AI’S ROLE IS TO TRANSFORM NOT DISRUPT THE FUTURE OF HEALTHCARE

March 19, 2018 - 5 minutes read

Earlier this year, I attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, where the subject of healthcare and its intersection with digital technology was one of the key themes discussed by global business and political leaders. It’s no wonder its top of mind given the massive US$7.5 trillion spent globally each year on healthcare, which is projected to grow to US$8.7 trillion by 2020.

As the forum’s framing noted, today’s model of healthcare provision is increasingly unsustainable and as it stands, will struggle to meet the demands posed by demographic challenges. To deliver continued improvements in healthcare and meet rising demographic challenges, healthcare needs to be transformed, and digital technology will be central.

No one who participated in this discussion disagreed with this summary. Nor did they disagree with the view that digital technology will positively disrupt the location of care, as well as the type of care people, receive, with treatment increasingly moving from the hospital to a community or home setting, supported by new diagnostic tools to prevent and manage illness, enabled by smartphones, apps and increasingly, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Since the WEF wrapped up, I have had time to contemplate this discussion and its relevance to Mundipharma’s business. Three key points stayed with me and will continue to influence how we evolve our approach to meeting the needs of patients globally. They are:

The consumerisation of healthcare will continue at speed, as consumer expectations continue to evolve. Today’s consumer demands personalised and efficient services, delivered securely to a device of their choice with their privacy protected. This expectation applies to our financial and social lives, and it will increasingly apply to their health as well.

Artificial intelligence will be at the centre of transformation. According to Frost & Sullivan, 90 percent of US hospitals and insurance companies will implement AI systems by 2025. The ability to automate low-value, high volume data-based tasks will boost efficiency, but more significant is the opportunity to mine the vast wealth of personal health data generated by apps and wearable devices to fundamentally transform diagnostic knowledge collectively and individually. A further potential benefit is the application of predictive analytics to model demand curves, that in turn help refine supply chains for more efficient distribution of treatments to where patients need them.

Innovation needs to be balanced against trust. Healthcare is remarkably complex so interoperability between systems and platforms will be a challenge. Technology innovation will deliver enormous capability gains, but some will be unable to scale or be delivered efficiently or affordably. We must stay in step with regulatory guidelines to maintain the trust of patients and complement existing healthcare infrastructure and systems.

At Mundipharma, we are walking the talk – leveraging big data, analytics and digital innovation supported by strategic hires from the technology sector to improve patient access and wellbeing.

In doing so, we are careful to keep the patient outcome at the centre of our thinking. In harnessing the power of AI to meet the increasing needs of the global healthcare ecosystem strong leadership and collaboration are needed to ensure we innovate at the speed of rising consumer expectation and patient need but avoid silos and duplication of effort or investment.

Unlike other sectors, technology disruption to existing healthcare access models shouldn’t be driven by the fact that it is possible, with the positive and negative consequences to be worked out by the market in time. A disruptive approach that works in other consumer sectors may threaten patient trust or create unintended market dynamics.

Rather, the pressure on the healthcare sector to meet rising global demand for healthcare services requires a focus on technology transformation that builds on the existing foundations of our healthcare ecosystem to increase quality and consistency and to help it to scale to an expanding population.