As consumers we expect industries such as banking, media and retail to instantly satisfy our unique digital demands and enrich our lives – so why not healthcare too?
Well it can – if we collaborate. In Europe, the will exists, as does the infrastructure and digital capabilities to make healthcare personal again. However, if we are to construct a new system of healthcare fit for the 21st century we cannot tackle problems alone. We need innovative partnerships between stakeholders, governments and private enterprise to unleash the extraordinarily powerful systems and value of the big-data being created.
Already today, handheld devices that monitor our vital signs, remind us to take our medicine and warn medics of worsening conditions even when we’re not in hospital. Personalized care is as unique as our individual DNA codes. Innovative applications, such as the eCareCoordinator give clinicians real-time access to huge amounts of data, allowing them to tailor treatment plans accordingly.
As figures suggest that 37 per cent of Europe’s population will be aged 60 or over by 2050, it’s not just patients that will benefit. Faced with spiralling health costs and an increase in chronic disease, governments will be able to make essential savings and use resources more effectively. Hospitals will free up beds and services. Doctors and nurses will restore the intimate bond with patients that truly defines ‘personalized’ care.
Just as a company like Philips has redefined itself over more than 120 years of innovation, so does the healthcare system needs to adapt to societal changes. By working together, we can help it move from a system focused on acute care, into an outcome-based system emphasizing prevention, faster diagnoses, shorter hospital stays and longer independent living.
Three main strategies can enable this to happen.
First, we need to lift ourselves from silos hampering collaboration and instead view healthcare in terms of a connected continuum, where patients have a greater role in managing their health. Currently, we get diagnosed, treated and are then cared for but we need to incorporate a far broader perspective in which healthcare begins and ends at home.
And this is the second strategy – to empower consumers to control their own health and proactively focus on preventative measures. Part of this entails more definitive diagnostics and minimally invasive treatments, where quality and cost are optimized. Ultimately, care can be brought into a domestic setting - where possible - which will create a higher quality of life and a more cost-effective one, too.
Finally, we need patient-centric ‘connected’ solutions to foster that empowerment. Devices such as body patches or wrist monitors will motivate people to lead a healthier life because it allows them to stay informed and involved. In the professional arena, digital technologies can integrate disparate segments of the healthcare system. Data from physicians, hospitals, pharma, and community health experts can be pooled to engender more meaningful and flexible treatment strategies for individual patients.
These aren’t just recommendations for the future, they’re happening now as demonstrated by a four-year Effective Cardio study Philips conducted in six Dutch hospitals. It showed that when care delivery used remote monitoring capabilities for 175 chronic heart failure (CHF) patients, there were 52 per cent fewer hospital admissions. Such a proactive, responsive and personalized program could save 82 million Euros a year for CHF patients in The Netherlands alone.
If we want to expand such schemes and truly spark a healthcare revolution in Europe, we need collaborative action with both the EU and individual governments. We need to strengthen the digital market and support new trends in e-health by facilitating responsible harvesting, sharing and use of personal data. We need to rethink incentive structures and introduce fees based on performance and outcomes.
And we need to embrace private partnerships to manage costs more effectively and provide the kind of innovation which will improve the lives European citizens for generations to come.