Five trends driving a global healthcare revolution

Monday, November 4, 2019

The explosion in science and technology-led innovation is revolutionising healthcare around the world. In the Global Innovation Index 2019, Pratap Khedar and Dharmendra Sahay of ZS Associates identify five major trends driving the new world of human health.

Global healthcare’s significant progress in the last several decades can be attributed to advancements in biological science.

While biotechnology will continue to contribute, information technology will drive the next great wave of healthcare evolution. As a result, healthcare will benefit from rapid advancements in digital technology and artificial intelligence.

Furthermore, while the innovations of previous decades disproportionately benefited the developed world, IT-led innovation should give a much-needed boost to providing basic healthcare at a greater scale and reduce significant gaps that exist between developed and developing countries today.

Here are the five key underlying trends we think will bring significant change to global healthcare.


SOURCE: Global Innovation Index 2019



1. An information revolution is taking place globally
Broadband access and smartphone usage are becoming ubiquitous throughout the world, with 90% of the developed world and 41% of the developing world using a broadband connection. Such access enables not only the transmission of information to the patient but also the transmission of data from the patient to the provider, with room for future growth.


The availability of smartphones, projected to reach 40% of the global population by 2021, also enables providers to gather patient details and deliver treatment remotely. In addition to advances in communication, the collection of healthcare data has also exploded. Two examples are the sequencing, storing, and studying of individual genomes—expected to cost US$1 by 2025—and the penetration of electronic health records (EHR), which currently exceeds 80% in the developed world. Both have been driven largely by policy and cost.

2. The healthcare industry is gathering all the ingredients to succeed with artificial intelligence

In its applications, AI needs rich data on the individual, cross-sectional data across a population, affordable computing, and accurate non-linear models. Prior waves of AI were unremarkable because they were missing some of these key ingredients. But the information revolution has put all of the pieces into place, making it possible for healthcare practitioners to predict and diagnose diseases earlier and more accurately, select the most effective treatment, and close the loop to nudge human behaviour. This will enable AI to serve as a substitute for hard-to-find clinical skills and knowledge, when appropriate.

3. Deeper understanding of science is enabling more targeted treatments

As more genomic data becomes available and our understanding of human biochemistry improves, the push is on to design custom products for biomarker-tagged populations, offering significant efficacy all the way up to a curative therapy. In fact, 73% of the compounds under trial in oncology are associated with biomarkers, and the future will involve many highly effective—and expensive—niche medicines.

4. Consumerism is on the rise

Particularly in the developed world, healthcare consumers have assumed a larger share of the financial burden, have access to better information for comparisons, and have developed higher expectations of a good experience. Technologies like AI combined with a push for transparency are making it feasible for consumers to demand metrics on provider quality and price. At the same time, the emphasis on experience is encouraging providers and manufacturers to offer better services.

5. Healthcare’s traditional business models are evolving

Over time, the fragmentation of healthcare into different sectors—such as payers, insurers, providers, and manufacturers—has made the healthcare industry inefficient and rife with misaligned incentives.

Many of these sectoral distinctions are now beginning to blur in the US, with employers getting into health management, insurers investing in care delivery, and providers exploring manufacturing opportunities. Meanwhile, horizontal consolidation continues as well.


Public-private partnerships are a powerful force here because the public sector has a sense of mission, the power to mandate, and the perspective to set policy for an ecosystem, whereas the private partners have the resources, the technology, and the expertise.


These five trends are identified in the Global Innovation Index 2019, Trends in Healthcare and Medical Innovation.


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