Reimagining healthcare

A year and a half into the pandemic, we have seen how almost every industry has had to undergo rapid transformation in order to develop new methods of product and service delivery. One industry that has perhaps been forced to rapidly move beyond traditional processes is healthcare. In the Philippines, we have seen a dramatic shift to using technology to promote telemedicine and virtual healthcare to allow for personalized, effective and convenient healthcare in socially-distanced safety.

However, developments such as video or online consultations serve as a beginning, not an end point. Companies now have the opportunity to permanently transform how healthcare is delivered in a way that addresses the increased needs of care providers and their patients. To tackle the evolving needs of consumers, we look at three key areas identified in an EY article, Five trends redefining the health sciences and wellness operating model that companies should closely consider in their strategic focus and in the deployment of their human and financial capital and efforts.

DEVELOPING INTEGRATED SOLUTIONS AND PERSONALIZED HEALTH OUTCOMES
The current health infrastructure is provider-driven, supply-oriented and siloed, placing consumers in a disparate model. In the future, consumer demand will drive a seamlessly connected healthcare system with humans at the center, delivering a personalized and informed experience. Imagine, for example, a one-stop system where a patient only needs to use one platform for initial consultation, treatment, the delivery of medication and follow-up consultation, all with centralized medical record access.

While such a platform is yet to be developed, Philippine healthcare providers can start reimagining a future where technology and patient-centricity can drive a competitive advantage. Such a patient-centered model will require aggregated data that is shared to fully understand and more quickly respond to the needs and wants of a patient. Healthcare will have to take a more proactive role, bringing care to a patient instead of forcing a patient to spend time, money and energy searching for the care they need.

For companies to put humans at the center, they must partner or collaborate with companies to gain capabilities in user-centered design, behavioral science and services. They can also build or employ the services of experts in artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms as well as interoperable system integration. Already there have been several developments around the world in using AI to provide personalized healthcare, such as the launch of a cloud-based platform by one company to help patients manage chronic disease by managing both medication and patient responses to the medication remotely. Another is developing a system to conduct liquid biopsy and remote monitoring so that patients do not have to go to a hospital and undergo invasive tests. Another system does real-time monitoring of patient biometrics, allowing for a quick response in case of a medical situation.

While such technologies may not be immediately available to Philippine healthcare providers, the continuing development of 5G technology and other innovations here could open the door to rich opportunities that healthcare providers can explore as part of their post-pandemic strategies.

OPENING UP ACCESS TO DATA
It has been estimated that humanity generates up to 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day. For the healthcare industry, an estimated 50 terabytes of data were created in 2020 alone, and the number is expected to increase exponentially as the effects of the pandemic continue. However, having all the data means little if we cannot properly analyze the information. Most of the data generated by the healthcare industry sit in siloes every year, but the difficulty in extracting the information’s true and extended value lies in various technical and ownership issues as well as regulatory reluctance. In addition, most companies tend to be very protective of their data, considering the information a source of potential intellectual property assets and new discoveries.

However, the reality is that no single company is able to or should own more than a fraction of the total volume. At the same time, the monetary value of proprietary data is significantly less than the data that a company can actually access, interrogate and apply to the operations and product development. Simply owning data generates costs but accessing and assessing data can generate valuable insights for the health system. Moreover, refusing to share or grant access to data impedes meaningful progress in healthcare.

While this is certainly a thorny conundrum, it is something that the healthcare industry should explore. Two key questions come to mind: How can companies mine their data to get the right information that is critical to their business model, and how they can share access to their data with selected, tightly regulated partners so that more long-term value can be gained by combining resources, knowledge and insight?

Answering these will take time, investment, and no little amount of compromise. But consider the possible discoveries in such a situation. For example, a hospital that shares data on the most and least effective COVID-19 treatments and medication with a company that manufactures diagnostic machines might be able to develop more effective, life-saving technology. Or if we wish to consider recent news, there has been talk of combining various vaccine brands to achieve a greater protective effect — this is a potentially game-changing area where sharing and combining data could have incredible benefits.

Of course, companies will need to develop structured data system arrangements to protect proprietary data while allowing access to vetted companies. They will also need to work with government, regulators and data security experts to establish norms that are acceptable and fair to all parties and while protecting data integrity. In addition, healthcare companies may need to retrain or acquire talent that can develop proprietary data processing technologies to help speed up the R&D process.

BUILDING SUSTAINABILITY INTO OPERATIONS
An EY survey with almost 15,000 respondents discovered that up to 45% of consumers believe in the increased importance of sustainability compared to a year earlier. In the Philippines, we hear about the challenges that medical facilities and providers are now having in dealing with medical waste and used protective equipment. Consider as well the number of disposable syringes that are being consumed daily all over the world due to vaccination and we can better realize the increasing need for companies to measure and report sustainability practices tied to environmental, social and governance (ESG) disclosures.

Though it may seem obvious that products and services that help people treat or manage disease have significant social value, more and more people are also weighing the import of environmental and economic issues.

For companies to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability, they need to establish a measurement framework to gauge the impact of their sustainability programs based on their business model, and also be able to communicate the value of their sustainability initiatives to their patients, customers, stakeholders and investors.

ACCELERATED TRANSFORMATION FOR BETTER HEALTHCARE DELIVERY
COVID-19 has highlighted the gaps between what companies are capable of now and what they will need to accomplish for future growth. With the acceptance and adoption of new technologies fueled by data and driven by consumer demand, companies in the healthcare industry need to start reimagining how they can generate innovative, long-term value for their business and use that to springboard into post-pandemic recovery.

The pandemic is not the first, nor will it be the last, major disruption that will trigger forced transformation and evolution for companies. While we cannot predict what the future may bring, we can certainly reimagine how it should be.

This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. The views and opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of SGV & Co.

Karen Kaye M. Sta. Maria-Constantino is a Tax Partner of SGV & Co.

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