deloitte concluded. – Bjorn Biel M. Beltran

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