Piyush Sharma - a versatile leader working at the intersection of business, civil society, academia, social and policy impact - is Executive-in-Residence at UCLA and a Stanford SEED Consultant besides being a global CEO coach and a C-Suite + Start-up advisor.
Healthcare is transforming like never before, with disruptive technology. The pace is extraordinary and notable, and advancing healthcare is at a tipping point.
Earlier this year, Bill Gates’ predictions for the top 10 breakthrough inventions to capture headlines in 2019, as published in the MIT Technology Review, featured seven of the 10 breakthrough technologies stemming from the health-tech sector.
Data flows are soaring even as trade and financial networks, which took centuries to develop, seem to be plateauing. With 50 billion devices projected to be connected to the internet by 2020, including those tracking crucial health data, the advancements in medical science have never had it so good. As per a McKinsey report of 2015, the increasing use of IoT devices to monitor personal health will potentially have an impact of up to $1.6 trillion by 2025.
There will be all-round implications of such changes: Empowering consumers on the one hand, and shifting healthcare companies interactions with the consumers on the other. Most importantly, adapting to stay relevant is going to be the biggest challenge.
The healthcare industry has not stayed immune to the onset of the smartphone boom, impacting massive changes in the consumer experience. Consumers today are demanding healthcare services that help them manage their health, thereby making it more commoditised. Live as they do in an age of Amazon, connectivity is another dimension, raising healthcare services expectations of the consumers from good to great to amazing.
With big data leading to quantification as the other dimension, consumers expectations from healthcare providers to understand their individual needs are sky high. As per a Deloitte survey of 2015, 49 percent of healthcare consumers report wanting to partner with their doctors to determine treatment.
In a nutshell, the traditional healthcare model is dead.
The new healthcare model
Avant-garde healthcare companies are addressing this as an opportunity, aligning their strategies to new consumer needs.
One of the fundamental ways in which successful companies are doing this is through a proactive data strategy. This enables the rightful product and brand development. Fundamental to this is to keep the patient experience at the center of this revolution. Integrated electronic health records (EHR) play a major part in this, by going beyond the mere recording of patient visits and providing a long trail of the seamless connected workflow.
Successful healthcare companies are realising that when the patient is, by default, a multi-platform consumer, healthcare also needs to be delivered where they want it— reaching people wherever they are in their journey; when they want it—identifying when people are at risk and knowing what they need before they need it; and how they want it —designing personalised interventions and deploying them in a timely manner, predictively.
In an age when content is the king for the consumers’ entertainment needs, the health information is also being sought in the most thoughtful, consumer-friendly, accessible, personalised and engaging format. The advanced healthcare companies are therefore following a conscious content strategy in today’s service economy.
Healthcare providers are further expected to provide insights using big data, past behaviors and AI—to predict, to know, to help—when there is still time. Further, suave patient engagement strategies are being followed to use the power of emerging technologies to address inefficiencies in clinical trial recruitment.
AI in healthcare: The opportunity
No wonder then, that billions of dollars are flowing into AI investments in healthcare. One of the 10 breakthrough inventions listed by Bill Gates is smooth-talking AI assistants.
The AI assistants of the future will have even more human-like conversations to personally engage customers where AI software can be trained to create ‘organic’ conversations rather than just obeying the commands. While this is the more cosmetic use of AI, with deep implications for consumer care delivery, why it matters is because AI-based assistant technology alone is predicted to climb from $2.3 bn in 2018 to $19.6 bn in 2025 at a CAGR of 35.4 percent.
As per CMS.gov, US national spending on healthcare will reach $5.7 trillion by 2026. Leveraging new data and technologies is the focal point of advancing better outcomes and cost of care.
Challenges in new-age healthcare
The challenges in this new environment are diverse—healthcare-patient relationships, relevant skills to make use of new tools and technologies, building products, services and connectivity through a human-centric lens, and more. Leveraging smart technologies and connected data redefines a new value exchange in healthcare, understanding customers’ behaviours, along with their health needs.
Bridging this gap between customer experiences and expectations needs connectivity and collaboration across the healthcare ecosystem. Smart companies are therefore shifting from being product-based to service-based where health is being provided as a service.
The writer is an Executive-in-Residence at the Indian School of Business (ISB) besides being a global CEO coach.