Access, outcomes, change, financial support, prevention. These are the topics du jour surrounding what is now being termed #healthtech.
The convergence of rapid technological advancement and the evolution of user expectations in the health field is driving change across the healthcare industry, an industry previously not known for its dynamic adoption of innovation.
The prevalence of sensors in mobile and wearable devices, combined with a global trend of sharing health related information on social channels, is generating an unprecedented amount of data around health. Data that documents personal and/or mass behaviour, customer opinions on health-related topics, food intake, exercise levels, product preferences and personal mobility.
And it is not only the sudden availability of data that is having a significant impact on the health landscape. The availability of support apps and devices, of information and the chance to share back, is driving adoption among users, who – in the process – are becoming more and more savvy as to their health status and are starting to play an active role throughout the treatment journey.
Under this new paradigm, the challenge is no longer to dream up digital opportunities in health. The new challenge – the new normal, if you will – is to match up supply with demand by removing the disconnection between those who develop #healthtech and those who should use it, thus promoting accessibility and adoption.
In addition to the vast improvement in treatment and decision making support, technology is also driving education, which in turn helps drive prevention. The advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence help pre-screen and predict health risks and drive the right patient population to the right screening and treatment. This provides an opportunity to re-evaluate healthcare investment. By no longer paying for blanket screening and unspecific testing, healthcare providers can optimise their investment and allocate appropriate treatment resources to those patients who need them, while freeing up resources to drive preventive measures. Smarter diagnostic procedures, coupled with current and historical patient data and connected health devices and sensors, allow for holistic anamnesis, fast diagnosis, optimised treatment, and effective adherence management – all in service of better outcomes.
The reduction in unnecessary and inadequate treatment will, in turn, provide the opportunity for a wider diffusion and broader availability of optimised treatment. This benefits patients, HCPs, pharmaceutical companies and payors alike.
In order for this to become a reality, three things need to happen
- Pharmaceutical companies need to step out of their comfort zone and understand the need to adopt an integrated iterative approach, i.e. to combine their drugs with smart technology, software and behavioural modification programmes, constantly re-evaluated and evolving for better outcomes.
- #Healthtech start-ups need to adopt a more bullish stance. Rather than look at their product as just the solution to an immediate challenge, they need to think more like pharmaceutical companies and understand not just the clinical but also the economic potential of their solution and the resulting need to tailor their business plans for rapid mass-adoption and roll-out.
- Payors need to recognise their role and responsibility of stewardship over digital health and provide broad access to integrated solutions, rather than rely on patients discovering and funding their development
The relationship between technology and medicine is already a reality. It stands poised to transform our understanding of medicine from a system of sick-care to a connected ecosystem of health-care, based on easy access, better outcomes and sustainable evolution of a healthier future.