Marc Andreessen stated, “software is eating the world” in his article for WSJ in August 2011. Looking around us, it is easy to see every facet of our lives, both personal and professional, being impacted by the power of software. Software is pivotal to the growth of most new and emerging industry segments. Even mature industries such as agribusiness, mining, construction, industrial manufacturing, automobiles, aerospace, etc. have been changed by the power of software, and the healthcare industry is no exception. The healthcare industry is responsible for saving and enhancing the lives of people, even if the outcome in some cases is not certain. Although the healthcare industry has been leveraging the power of software, it is high time that software took center stage to tackle the industry’s complexities and achieve the key objective of delivering effective care at the most optimum cost.
At 10.5% of the global GDP, healthcare spending is second only to social protection. Among all countries, the US spends the most – 17.5% of its annual GDP – on healthcare. It is expected to cross 20% over this decade, and half of this cost will be out of the taxpayers’ pockets! To deliver effective healthcare, it is imperative to curb this staggering cost spiral.
Approximately 75% of healthcare costs are attributed to seven chronic diseases: cancer, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, pulmonary conditions and mental illness. Cost aside, chronic diseases account for 7 out of 10 deaths in the US. Software led care-adherence and self-help/managed care programs will play a vital role in saving lives and minimizing the costs associated with chronic diseases.
Software will also lead to the reduction of fraud, wastage and abuse in healthcare. Approximately $750 billion is lost annually in healthcare fraud. This loss is greater than the annual GDP of many countries. Software led predictive fraud, waste and abuse systems are effective ways to significantly reduce this wastage.
The key in delivering effective care to patients is improved collaboration within the complex healthcare ecosystems of providers, labs, adjacency care providers, payers, pharmaceutical companies, biotech companies, medical device manufacturers, CROs, etc. Integration of EMR/EHR to create a single episode of care with full accountability across the ecosystem or a single payment system with outcome based treatment, etc. are critical to delivering effective care while incorporating a holistic approach to healthcare and also reducing the per capita cost. Software will lead the consumerization of healthcare through the ACA and outcome led payment to the providers.
Software led predictive analytics will play a significant role in the healthcare of tomorrow. The cost of non-adherence to medication was estimated to be around USD 300 billion annually. Combine this with the high expenditure on chronic diseases, and we are presented with a massive opportunity to create a lasting impact on the healthcare ecosystem. Analytics, by bridging the care-gap and enabling self-/extended care, and intervention models can boost current adherence levels; hence reducing costs, and more importantly, improving patient care and wellness.
Healthcare delivery has largely remained the same over the past decade even though members/patients’ expectations have evolved greatly during this time, particularly in the developed countries. The proliferation of internet and mobile technologies has ensured that people’s knowledge related to wellness and health is significantly higher today than it was a decade ago. The traditional healthcare ecosystem of payers, providers, pharmaceutical companies, labs, devices, etc. have been relatively slower to capitalize on this huge opportunity. The number of smartphone users is expected to exceed 2 billion by 2015, and global internet penetration is also expected to significantly exceed the current level of 40%. With the numbers of both smartphone users and internet users increasing globally, particularly in the emerging economies, the healthcare delivery model must take advantage of this colossal opportunity for care provision, medication adherence, patient self-help programs and concierge medicine, and provide 24×7-access to healthcare from the convenience of patients’ homes. Software is the glue here, and all of these advantages can be achieved through digital healthcare systems.
Healthcare innovation, through the convergence of industries and technologies, is starting to take shape. Google has already taken a lead into healthcare by collaborating with Alcon to drive the “smart lens” technology. Smart lens, through its non-invasive sensors, will enable people to do away with their reading glasses, correct their vision, and also help diabetes patients track their glucose levels by measuring tear fluids. 3D printing is revolutionizing healthcare – scientists today have the ability to 3D print ears, and aim to print a fully functional heart by 2020! Digital care management frameworks collect 360 degree information about patients/members and process the data through an intelligence layer that is powered by predictive analytics, driving interaction with care providers, as and when needed.
It is the shape of collaborative innovation, which is at the intersection of industries and technologies that will be center stage of healthcare in the future. Given the global scale of the healthcare industry, forward-looking and disruptive technology leaders will play a significant role in driving next generation innovation, which will benefit the world at large. If you think Facebook will continue being just a social network, think again!
The three tenets of healthcare are to improve people’s health, deliver better care and minimize its per capita cost. One of the most effective ways towards achieving these is through software and digital care management. Software led healthcare is the only way to work towards achieving sustainable healthcare.