Where US healthcare’s radical reinvention is headed

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Due to countless regulations, healthcare has been slow to innovate. Because of the pandemic, that pace has changed significantly. AKQA executive director of technology David Justus tells us where the industry is heading.

Innovation is core to unlocking transformation in the healthcare industry. Historically, healthcare providers have been bound by complex and countless regulations. These barriers hindered such main objectives as streamlining work, improving patient outcomes and reducing costs. Thus, despite the need, healthcare has found itself as one of the last industries to truly embrace digital innovation.

With the emergence of Covid-19, the industry is facing extraordinary pressures that are fundamentally altering the sector’s future. The pandemic has acted as an unprecedented catalyst, accelerating advancement on existing projects like never before. Given that the status quo is no longer tenable, rapid innovation is on the horizon — here are four areas to watch.

Remotely managed care becomes commonplace

Approximately 1% of US medical claims were historically processed through a telehealth experience. While telehealth care is convenient and relatively affordable, longstanding regulations in America have prohibited doctors from widely adopting the technology — until now. By removing restrictions, patients and providers can discover that receiving and delivering exemplary care does not require both parties to meet in person. This will unlock new opportunities for providers to reach broader audiences and develop new services, fundamentally transforming our definition of “going to see the doctor.”

What to expect:
·       ‘Second opinion‘ remote consultations will become widespread, opening new possibilities for providers to increase their reach and impact.
·       Driven by a lack of in-person consultations, the market will have an increased need for at-home devices.
·       Driven by remote interaction and connected care, doctors will be consulted in an increasingly ad-hoc manner, enabling new opportunities in wellness.

A holistic data picture

In 2009, the Obama administration launched an initiative to digitize patient records. It has gathered momentum over the years resulting in nearly a 900% increase in health data being generated since 2016. Today, there is an even greater push to create a connected data ecosystem that will give providers an increased understanding of a patient’s health background and, conversely, enable patients to seek care more easily. In support of this data surge, there will be an increase in connected devices and an improved data-sharing system aiding patient diagnosis. Wellness-focused applications escalating additional care needs to providers will also increase.

What to expect:
·       With standardized medical data, 5G, and blockchain technology, medical data will be shared faster and more safely, enabling opportunities to create new products that collect and manage patient information.
·       Access to seamlessly integrated medical data will become widespread. Doctors will be able to accurately assess patients beyond superficial symptoms, thus creating opportunities to provide personalized care models.
·       Collecting, standardizing, and integrating data will fuel artificial intelligence capable of detecting advanced patterns in large pools of integrated data. This will enable the creation of advanced diagnostic models that drive better outcomes and proactive care suggestions.

The rise of direct-to-patient

A report by Westh Health-Gallup stated that only 39% of those surveyed felt that healthcare was properly supporting Americans, and that 1-in-every-4 patients skipped seeking care due to cost factors. Direct-to-consumer models of care are on the rise, aiming to address patient aversion and lack of access. The growing patient desire to self-manage and self-solve will translate into digital experiences servicing this demographic.

What to expect:
·       Individuals craving self-care and self-management will enable opportunities for providers to extend their reach via self-managed and wellness services.
·       As at-home, self-administered testing becomes commonplace, direct-to-consumer offerings for labs will enable patients to better manage illness.
·       Providers will find new ways to service patients beyond direct care. And as the distribution of medical knowledge increases, so will the range of offerings.

Increasingly nimble organizations

A study by the Centre for Connected Medicine showed that 62% of hospitals felt they were slow on driving innovation ­— and only 48% confirmed they had some mechanism for driving innovation within the hospital. With the increasing demand for remotely managed healthcare, data-sharing, and self-management, providers must modernize in order to meeting shifting needs.

What to expect:
·       As hospitals increasingly focus on innovation, emerging talent will have the opportunity to introduce forward-thinking initiatives.
·       Innovations will come from inside and outside of the traditional healthcare market, driving new sub-industries.

As the industry finally adopts innovation, healthcare as we know it will drastically evolve.

David Justus is executive director of technology at AKQA. Melissa Kim, senior strategist at AKQA, also contributed to this piece.

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