The Divergence Of Healthcare
D Health 06.09.16
The pressure on global healthcare systems continues to increase through the unabated rise in lifestyle associated disease and a steadily ageing population. Digital technology can play a critical role in addressing these challenges and the task of digitising healthcare’s existing processes is underway. This is the challenging field of E-Health but this alone is not enough. The way in which healthcare is delivered needs to change such that it becomes digitally-enabled and highly predictive, preventative, personalised and participatory; this is the domain of digital health. Only then will our global healthcare systems become fit for purpose in the 21st century but change is proving to be slow and this is a race against time.
Whilst our established healthcare providers have been slow to embrace the digital revolution, consumers have not. The rapid rise of the wearable fitness band represents the first at scale deployment of preventative digital health devices; purchased out of pocket through retail outlets. These are the gramophones of the consumer digital health revolution but they already represent a multi-billion pound industry. The need for industry to differentiate and diversify is leading to ever more sophisticated applications with consumer devices becoming more reliable and more accurate. A trajectory into more regulated application is becoming clear. The investment to create private sector infrastructure to support data generation, capture, analysis and intervention is massive and increasing as this market scales.
The recent chapter in consumer digital health has seen limited success outside of the tracker market but has provided experience and learning that is helping to create more effective and valued consumer offerings, backed by an ever increasing appetite from investors. The rate at which our established healthcare systems can embrace digital technology is markedly slower than the general public’s appetite for technology and this is leading to a significant dynamic in the healthcare market.
The last decade has seen the unconscious laying of foundations of a new and alternative healthcare system. The system is capable of capturing lifestyle and clinical data through consumer devices and applications for integration and analysis to provide digitally-enabled intervention. Feedback loops are developing which use learning from outcomes to create more effective and personalised interventions along with a richer level of user experience. At a point where automated digital intervention ceases to be appropriate, the end user will be connected to healthcare professionals through the growing number of “go to my doctor” services.
In the United Kingdom there is a phrase “ you cannot see the wood for the trees” suggesting that the bigger picture is masked by a tendency to focus on what’s in front of us. Whilst we were caught up looking at the world through the perspective of our established healthcare systems, we have been largely unaware of what has been growing rapidly all around us. Within a few short years, we will come to recognise and become immersed in, a very different, citizen-oriented, data-centric, alternative healthcare system. We are living through a unique occurrence. Healthcare is diverging.