The Most Important Advancement In Healthcare Technology Isn’t What You Think
Costs of and access to healthcare have plagued many people in American society for years. With nearly 10% of the American population uninsured, nearly 133 million people with a chronic health condition, and costs of healthcare rising rapidly, the industry is constantly charged with a distinct challenge in providing good, quality care while managing innovation. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this more prevalent. In fact, one-third of healthcare spending is on hospital administrative costs, as hospitals were inundated with the impossible tasks of taking care of an overflow of patients.
In the midst of these challenges, healthcare technology updates and innovations, as well as new business models and trends, have increasingly confounded regulatory bodies, politicians, and workers themselves. Yet these advances must continue if the healthcare industry is to keep growing in quality.
Why is it important to acknowledge the future of healthcare?
Human health is the most important thing to a functional society. Human beings who are sick cannot work, take care of their families, contribute to the economy, be part of their community, or utilize the valuable resources and systems this country was built on. Everyone interacts with healthcare at some point, and most people have had at least some experience with the ins and outs of healthcare technology.
As innovators continue looking forward, one overarching theme is clear: The consumer will be at the center of a futuristic healthcare system. At Incipient, we’ve identified these challenges and looked at market research on the most important trends that will bring the consumer-focused healthcare industry forward. More emphasis on well-being, advanced treatment, prevention, and alternative medicine will support these efforts, as will looking at data sets and analyzing how to support better healthcare through technology.
The Keys To Moving Forward
Open and secure data platforms
In order to understand what we need to do as we move forward, healthcare technology workers will need access to the most up-to-date data on the people they hope to serve. According to Deloitte’s Future of Change report, these platforms will provide monitoring, assessment, advising, support, and treatment options. Taking a more holistic approach, consumers’ well-being, not just their scientific data, will be taken into account as innovative healthcare technology is developed. Part of that approach will be focusing on business structures that truly support consumers and/or patients:
Health equity: While healthy life expectancy has increased, there are persistent, widening gaps between those with the best and worst well-being. Poorer populations, and those without equal access to the benefits of telemedicine, experience worse health than richer populations.These trends are unjust, but avoidable, when health disparities are factored into the decision-making at the highest levels of health tech organizations.
Data platforms: The data platforms of the future will incorporate conveners, insights engines, and infrastructure builders. Data from multiple sources will be collected to advance research, help develop analytical tools, and create the insights needed for how to focus on well-being. Organizations that focus on this can see significant profits through the infrastructure they provide, as long as it is engaging to consumers, increases access to information and analysis, and connects stakeholders throughout the healthcare technology sector.
Well-being and care delivery: This is perhaps the most patient-focused structure of the three business structures. It will focus on virtual tools, health products, specialty care, and information hubs. Partnerships will be essential to this particular development, and smart product developers should tailor their offerings toward meaningful teamwork. Looking at patients and/or consumers as health stakeholders, companies will evolve their models to focus on molding their product toward the needs of users. Market research will be an essential way that this business model is developed. There may be some pushback to this option, but opening up the possibilities will lead to more efficiency and a favorable profit margin.
Care enablement: Care enablement provides financiers, regulators, connectors, and intermediaries with the information they need to make informed decisions. This model will allow for the facilitation of consumer payments in coordination with supply logistics. These business models will need to be the most careful with their budgets, because profits could be very elusive at certain times. Financiers will develop the financial products needed to help patients navigate their healthcare. As part of the overarching trend, care enablement will be able to tailor products and services to individual needs. This could include financing and loan options to help people pay the costs of healthcare, especially unexpected catastrophes, without causing bankruptcy. Regulators will determine standards for transactions, helping focus on the consumer by meeting all of their needs for safety and security. While we will still have regulators.
Healthcare policy that transcends political systems
Healthcare is often a heated topic of debate amongst Congress. While good points come up on both sides, development is often hamstrung by political agendas. Overall, the assumption that comes from this type of debate is that all medical needs, for all people, in all locations, are the same. As the healthcare technology of the future unfolds, regulators are indicating that they are looking toward the future of flexibility. They are also recognizing the rapid evolution of the sector, particularly as we’ve watched the results of the pandemic play out.
Because people in government are beginning to see the writing on the wall, it is expected that future administrations will begin to focus on empowering consumers to take charge of their individual needs, moving away from addressing sick and suffering individuals as monoliths, improving emphases on the importance of early detection, and providing more communications to the healthcare industry.
Using crisis management as an essential learning tool.
The lives lost to COVID-19 should be honored in many ways. One important one is to use what we’ve learned from the crisis management techniques, public policy administration, and medical innovations that the pandemic has forced upon the healthcare technology industry. HIstorically, catastrophes and emergencies have inspired change in many different sectors. It should be no different in the healthcare technology industry.
