UK: Healthcare Predictions 2016: Finally Getting Bolder?

Last Updated: 4 January 2016
Article by Karen Taylor

Most Read Contributor in UK, August 2017

Last November our report on Health and Life Science Predictions 2020: a bold future? generated a great deal of interest and enquiry and in the intervening months I have discussed these predictions at numerous sector events, from individual client workshops to high profile sector conferences. Given the pace of change in healthcare, the predictions remain completely prescient however, using the feedback received and on-going tracking of developments, I thought I would use this final blog of 2015 to highlight some of my key healthcare predictions for 2016.

While, for decades, the healthcare industry has remained stubbornly behind other industries when it comes to the adoption of modern information technologies, this started to change in 2015. In 2016 we should start to see the new wave of technology innovation finally driving large-scale transformation of healthcare economies. For me, this is what is finally making change inevitable and, with the 12 days of Christmas nearly upon us, the 12 main changes I believe will happen in 2016 include:

Patients becoming more like consumers - while widespread adoption and interoperability of healthcare IT is a necessary ingredient for system improvement, achieving this along with a meaningful, sustainable, and value-based impact on clinical quality and outcomes has proved extremely difficult to do and challenging to measure. Payers, especially in insurance based systems, are starting to change this dynamic by using deductibles and co-payments to encourage patients to make choices. Patients increasingly understand, and are being incentivised by the cost and quality implications of their lifestyle and healthcare choices. In 2016, there will be greater focus on educating health consumers and integrating them as key stakeholders in improving their own health.

The rise of connected health - the new generation of medical or clinical wearables, based on sophisticated bio-sensing, data capture and analytical functionalities will have a big impact in 2016. This should enable devices to have greater utility and be more actionable. We can also expect to see more integration between smartphones, wearables and biosensors. Although wearable sales have, to date, largely involved monitoring technologies, the next 12 months should see a greater use of technologies that enable clinician to patient communication and therapeutic support. Various consumer surveys suggest that almost half of the adult population are considering adopting wearables in the near future, as people start to take more responsibility for their own health and the price of this technology decreases.

Cognitive computing will increase the utility of wearables Cognitive computing supports the development of a more holistic view of personal health information and goals, through the collection and analysing of the wearable data. Until now, healthcare has been data rich and information poor, with the majority of patient data and information largely untapped, locked in unstructured unconnected data and patient record systems, held in multiple locations. With cognitive computing, care providers can have timely access to a more complete patient care profile so they can deliver truly personalised care.

Doctors will begin to integrate trusted mHealth technology into their day to day practice. In general, doctors have been slow to embrace mHealth mainly because there has been a lack of medically proven applications that they feel they can trust. In 2016, this should begin to change as mHealth applications become more reliable and doctors feel they can trust them. Doctors are likely to increase the adoption of telephone triage and virtual consultations as an effective way of managing demand.

The number of patients using telemedicine services will rise in 2016. This should improve access to services and reduce consumers/patients reliance on needing to visit the hospital or a physician's exam room to receive medical care. The evidence as to how telemedicine can not only reach more people but also drive down healthcare costs is likely to become more robust. In 2016, better understanding of the costs of care should see commissioners and consumers seeking services from providers, such as telemedicine companies, that provide clear, transparent and easy to understand pricing. Companies are likely to collaborate more with local hospitals, providers and pharmacies to develop new telehealth solutions, with telehealth adoption reaching a tipping point in 2016.

Increase in home monitoring of patients with long term conditions (particularly for people with diabetes and COPD). This, alongside increasing capacity to administer insulin, warfarin and chemotherapy at home, should improve patient care. Increasing adoption of vertically integrated care and new funding models should incentivise delivery of the right interventions, in the right place, first time. Adoption of new models of care is likely in many countries (for example the UK's Five Year Forward View vanguards programme).

More immediate access to smart diagnostics - the development of less expensive and faster point of care (POC) testing with improved capabilities, connectivity, biosensors and microfluidics should drastically reduce turnaround times (as quick as 5 to15 minutes) enabling testing to be performed in settings previously not feasible, transforming access to diagnostics. More diagnostic testing will therefore be possible at first point of contact, including primary care and emergency departments.

New entrants to the provider market and a continued increase in collaborations and partnerships will change care delivery models. Increased collaborations and partnerships between providers, medical technology, pharmaceutical and information technology companies should lead to new models of research and development, diagnostics and treatment and the wider-scale development and adoption of precision medicine.

Initially in the US, the march of retail healthcare will continue unabated in 2016. Retailers are likely to continue to expand their clinical footprint, by acquiring new tools and forming partnerships with healthcare companies with retailers executing their strategies to become the front line of primary care services. In the US, the expansion of in-store clinic footprint is expected to continue at a pace, including POC diagnostics and retail pharmacies offering genetic testing to consumers. As the evidence base builds other countries can be expected to embrace retail based models of care delivery.

Healthcare IT security spending will increase significantly in 2016. Healthcare IT will become increasingly driven by factors including security, analytics and interoperability. In response, industry leaders are likely to recognise the value of having skilled chief information and security officers in leadership positions. As payers demand more assurance (for example through rigorous certification, accreditation, and audit of security and identity controls), There will be a need for IT leaders to focus on detecting and responding to threats as well as more traditional blocking and other measures to reduce risk of cyber-attacks.

Increased power of genomics and growth of precision medicine will continue unabated in 2016. The idea of being able to track down the genetic basis of diseases has become one of the hottest ideas in medicine. Scientists are now able to edit genomes or turn off a human disease gene. Scientists have begun to better understand genetic diseases with the use of technology, and in turn are drawing closer to new precision therapies. Indeed, genomics is a fast-growing and highly dynamic industry and, while estimates vary, the global genomics market is currently valued at around Ł8 billion. The general consensus is that the market should grow rapidly (with an annual growth rate of 15 per cent), driven by the falling cost of sequencing, growing investment from pharmaceutical companies and a plethora of national and international projects like the US Human Genome Project, the Saudi Human Genome Project and the UK's 100,000 Genomes Project.i In 2016 there are likely to be many more advances made possible as a result of the increased understanding of science and role of technology.

The patient-centred approach should finally become a reality in 2016. Increasing numbers of organisations will start to use advanced and predictive analytics to better understand the health of their local population and to reduce the risk of them becoming dependent patients. By utilising familiar design patterns and principles with advanced technology, healthcare companies can start to derive more insights into the problems of human engagement and motivation.

One thing all the above predictions have in common is the changes are made possible by the advances in technology and the emergence of new collaborations and partnerships in what has traditionally been a siloed delivery model. In 2016, this should begin to create new opportunities to deliver solutions that inform care decisions, improve care delivery, and enable comprehensive care management; with an increasing focus on improving patient experience (including quality and satisfaction), improving the health of populations, and reducing the cost of healthcare.

Be sure to check back in early January when I'll be re-starting my weekly blogs.

Footnote

i https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/genomics-industry-study-uk-market-analysis

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