A perfect digital storm

Kristian Barker  |  Adelphi Research UK


The healthcare industry is continuing to progress at break neck speed. And digital developments are following a similar pattern.

The risk here, of course, is that these happen in parallel – but for many pharmaceutical companies, steps are already being taken to embrace the digital revolution and to utilize this to complement and enhance their own development.

The real skill here is in exploiting the benefits of digital technologies to meet the (pre–agreed) objectives, and not falling into the trap of allowing the latest technology to influence or dictate (post–rationalised) objectives.

Welcome to the perfect digital storm…

We have identified six factors that are driving the rapid adoption of digital technology within the healthcare industry:

1. Ageing demographics

A growing and ageing population means more patients with long–term health problems need more care with more administration overhead.

In the UK, the ‘old age support ratio’ (no. of people of working age relative to those of retirement age) will drop by nearly 40% in the next 20 years.

2. Rising costs of healthcare

An ageing population is part of this but so is the rise of lifestyle–related chronic health conditions such as obesity and diabetes.

Total spending per person on healthcare was £2,350 in 2013, more than two and a half times the level in 1997, when £941 was spent for each UK resident 800,000 UK adults are currently morbidly obese and over half of adults will be obese by 2050

Lifestyle–driven disease such as type II diabetes is soaring, with five million people projected to have the disease by 2025. Diabetes already accounts for 10% (more than £10bn) of the NHS budget

3. Information overload

Health information is the third most searched for category online (72% of internet users say they looked online for health information within the past year).

And, of course, with this increased consumer demand for medical knowledge comes greater patient expectations for their care—and expectations need to be managed. All of this creates a greater HCP admin burden and less time for patient care, and the need for
digital tools and filters to help manage this new information.

4. The consumerisation of technology

Smartphones and tablets are the fastest growing technologies in history. Take–up of smartphones has continued to increase rapidly in 2014, with six in ten adults claiming to own one (61%), while household take–up of tablet computers almost doubled in 2014 to 44%.

And ‘cloud’–based services mean we can access anything on these connected devices at anytime, anywhere. For HCPs and patients alike, these digital devices have become essential Life Hubs containing all the content, tools and services we need for our personal and professional lives.

5. The rise of wearables

NOT-Adelphi Research UK a perfect digital storm-2The wearable electronics business is expected to rise from $20 billion in 2015 to $70 billion in 2025 with healthcare remaining as the dominant sector including medical, fitness and wellness4. Wearables provide an additional layer of connectivity, for example, linking to apps on smartphones and tablets. And this is just the beginning for the Internet of Things.

6. The increase in big data

Added to the huge increase in healthcare information has been the upsurge in remote monitoring data generated from patients’ medical sensors and apps on devices as has been industry information initiatives like the large scale digitalisation of patient records.

Furthermore, value–based pricing from payers is forcing the industry to focus on real world outcomes and the kind of evidence–based medicine that requires clinical data–based treatment decisions rather than judgement calls by physicians.

How to best weather the storm?

NOT-Adelphi Research UK a perfect digital storm-3The only way to tackle these challenges — increased information complexity combined with increased demand and cost with reduced capacity for care — and take advantage of new data opportunities, is by using digital technology for more effective delivery of healthcare.

This will require a new balance between formal (institutional) and informal (relatives, community, self–care) treatment, and for that care to be provided before (preventative), during (treatment) and after (monitoring) patients are seen by HCPs.

With a vast amount of digital technologies available and rapidly evolving it is important to remain driven by the purpose rather than the technology. This applies to both the application of digital technologies for HCP, patients and consumers and also for respondents during market research.

Adelphi believes in asking the right questions and applying their knowledge of the full market landscape to really get to the heart of the problem.

Only through fully understanding the problem and the purpose, can the ultimate digital mediums and channels be selected to enhance the process.

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