The Digital Future of Healthcare

Director of Healthcare, Life Sciences, and Postal Industry Markets, SAP Asia Pacific Japan

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The global population is projected to reach 10 billion people by 2050. Chronic diseases are rising: 73% of all deaths are expected to result from chronic diseases by 2020. Populations are aging: the number of people aged 60 years and older will rise from 900 million to 2 billion between 2015 and 2050; that’s a rise from 12% to 22% of the total global population. In this new era of digital connection, patients are transitioning from passive healthcare recipients to active value-seeking consumers.

Clearly, the world is changing. And so must the face of healthcare.

The digital era

Today, we are witnessing an unmatched era of digitally driven innovation in healthcare that will help healthcare providers overcome some of their major challenges. Breakthrough technologies such as cloud computing, supercomputing, Big Data, and the Internet of Things (IoT) have matured and hit scale together—opening a whole world of adjacent possibilities that will revolutionise how we approach and provide healthcare.

Research suggests that the digital health market is expected to reach US$206 billion by 2020, driven in particular by the mobile and wireless health market. That’s huge. And Asia Pacific is expected to be a key region contributing to its growth.

So, what will the digital future of healthcare look like? We paint three scenarios.

Hyperconnected healthcare

Healthcare will be hyperconnected. Every patient, professional, provider, and machine will be connected, changing established rules for healthcare channels and driving collaboration.

Healthcare will be hyperconnected. Every patient, professional, provider, and machine will be connected.

Every patient will act as a human sensor, providing real-time healthcare data that translates into actionable insights not only for each person, but also feeding into larger medical research platforms that integrate and analyse data from many sources to uncover patterns that improve the wider community’s care.

Every healthcare professional will collaborate, functioning as human sensors—with treatment decisions and outcomes captured and analysed in real-time, translating into medical insights that support future care.

By becoming connected to patients and professionals, the healthcare provider will be able to balance demand and supply with real-time insight and predictive analytics to optimise service offerings and eliminate waste.

Personalised patient-centered healthcare

We will witness the transformation to “healthcare made for me,” where empowered patients receive anticipatory services personalised to the segment-of-one—each individual patient.

Visualise a personalised health app for patient Samuel. He gets a reminder for a recommended routine checkup due to his personal health plan and age. His physician offers online appointment scheduling that Samuel initiates right through the app.

During Samuel’s checkup, his physician finds that a biopsy is needed and instantly orders the procedure, which is positive for cancer. Through the app, Samuel researches various sources and finds out that personalised offerings exist for his cancer type. He also finds out that his employer pays for such programs. The diagnostic service provider recommends specific treatment options and clinical studies based on Samuel’s genetic profile and the latest findings in clinical research. Samuel then starts treatment at a hospital that specialises in his type of cancer.

All his relevant data is made available anonymously through the digital health network for secondary scientific research and clinical trials, enabling continuous learning from each individual case.

Today, we already see examples of this, such as CancerLinQ, a groundbreaking Big Data solution that enables clinical data sharing and analysis on a massive scale. This allows clinicians and researchers to move beyond the merely three percent of patients represented in oncology clinical trials today, and also tap insights from the 97% of cancer patient data that’s been locked away in unconnected files and servers.

Digital hospital

Across the healthcare ecosystem, processes will be transformed completely. Hospitals will become digital by default and truly paperless from the back office, to patient flow management, to electronic medical records.

Imagine nurse Amy administering a critical medicine to a patient in Ward 7. The pharmaceutical inventory gets updated immediately and, because 50 other nurses also issued the same critical drug this week, it recognises that the stock is running low and prompts procurement to purchase the product. The system automatically places an order, as it falls within preset parameters. All this time, finance can see the entire process.

Meanwhile, patient Nancy requires this critical medicine before she can be discharged from the hospital after a lengthy stay. Thanks to these digital processes, it will arrive tomorrow. Since this medication will allow Nancy to be discharged, the hospital knows it can admit a new patient who needs the hospital bed.

Nancy’s doctor updates her and shares details on her post-hospitalisation care plan. It includes a health app that will connect to her weight scale, fitness tracker, and glucose meter and automatically capture measurements. The system will automatically trigger alerts so Nancy’s doctor can respond quickly to changing conditions and adapt the treatment plan until Nancy’s next appointment, even inviting her to video consultations before that appointment if the need arises.

All these digital technologies boost efficiency, slash costs, and improve clinical outcomes.

With these advances, healthcare organisations can create the digital future today. Are you ready to start your journey? Download more resources on digital transformation for healthcare.

This blog post originally appeared in the Digitalist. 

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