REFLECTIONS FROM THE WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM 2018, DAVOS SWITZERLAND: The digital transformation of the healthcare sector

January 24, 2018 - 4 minutes read

By Raman Singh, CEO, Mundipharma

Out of all the meetings and events I attended at the World Economic Forum today, one session in particular stood out. Titled ‘The Smart Economy: Technology and the Changing Industrial Landscape’ and panelled by a host of key industry players, such as Dr. Kai-Fu Lee (CEO of Sinovation Ventures) and Dirk Hoke (CEO of Airbus Defence and Space), this Bloomberg-chaired lunch touched on how technological innovation is reshaping business models, industries and economies.

And the healthcare sector is at the centre of this transformation. You can see this in the numbers – the global eHealth market accounted for $99.35 billion in 2015 and it is expected to reach $285.57 billion by 2022, according to some analyst projections.

In emerging economies where regulations on health data are less onerous and where patients often pay to see a doctor, there is even faster growth and innovation. China, a country which builds 400 hospitals per year, saw its two largest venture capital investments in health in 2017 – and India is following close behind.

In the short term, I see the greatest transformation of the sector stemming from a growing array of apps that give consumers direct access to qualified GPs via their mobile phones – it is estimated that American GPs will conduct 5.4m video consultations a year by 2020. In the long term, global e-commerce players will make an impact as they find innovative ways to bring together health data on phones and apps, allowing patients to take greater control of their existing health conditions.

We are working hard with partners, health companies and governments to help accelerate this transformative curve by developing high-tech digital initiatives across all our therapy areas, including:

  • Virtual reality education in analgesia, oncology, oncology supportive care and respiratory – this is a new and exciting approach to medical education using technology such as Google Cardboard and Oculus RIFT
  • A mobile app for ophthalmology – this app utilises augmented reality to demonstrate the irreversible visual impairment caused as glaucoma progresses. This, combined with an interactive 3D model helps patients understand why treatment is so important despite their disease often being asymptomatic. Currently, many patients stop taking their medication which can result in permanent blindness
  • A mobile app dosage converter – this converter takes a complex algorithm and produces an easy-to-use calculator for doctors. It is fully referenced and responsive to the guidelines of the country that the doctor is practicing in, increasing doctors’ confidence and saving their time when changing patients’ medications

The global healthcare sector must not only embrace, but also ride the digital transformation wave in order to extend its reach and access to patients. What is important through all of this is the patient journey – innovative technology has the potential to consolidate or streamline what is currently a complex and fractured patient experience, particularly in emerging markets. Technology can overcome shortcomings of the physical system, helping to provide millions of patients with lifesaving treatments and information.