The future of healthcare

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WILFREDO A. BALTAZAR

WILFREDO A. BALTAZAR

If you could skip the long hours of waiting in your doctor’s office and instead consult with her through Skype or FaceTime in the comfort of your own bed, would you? If the market could produce a wearable device that monitors your vital signs, including the quality of your sleep or the air around you, and automatically send this data to your physician on a regular basis, would you buy it? If a robot could perform precision surgery on you, would you let it?

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In a report entitled “Healthcare and Life Sciences Predictions 2020: A bold future,” the Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions posits that we are not very far from this new world of healthcare. Looking at trends, developments and small but bold steps in the healthcare marketplace, Deloitte researchers have made a number of exciting predictions that patients, healthcare professionals and life science organizations would find interesting.

1. Patients will become partners in their own healthcare
Even now, individuals are already better informed about their health and wellbeing, with some going as far as subjecting themselves to genetic profiling in order to learn about their possible future health issues. This abundance of data will give rise to patients who expect a wealth of options from their healthcare providers – from the treatments available to them, to the timing of the treatment, to the place where they can receive these treatments, and the cost. In short, patients will become more like consumers. Related to that, Deloitte researchers expect a shift in the way healthcare providers relate to patients: from a paternalistic approach, there will be a more patient-centered approach to consultation and treatment.

2. Even medical care is going the digital route
Thanks to advances in digital communication, by 2020 much of medical care will take place at home. Web-based portals will allow doctor-patient contacts to happen in the virtual world and digital diagnostic tools will facilitate physical examinations at a distance. Locally, we are already seeing evidence of this future state in the likes of Globe’s KonsultaMD, which allows users to consult with trained medical specialists just by dialing a hotline.

The digitization of medical care will revolutionize healthcare productivity, reducing traveling and waiting times for patients, and will be particularly advantageous for the Philippines, where many people living in remote areas are medically underserved. In fact, the Department of Science and Technology has already made headway in this direction with the RxBox, a device that can store and transmit patient data electronically to allow health workers in remote communities to consult with physicians in urban areas. Several units of the RxBox are already in use around the country.

3. Wearables and mHealth, or mobile health, applications will help shape quality of life
Deloitte researchers predict that by 2020, the tipping point for broad adoption of wearables will have been reached. By this time, the devices will be interoperable, integrated and engaging, and the technology will be more sophisticated and yet much cheaper, allowing more people to opt in. With the capability to monitor a broad range of physiology – from posture to brain activity – wearables will allow clinicians and patients to focus on self-management and prevention strategies. One wearable that is expected to hit the market soon, for example, is designed specifically to detect falls as a result of an ailment and immediately alert family members and attending doctors to send help. Its inventor, Filipino-American Angelo Umali, got the idea for the device after his own grandmother fell and hit her head while at home. She eventually passed away due to an undetected blood clot.

4. Big data in healthcare will be pervasive
Now that there are more ways to generate, store and share healthcare data, clinicians and healthcare professionals will be in a better position to transform diagnosis and treatment to improve outcomes and healthcare productivity. Deloitte also sees pharmaceutical companies collaborating with patients and healthcare systems and using data to develop better treatments and launch them faster. With the healthcare system recognizing the value of healthcare data, the regulatory environment for patient generated data will also improve, and consumers will have more control over how their data is used.

5. New regulations will encourage innovation through the convergence of science and technology
In 2014, most regulatory processes laid down by concerned agencies centered on the science behind drugs. With the pervasiveness of big data in healthcare, Deloitte predicts that by 2020, regulators will have adopted a more data-driven approach – based on patient outcomes – in assessing the quality, safety, and efficacy of prescribed medicine. Deloitte also sees regulators investing in new capabilities to manage data and technology regulations. For companies in the healthcare sector, Deloitte predicts rising costs of regulatory compliance as more engaged participants – particularly patients – lead to a more rigorous approach to regulation and patient safety.

These are just some of Deloitte’s predictions for the healthcare and life sciences sector, but already we can see a world of developments and improvements that could literally spell the difference between life and death. It will be interesting to see which of these predictions fully take shape in the country and how that will make healthcare for Filipinos so much better,

The author is an Audit & Assurance Partner and the Technical Research Head at Navarro Amper & Co., the local member firm of Deloitte Southeast Asia Ltd. – a member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited – comprising Deloitte practices operating in Brunei, Cambodia, Guam, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

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