“Is bronchitis contagious?” and “How many calories should I eat” were both top Google health searches between January and November last year. Last year around 1 in 20 Google searches were health-related. In 2015 more than 3 billion health apps were downloaded from major app stores, allowing people to self-monitor disease conditions and adjust their lifestyles. Gradually, we are becoming empowered to know more about our own health – and act on it.
Understanding the challenges
Does healthcare understand this shift? Communication with friends and family is fast and frictionless today; people can do business, shop and put themselves through a university degree course online. They can now manage their finances seamlessly via phone apps; using virtual reality they can visit and examine the world’s most famous artworks.
Soon, they will ask why healthcare isn’t being delivered the same way.
From one perspective, the challenges embedded in the industry are broad and deep, and the limitations revolve around access to and free movement of data. Medical information is sensitive and often struggles to flow around the complicated and tangled bureaucracies constructed around healthcare services in many countries.
This lack of access to data and poor care co-ordination has worked to the detriment of patients and has inhibited health outcomes. For example, despite steady progress towards universal medical records, a vast majority of patients still have to repeat the same basic information to multiple healthcare professionals, according to the Future Health Index1, a survey of 25,000 patients which was commissioned by Philips. Most say they have also experienced repeatedly taking the same tests, delaying treatments and burning up valuable time.
These are big challenges for an industry negotiating digital change and it is not a unique problem.