One important case study from the pandemic has been the vaccine rollout. The organization and dissemination of treatment can be learned from in studying both the successes and the failures. Some might lean toward increasing infrastructure to accomplish this, when actually the answer likely lies in partnerships between public and private entities, and the inclusion of patient stakeholders in the decision-making process. Sensor devices, entry of data into databases that track citizen vaccination rates, and detection of hotspots can be important technological advancements towards stopping the spread of infectious diseases. As this occurs, public and private healthcare workers can find common ground and how they can both contribute to stopping the spread.
In order for this to happen, however, regulators will need to look at their power to galvanize change in the industry. Sharing data, looking at stockpiling and supplies, evolving plans for emergency preparedness, and more could assist in making partnerships easier. Additionally, the pandemic’s effects and the traditional mentality about illnesses and how they spread should start to dissipate. Regulators and business leaders in the public and private sectors will embrace the changes on the horizon, understanding that for full cooperation, new business models must be embraced.
Congress and the White House working alongside healthcare technology and life science companies.
The most common trend we’ve pinpointed is consumer-focused products, but a close second is collaboration and partnerships. Working in tandem with the White House and Congress, companies looking to change their business models should find the answers and resources they need. Congress should work with the healthcare industry to help support innovation and regulate and develop pricing models for different pharmaceuticals. At the moment, unilateral ideas are proposed and decisions are made that create issues for the development of the industry.
An example of this is the Biden administration’s support for the idea of waiving intellectual patent protections for the COVID-19 vaccines. This measure would allow for a quick and efficient increase in supply, which is crucial given the shortages in some countries as the global pandemic continues to spread. However, the healthcare sector had objections to this concept, stating that it could invite counterfeit vaccines and strain the supply chain. They also noted that funding to develop and manufacture vaccines came from taxpayer dollars, and that the process of bringing new drugs into the market is complex.
The future of healthcare will mean that government workers and pharmaceutical companies will collaborate in an effort to understand the complexities of such a task. Deloitte research has revealed that the cost of bringing a drug to market in 2020 was $2 million, and research and development costs have been difficult to recover. Together, Congress and the healthcare industry, from pharmaceuticals to technology and everything in between, should collaborate to understand the need for corporations to recover expenses while prioritizing the common good. This would include supporting how research and development are important to technology and innovation in the industry.
Working together would mean the industry can help Congress and other policymakers to understand the need for additional development of virtual models. This is once again a way to focus on the needs of the consumer; virtual models have been shown to be very popular, and it’s an important way to improve access, particularly in rural areas. With new healthcare policies and a focus on healthcare technology, the typical reimbursement model, which is difficult, time-consuming, and costly, will be eclipsed by coordinating care-based solutions.
What are the entities that will promote these changes?
Looking at everything that will develop, there are a lot of different moving parts. Once again focusing on collaboration, we foresee many different players with different roles to play. These players include:
Health plans: Using data-driven research, health plans will develop new ways for consumers to afford their care and insurance.
Drug manufacturers: Pharmaceutical companies working in tandem with Congress and other policymakers will look for ways to better tailor medications to the needs of individuals as the patient-driven trend continues.
Medical device companies: Many opportunities in the advancement of technology for healthcare are in the hands of medical device companies. According to a survey by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions and AdvaMed, collaboration will once again become important as they consider working with people outside the healthcare sector.
Hospitals: Hospitals that can increase quality of care and embrace evolving technology will need support and infrastructure from Congress, particularly so that they are equipped for future disasters. Once they have these resources, plans will need to be put in place to use them most efficiently and effectively.
Consumers: Consumers will have opportunities to speak up about their healthcare needs, and demand better standards for the provision of care. As healthcare technology and marketing industries consider their innovations, they will need to involve consumers at every turn, understanding that the consumer-focused model will be the way of the future in healthcare.
What happens next?
In looking at what’s to come in the future of healthcare technology, many changes lurk on the horizon. These are exciting developments that allow for innovation, better care, better service, and better drugs. Following the recommended models by healthcare sciences and market researchers could mean the entire healthcare system is functioning more effectively by the year 2040.
But getting there means a lot has to happen. And it begins with communication. Strong data that supports each technological advance will need to be widely available to consumers and policymakers alike. Opening up the process for input and revisions from other perspectives will be crucial.
Finally, Americans will need support in getting to know their new healthcare system. It will be essential that patients of all ages have the opportunity to explore options, contribute to new ideas, and have the resources to navigate the changes.
One thing is certain: In the healthcare technology industry, things evolve quickly. As we emerge from a devastating pandemic, it will be important for all facets of the healthcare field to look to the future and imagine the possibilities.