Over the past few decades, the world has seen significant strides in medical research and disease treatment. As a result, people generally have longer life expectancy today.
Research has Become Faster and More Interactive
Technology is one of the driving forces behind improvements in healthcare and, when you look at the rate of change in the recent times, it is hard not to agree with that observation. For example, if a pharmacist wants to research about a particular drug 30 years ago, he would likely have to make references to more than one medical book and spend several hours in the library.
Today, with the Internet, the same pharmacist only needs a fraction of the time. The information researched would have been comparable in terms of accuracy and possibly more up to date – since it is not limited by the printing date of the publication. The variety would also have been richer. Besides medical journals and research papers from acclaimed research institutes, the pharmacist could establish interaction with respective researchers through social media, empowering exchange of medical research findings to drive advancement in research outcomes.
Patients have Become More Knowledgeable
Notably, this same information is now also available to basically – everyone. In the past, doctors are the only point of reference for any diagnosis. Now, with readily available information and an increasingly educated population, it has become common for patients to research about their possible health problem before visiting a doctor. Outcomes of doctor consultations have become merely a form of validation for their research prowess.
In addition, the doctor-patient conversations about medical conditions are also increasingly supplemented or even totally replaced by online researches. And doctors actually encourage this behaviour because it frees up their resources to attend to more patients.
General Practitioners have Become Replaceable
Truth is, symptom checker services offered by the likes of WebMD and Mayo Clinic have further marginalised the omnipotent role of doctors in illness care. Of course, one can argue that a human doctor can better pick up nuances through their interactions with patients.
However, with artificial intelligence (AI), it is simply a matter of time before machines can pick up nuances as well as human doctors, if not better. After all, AI can process a large amount of information quickly, is objective and unaffected by the effects of framing when diagnosing a condition. Potentially, AI makes a more competent general practitioner, except for the ability to issue medical certificates accepted by schools and companies – yet.
Preventive Care will Become More Important
Against the backdrop of a more educated and health conscious population, we are seeing a shift in the fundamental focus of healthcare. For the longest time, illness care is what people associate healthcare with. They seek medical attention only in times of sickness. These days, the availability and affordability of wearable tech enable users to get real-time health information on the go and be alerted of issues before major problems set in.
In the foreseeable future, preventive care will be taken to the next level when regulations for DNA genetic testing and analysing are relaxed, and services such as 23andMe allow people to learn not just their ancestry, but also their genetic predisposition to certain diseases.
New Entrants are Set to Disrupt Healthcare
Healthcare is changing and it is set to pick up pace as technology development accelerates. Who will survive this transformation? And who will emerge as winners in this disruption? We are too early in the game to know for sure.
One thing is certain, however. The disruption is unlikely to come from an incumbent. As Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen, the world’s foremost authority on disruptive innovation, said, “Incumbents rarely respond effectively (if at all) to disruptive innovations”1.
But the change momentum for healthcare is not about to hit the brakes even without the support of incumbents. Thus, rather than taking a reactive stance to the impending changes, healthcare incumbents should evaluate if it is better to sacrifice the status quo and secure their survival, or to leave it to the new entrants to disrupt the industry. As Bill Gates said, “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.2”
Adapted from Juan Salazar “How Tech is Disrupting the Traditional Healthcare Market”, Dataconomy, 16 November 2016
2 The Road Ahead, published in 1995, by Bill Gates, co-founder and then-CEO of Microsoft, together with Microsoft executive Nathan Myhrvold and journalist Peter Rinearson