the transformation of healthcare

Technology is transforming healthcare by empowering consumers and service providers alike.

Technology is driving profound changes in our approach to healthcare. Increasing numbers of us are using wearable fitness trackers or smartphone apps to manage our physical and mental health on a day-to-day basis. Meanwhile, technology innovations are helping healthcare leaders to not only improve patient and customer outcomes but also address some of the many challenges faced by the industry.

On the consumer side of the equation, what we’ve seen over the past ten years or so is a story of empowerment. Smartwatches and fitness bands have evolved from fairly basic devices into increasingly sophisticated tools. Today, a typical tracker will not only provide statistical data from workout sessions but also flag up potential problems such as irregular heart activity. Equally important, apps and wearables are also helping users monitor and address many other health and wellness-related issues. From tracking ovulation to monitoring food intake, technology is providing a means for consumers to manage their own health.

There are parallel opportunities for healthcare providers. It’s often the case that customers tend to come into contact with the healthcare system only when some kind of crisis arises. An individual detects symptoms and turns to a doctor seeking remedial action.

Holistic Care

Technology opens the door to a more holistic approach to healthcare – one based on prevention through the promotion of healthy lifestyle choices and early warnings of potential problems rather than medical intervention through treatment when symptoms become apparent.
This is potentially game-changing for the healthcare industry.

The sector currently faces some very real and difficult challenges. As a report on the U.S. private healthcare system recently pointed out, providers face post-COVID workforce shortages and rising costs (McKinsey 2023). Inflation is not just a problem for providers such as hospitals but also for employers who face rising insurance premiums to cover their staff.

The good news is, however, that against this backdrop, technology is providing the industry with opportunities to innovate.

So what does this look like in practice? Well, if we return to increased usage of consumer-facing technologies such as smartwatches, the empowerment of individuals is also helping industry professionals.

Consumer health technology builds a bridge between the consumer and the health ecosystem. A consumer who is monitoring basic health data may be more inclined to stay in contact with practitioners or to sign up and subscribe to a range of data-focused health services.

Health monitoring doesn’t stop at heart rate, blood oxygen or estimated fitness age. Specialist wearables can monitor glucose in the blood, providing a means for diabetics to regulate their food intake and avoid crisis situations (Forbes 2023). Similarly, mental health apps provide a means not only to monitor moods but also – in some cases – to access therapy.

There is a second important benefit. Wearables and apps generate a huge amount of vital data. Much of this may be kept private by the consumer, but it can also be pooled and analysed by healthcare companies to provide additional information and insights that will ultimately lead to greater understanding of medical conditions and improved treatments.

AI and analytics will – over time – identify patterns and indicators that will enable doctors and other clinicians to identify and treat at-risk individuals and groups.

Feeding Demand

The likelihood is that technology will feed demand for trusted sources of information and for the services of professionals. This is something that you can see across all demographics, from young people using social media to talk about wellness and fitness issues to older age groups. Technology – and AI in particular – will also help the industry to streamline the preparation of documents and speed preparation times for patients. There are estimates that efficiencies derived from AI could save the industry $360 billion over the next five years (Deloitte 2024).

The healthcare sector must change. In many countries, populations are ageing, putting strain on the resources of healthcare providers. This requires a rethink in terms of the way that healthcare is provided, with a greater emphasis on holistic care and prevention.

In response, healthcare leaders need to think about how they can make their operations more efficient – to cope with both an expected increase in demand and financial pressures – while also forging a relationship with paying customers that delivers greater value over a lifetime while remaining affordable.

Leveraging technology is the key. According to McKinsey, HST – Health Service Technology – is now the fastest-growing segment within healthcare. Going forward, it will play a crucial role in delivering the efficiencies and service levels needed to create a sustainable, agile and resilient industry.