Our first megatrend is a global trend seen across all industries and one that has affected each of our personal lives over the last 5 years –the need to collect large amounts of data. Be it photographs, documents, medical images or cloud services on our iPhones which justify never deleting another photograph to make space on our devices, the ‘big data’ megatrend has touched each of our lives. IT and the effective use of the same is an important cornerstone of the megatrends observable in the healthcare space today. Efficient management of vast amounts of rapidly generated data as well as management of clinical workflows is largely dependent on the development, accessibility and scalability of IT infrastructures supporting the healthcare industry.
Our second megatrend relates to healthcare spending. 60% of a lifetime’s healthcare costs occur after the age of 65 years and by 2025 over 18% of the US population will be over 65 years old – an increase from 13% in 2010, amounting to an additional $4.5 trillion in healthcare spending! With an increased number of people spending time and money in hospitals, there is also a simultaneous growth in the number of deaths owing to medical errors – a whopping ~100,000 per year. Therefore, technologies for healthcare which present opportunities to save costs in terms of patient management while delivering optimal medical care with increased success rates and reduced rates of error are the ones which will define the healthcare delivery models of future. Such technologies will cumulatively shape tomorrow’s cost of another year of healthy life…
The third megatrend of great relevance to healthcare is electronic delivery of goods and services in an era of rampant wireless device proliferation. Remote monitoring of patients and disruptive non-invasive diagnostic technologies are now ubiquitous while digital workflows such as teleradiology and distributed care which reduce costs and improve home healthcare efficiency as they allowing caregivers to manage time and resources more effectively. The ‘extended hospital’ today includes disruptive radiofrequency wireless-enabled technologies for remote diagnosis of cardiac health or injury and even telemonitoring technologies for monitoring patients over a wireless network, web video or the traditional telephones to reduce risk of death amongst critically ill or old patients while improving compliance in regard to medication regimens.
Finally, to conclude on these megatrends and their affect on the healthcare practice, it is important to note that although technology revolution defined by these megatrends is ubiquitous, change is SLOW. Development and deployment of advanced IT-enabled goods and services in healthcare hasn’t enabled the same levels of transformation that have occurred in other industries for a number of reasons, the most important being the fact that healthcare is a brutally regulated space which is monopolized by a few omnipresent heavy-weights with the capital to surmount these regulatory hurdles. However, despite these shortcomings of technology adoption in healthcare and the unfairness of the competitive landscape, ‘healthcare IT’ is an umbrella for a host of technologies which together constitute the forefront of an overwhelming confluence of interests from stakeholders that range from the lay patient to physicians and business leaders. The digital, electronic and mobile technologies discussed in this post as well as several others breaking the threshold between academia and industry every day, will make a far-reaching financial impact that will disrupt the industry and drive real change in patient care, data management and healthcare-related business process workflows.
* Images from http://suemontgomery.org/big-data-in-healthcare-collaboration-and-interoperability-are-essential-to-its-success/ , http://www.itpro.co.uk/strategy/20647/two-thirds-firms-will-invest-big-data-year-claims-gartner , http://blog.agfahealthcare.com/2013/06/11/the-icis-world-cloud/