In the past, medicine was about pills and procedures. Today, it’s likely to involve data and software. The US healthcare regulator, the Food and Drug Administration, has approved 13 algorithms for medical use, including disease-diagnosing imaging programs.
Data is “fuelling the emergence of new business models,” says Pamela Spence, EY Global Health Sciences and Wellness Industry Market Leader. Healthcare is no exception.
EY has identified five trends driving medicine’s transformation into a data science. “The goal is to use those data to deliver interventions pro-actively and in more personalised ways, improving outcomes to prevent, not just treat, disease,” Spence says.
Connect, combine and share the wellness data
Medical data is a sensitive subject – companies want to build tools based on patient information; patients are concerned about privacy. Healthcare records are often disparate and disconnected, held in different computer systems, and subject to varying regulations and cultural approaches. But patient data is too valuable to be kept in isolation, argues Spence. It can cut costs, lead to better outcomes, and improve preventative care. “We need a shift in mindset to embrace licensing models that make it easier to share data,” she says.
Nanomedicine, sensors and AI will drive innovation
Today, it’s cameras, GPS trackers and heart-rate monitors. Tomorrow, it could be smart contact lenses, implantable chips and sensor- embedded clothing. Beyond that, nanotechnology could bring “smart dust” that will continuously monitor our vital signs, while nanorobots remove bacteria from the bloodstream with ultrasound. Instead of an annual check-up at the doctors, our health will be constantly monitored, wherever we happen to be.
Health’s digital backbone is emerging, but there aren’t clear owners
As the amount and quality of medical data grows, a digital backbone that can join information from varying sources will develop. Right now, it’s small, niche firms, but longer term, Spence believes that companies more versed in big data will step in. Tech giants are already throwing their weight behind healthcare platforms, and will work closely with payers and providers to help build key platforms.
Patients will demand to be treated like customers
In the UK, Babylon Health – which offers patients digital consultations with a doctor – has exploded in popularity. Over half of patients surveyed by EY would be happy to interact with their physician digitally, and a quarter already use activity trackers. Patients are willing to share that data if they see the benefits, says Spence, who draws a comparison with the Open Banking regulations and the resulting burgeoning fintech industry.
Companies will have to specialise to succeed
Data collection will be more integrated, but high costs and the need for data expertise will force companies
to specialise, while a data- driven landscape will create further shifts in business models. “The future will be less about supplying innovation, and more about innovating to answer demand,” says Spence.
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