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Roadmap to a Connected Digital Healthcare Future

October 9, 2017
by Bill Tribe and Erik Blazic, A.T. Kearney
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Medical technology is triggering profound changes in patient health diagnosis and treatment. What’s missing is an ecosystem to integrate the individual parts into one cohesive whole.

Imagine a team of healthcare providers taking full advantage of a patient’s genetic makeup, body imagery, electronic health records (EHRs), wearable devices, and real-time medical research and population health data. This vision has existed before—think about the press around the human genome project in the early 2000’s—but by 2030, predictive analytics and artificial intelligence will genuinely support this vision, bringing more accurate, timely identification and management for a range of health concerns.

Despite the wealth of available information, the variety of sources have not been integrated. Harnessing the power of these elements will bring immeasurable benefits—from predicting the likelihood of ailments based on a network of electronic health records to diagnosing diseases based on predisposition, the latest clinical research, and real-time population health trends.

Digital healthcare will also improve the system’s transparency and productivity, reducing costs. In this new ecosystem, patients can ensure they receive the best care at the lowest cost, and providers can deliver the best outcomes (see figure 1). Imagine how the economics will change.

Figure 1

Early disease predictions will lead to behavioral changes that prevent and eliminate system costs. Patients will be able to compare provider quality and prices and make informed choices based on value, which will improve productivity. More accurate and timelier identification of diseases will enhance treatment and reduce waste. Telemedicine and remote monitoring, coupled with new and lower-cost care settings such as home care will improve patients’ health and ensure use of the most efficient level of care. Additional and more accurate information regarding the clinical and economic performance of products and services will improve innovation.

Along almost every dimension, the 2030 healthcare vision is vastly different and improved. Although many components already exist, what’s missing is a cohesive ecosystem.

A Digital Evolution

Healthcare is accelerating toward a patient-centric, value-based model. In fact, many companies are creating innovative business models to improve profitability and create a competitive advantage. However, the way the industry is moving toward this model is chaotic—a bit like the Wild West and like nothing the industry has seen before. Apps now track data from diabetics’ glucose meters to smart devices that provide a wealth of medical information but may be vulnerable to hacking. The digital environment comes with an array of implications, and evolving will require a bit of a balancing act. For example, products will need to be “patient differentiated” while delivering both value and best-in-class quality, and solutions will need to cover a broader part of the patient pathway supporting the full continuum of care. Apps and devices must be secure yet provide seamless interoperability, and the value proposition must be transparent while driving improvements across the value chain.

Four factors are driving this evolution:

Consumer expectations

Until recently, patients were relatively agnostic about their healthcare choices.  For example, a large portion of the population has insurance, which reduces a patient’s price sensitivity. Many people believe that physicians and hospitals offer similar capabilities for the same price, and there is a lack of transparency about quality and pricing.

However, as payments skyrocket and patients become more aware that they can—and should—make informed choices about their healthcare, behaviors are changing. As with the evolution of other industries, people have come to expect more comprehensive information. In retail, for example, consumers can quickly find products and browse reviews on Amazon and compare restaurants and make reservations on Yelp. The US healthcare system is beginning to support similar services. However, research shows there is still a long way to go (see figure 2).

Figure 2

In this evolving healthcare environment, consumers are seeing an array of benefits. People can use a variety of reputable online sources to do their own symptom and disease research—this may not always help physicians, but it is leading to empowerment of patients and more ownership of their care. Those with similar diagnoses can engage with their peers for advice and support. Services such as CareOperative’s Healthcare Bluebook help consumers compare prices for services in their area, and insurance company apps are helping people find the most effective networks and treatments.

New care models

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