April 15, 2017

Integrating Technology to Solve the World's Healthcare Challenges

"The time for leveraging technology to solve the most pressing healthcare challenges across the world has come," writes Ivy Teh in the "Forward" of a report published by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Ms. Teh, who serves as Global Managing Director of EIU Healthcare Consulting, continues: "With the explosion of technological innovations ranging from artificial intelligence and big data technologies to ever more powerful sensors, the possibilities of using technology to improve healthcare are endless. The challenge now is less about technology than it is about finding viable models to implement those new technologies in order to make a real impact on the healthcare challenges that the world currently faces."

According to Ms. Teh, the report, Digital Health: Total Convergence, explores "how digital health is already changing the healthcare landscape in different parts of the world, in order to provide a deeper understanding of the topic of digital health, which has been dominating conversations in the healthcare industry. Based on this deepened understanding, we also examine the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead in terms of the practical realities of finding digital health solutions for the world."

Witnessing the digital health evolution over the past several years, I have become discouraged by the view held among many entrepreneurs and innovators that technology alone is the answer to solving the healthcare industry. Therefore, I was pleased to read the report's assertion that "the current challenge in digital healthcare is no longer purely about technology. Companies have to figure out how to initiate entire healthcare ecosystems to adopt new technology-enabled ways of meeting the innumerable challenges faced in healthcare."

The report provides a relevant and insightful discussion on three subtopics:
  1. Digital health hubs: Scaling up digital health solutions for the world;
  2. Digital divide: Locating technology's value proposition in different markets; and
  3. Digital adoption will prompt a radical rethink of existing customer segments.
With respect to digital health hubs, "The interactions between technology and healthcare ecosystems in different parts of the world are creating digital health hubs with distinct areas of specialization and focal points that have formed in response to local healthcare challenges." The report "examines how the geographical dispersion of innovations and testing of digital health solutions will be critical to the implementation of high-impact solutions on a global scale."

On the topic of the digital divide, "Digital health instantiates itself uniquely in different countries and markets, each of which faces its own particular set of healthcare challenges. The value offered by digital healthcare lies in the way in which companies can apply recent breakthroughs in science and technology to different healthcare challenges to bring value to users." The report examines "how companies are extending their reach to new patient pools and markets by growing telehealth use in different settings and geographies." It also looks gives attention to "data-driven solutions that can be used to create smarter, more efficient and more precise healthcare delivery and better patient experiences."

As for digital adoption prompting a radical rethink of existing customer segments, the report illustrates how "digital technology is creating new market spaces in healthcare. New customer segments, such as internet hospitals, have emerged. Digital technology has also reshuffled the delivery points of the various medical services, in a way that will create opportunities in decentralized and near-patient products and services. Patient pathways and journeys will need to be remapped in response to patient demand for technologically enhanced products and services."

Encouragingly, the report "explores the true value of digital health—namely, the convergence of technologies to support healthy living around the world. This definition reflects the aim of this report: to provide a comprehensive and integrated view of how technology is used to solve the most pressing challenges that are faced in healthcare today."

I recommend reading the report if you have an interest in digital health. For those who read it, what are your thoughts?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

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