Healthcare is one of the most complex products our economy produces. Over the next 50 years, global health megatrends will change dramatically & we are headed to face increased risks of exposure to new, emerging and re-emerging diseases, new pandemics with surging globalisation, all putting a huge pressure on the healthcare system. Massive variations in health status, lack of access to quality health care, poor health outcomes and increasing cost of care are huge concerns globally.

The Freaking future of healthcare pushes us to achieve a more intuitive, responsive, empathetic, cost effective and safer health systems. Only possible when the entire ecosystem & the stakeholders raise the collective expectations of how the system performs today.

To solve the wicked most problems of 21st century healthcare, we look upon the latest technologies as the dynamic catalyst for all the innovations transforming the healthcare of today. But integrating the best of the technology by itself is not enough without understanding the context in which healthcare is working & the key pain points it’s facing now. What is needed is a thoughtful application of the powerful technologies to create a better healthcare experience and improved health outcomes. Unfortunately, it will not simply happen by itself.

From the era of the Internet, to mobility to the era of living services, healthcare has come a long way & never in the history of healthcare we have made use of such a vast array of horizontal innovations. We have everything from wearables to hearables to ingestibles to moodables. Technology has become a part of the everyday lives of patients, doctors and all healthcare professionals & with this transition the healthcare as an industry has an unparalleled opportunity to improve patient outcomes and overall healthcare experiences by embracing extreme patient-centric practices through technology.

Technologies such as cloud, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics, automation are showing a positive inclination towards more targeted patient care, capacitating smart decision making, enabling proactive care, supporting intuitive infrastructure, reducing the cost & providing an overall competitive advantage to the healthcare providers.

Every day we are extending the boundaries in healthcare, of what is possible with technology. However, what must be kept in mind is, whether its improving diagnosis or reducing the burden of redundant administrative work, we must focus on creating a highly secure, scalable & reliable digital workforce, who can make the right decision at the right time for the patients in need.

Empathy is the key

The healthcare industry is rooted primarily in science and medicine, relying on objectivity, facts, and evidences, but our human experience of the world requires thoughts, feelings and interactions too. The emergence of technologies like artificial intelligence & robotics in healthcare has brought a lot of heebie-jeebies — with some hailing a bright future of automation and efficiency it brings, and others seeing a risk of techno-utopianism & a threat to our autonomy, our jobs and the very fabric of healthcare, “THE HUMAN CONNECTION, EMPATHY & COMPASSION.”

Hence, it’s vital to consolidate the utility of the technology in healthcare in terms of efficiency, security and acceptability at scale, before it becomes the new paradigm.

A new report reveals the automation potential of healthcare jobs could reach as high as 54%, so now the question is, how to prepare the workforce for AI’s impact?

As of now, there is no substitute for human empathy and human to human connection, though many companies are trying to figure it out. As the healthcare organizations are attempting to convert human touch points into digital touch points & automate their processes, they need to understand that the “humane” part needs to be the cardinal point of this transformation. For the successful adoption of the change, technology needs to be in sync with how human minds think, how do people behave and how our emotions work, specifically vital where healthcare services are involved. At this point, it would not be wrong to say that, healthcare is a classic example where the use of machines is needed to augment and not substitute the human workforce & ultimately the success will not be defined with more & more technology but understanding the human side of it.

Often, it’s very tempting to focus on temporary advantages of technology and automation in healthcare, but to churn the maximum out of any technology, it always requires a system thinking approach. The expansive view is needed for the healthcare providers to evaluate:

  • What are we trying to solve with the technology?
  • Where the technology should be applied?
  • What technologies make the most sense?
  • What processes need to be redesigned prior to automation?

The idea is to devise everything around human experiences to get the biggest buy-ins & sustainability & concurrently understanding what accounts for the disconnect as you learn.

Crossing the chasm in healthcare

Currently, we produce seven hundred and fifty quadrillion bytes of healthcare data daily (Fortune, 2018), how do we harness the power of this data & efficiently prepare and process it for analysis to improve care outcomes? Now that’s a real challenge.

While very frequently we read that our doctor’s appointment might be with an AI in the future or our surgeries will be performed by a robot. In the current context, it’s extremely strange to find the technological advancements getting uneven in healthcare, when we still see a doctor struggling with EHRs or the patients’ self-diagnosing the diseases based on web searches, or hospitals remains a soft target for things like WannaCry the ransomware.

However, we all know that change is never easy & we are headed towards colossal challenges in healthcare. Moreover, everything still rests on the age-old debate of good vs bad, pros vs cons & success or failure depends on the human capacity to take that decision where we continuously learn & unlearn.

Some factors (not limited to) that would be influencing our healthcare future in the digital age:

  • Healthcare Policies and regulations (globally)
  • Data security & confidentiality
  • Disruptive innovations which will challenge the conventional systems, moving the care beyond the hospital walls. Re-thinking the future of care delivery, at-home devices, remote monitoring, in home care, making patient experience the top priority
  • Focus on disease prevention, primary care & patient segmentation
  • Evidence based research on digital health & its outcomes on the society
  • The new healthcare consumerism
  • Disease burden & ageing population
  • Health inequality & lack of accessibility to care
  • Manpower shortage & increasing cost of care
  • Demographic shifts & Environmental threats
  • AI biases in healthcare
  • Interoperability
  • Payment models
  • The list goes on…

The healthcare companies best poised to succeed in the future of neo health economy will be the ones that will make humanity as a differentiator in the age of automation while offering human-focused products, services and innovations, that triggers a positive emotional response & make thing seamless and intuitive.

To conclude

So, in these changing scenarios, how ok will you be talking to an intelligent machine about your illness? Will it be even important for you that a doctor takes your medical history or physically examines you in future? Do you mind a medical robot taking care of you?

These are some most intriguing questions which comes in our mind in this era of AI in medicine, while we know that the human craving for eye contact turns out to be hardwired in our consciousness.

More work is needed to address the many challenging questions that technology presents while at the same time capitalising on the benefits & learning our lessons.

We must remember that technology always has a funny way of morphing into an end in itself unless it is wielded and controlled by a strong vision, pure intentions, purposeful outcomes & obsession with humanity, absolutely inescapable in case of healthcare.

Looking forward to all your thoughts.

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