This feature-length episode of HealthRedesigned with Andy Wilkins of Vision4Health explores 6 megatrends on the healthcare horizon and the challenges we will face at the individual and global level.
1. Socio-technological: From What's the matter with you?, to What matters to you?
"The role of technology in people's lives is going to be very different. Their expectations of what could be achieved and delivered through digital technologies in the area of health and well-being is going to be very different in 10 to 15 years time."
This role will grow to encompass healthcare support in ways we have not seen before. Patients spend 0.1% of their lives with health professionals. Tech can step into that 99.9% space and support people in the moments of life where health undergoes real-time change. This is a huge opportunity.
There's an interesting gap between that which the body is trying to self correct and that which becomes noticeably out of kilter such that we become symptomatic. It's in that gap where things start to go wrong. New digital health technologies will give our body a voice to tell us what's going on long before we begin to show symptoms.
This is a transformational way in which technology can start to hack the onset of disease and give us a greater understanding of what our body is saying to us. Communicating with our bodies in this way will grant us new methods of how to treat them.
2. Systems Biology: Understanding health on a molecular and environmental level
"If we're truly serious about getting on top of health we have to step outside of the clinical realm and start to get to grips with the factors that influence people's poor health."
Systems biology means looking at our health as a combination of biological, social and environmental factors. New intervention methods will let us stop disease in its tracks before it manifests and becomes symptomatic.
Looking at health from the very cells that make up our bodies to the great cities we live in will redefine how we treat people going forward. This new perspective will grant us a deeper insight to all the pieces of the human health puzzle.
3. Personalised Medicine: Optimising and individualising treatments
"Rather than treating disease when it manifests itself in organs, we will go right back to DNA protein generating processes that kick off a cascading sequence of events that then arrive at things like dementia or heart disease or diabetes."
The breakthroughs in DNA research will lead to optimising medicine on a personal level. New tech paired with biological breakthroughs will give us tools for addressing a multitude of health problems. We will be able to better support people, keep them healthy, and make interventions when things go wrong far earlier.
We all develop disease at some point due to the aging process. The help we provide to manage those diseases will go beyond treatment to include holistic support in daily life within 10-15 years.
To be the most effective at delivering a personalised approach to medicine requires a shift in how we treat patients in general. Healthcare will need to look at these challenges through a person-centered lens.
4. MedTech Innovation: Changing where and how health is provided
"Big expensive equipment often housed in secondary care locations is increasingly being miniaturised with software and algorithms packed into it. Things done by specialists will start to move to lower cost environments."
There's massive breakthroughs coming through in MedTech. Right now care facilities that need equipment can not always access it. Thanks to innovations happening in this space, they're becoming smaller and more accessible, moving to community care environments without extra cost.
This scaling down will continue to include personal sensors used on or within the body. Sensors of this scale enable a whole range of new factors to be measured in real time. These new forms of sensors will become more sophisticated and miniaturised in the future.
Medtech innovation will provide “a billion fold” more data in real time. The challenge will be to explain the complexity of the information being gathered so people can make the best choices for themselves and their health. Interpretation of the information will open a new field in healthcare in the form of AI.
5. Data and AI Powered Health: Mapping the universe of the human body
"The knowledge gained from observing and capturing all of this data will give us new insights that will become incredibly important helping people to manage themselves."
The introduction of so much more data will overwhelm anyone in healthcare in its raw form. Interpreting it without the aid of machines will be impossible.
The future of healthcare will include a role for machine learning and artificial intelligence to parse out and make the most relevant information available from the data received. Machine learning will observe these data sets and identify correlations that exist.
Accessing this new method of data interpretation will be crucial in helping people manage their own health. With AI taking a center stage position in healthcare expert guidance and the role of the expert becomes ever more important.
6. Psychology of Health: Rewriting the role of healthcare
"We need to understand what people need and want from healthcare because if we don't we'll have all this technological capability but we won't be able to engage people in ways that take this new information and make it empowering."
We desire a greater understanding of our own health. People will want to know how these new capabilities work with more human-centred understanding. How are we using this technology? These are the conversations that will empower individuals and communities.
A human-centred approach is more important than ever in designing health solutions. The capability for healthcare to become personal must consider how to take this new information and make it empowering and supportive. Privacy is sacred and healthtech will need to honour that while keeping users on the same page every step of the way. Of all the trends, ensuring they come into fruition with a human-centred mindset is crucial to maintaining a fair system.
Our role is answering the question of how we as innovators can create the right relationship between healthcare and human beings to empower people for the best quality of life.