With lifestyle diseases draining more than 55% of healthcare spend in South Africa as a result of chronic conditions, technology should be leveraged to help people avoid getting ill in the first place, writes Luis da Silva, MD of Healthbridge.
Da Silva writes:
"Healthcare has been stuck in its inefficiencies with misaligned incentives for some time but we predict that major shifts in healthcare delivery are immanent. With the pace that technological trends are integrating many other sectors, the question is not if, but when, the healthcare sector will be integrated with greater accessibility and affordability for patients.
"To mobilise healthcare out of its inefficiencies and misaligned incentives, the industry needs like-minded health-tech creators with similar dreams, values, complementary capabilities and market presences to join forces and leverage off technological trends. This is the key enabler of quicker product and service delivery.
“Trends such as cloud technology, big data, AI, wearables, internet of things (IoT) and biotech play to the inevitability of a disrupted healthcare industry and medical information-exchange services sector. These core technologies present the opportunity to inform citizens and timeously empower healthcare providers with insightful health metrics and other relevant information which ultimately change behaviour and lead to better health.
“These same technologies can also bring about the transparency necessary for aligned incentives across all stakeholders. As the price points of these technologies rapidly drop with ever increasing functionality, broad access to all people becomes an exciting reality. Many stakeholders however are fixated in trying to optimise their relative market positions rather than addressing the problem at hand.
"The power of future innovation will not however be fully realised if it continues to be developed in silos. For example, the retail, lifestyle and travel sectors have long since seen the advantage of developing collaborative offerings for their joint customers. Think of the convenience created for customers by Amazon’s partnerships with UPS and FedEx to deliver their online shopping; sometimes within a couple of hours. Or iTunes collaboration with major music companies to satisfy even the most discerning music-lovers’ tastes, all from one single app. Or Kulula’s relationship with Avis, Europcar and Budget to allow for an all-in-one online travel booking experience.
“Consider the scale of the problem. A widely accepted statistic in the healthcare industry is that lifestyle diseases are draining more than 55% of healthcare spend in South Africa as a result of chronic conditions. Every year this burden increases while access and affordability decrease. This is true for both private and public healthcare markets, causing stress to all stakeholders; be it patients, healthcare providers, healthcare insurers and governments.
"Only when our citizens are informed and engaged to take responsibility for their own well-being will we ever address the disease burden in our country.
"Healthcare providers, especially the family doctor, are best placed to inform, diagnose, treat and inspire patients and communities to live healthier lifestyles. But the status quo needs shifting. Complimentary healthcare stakeholders should be considering how they empower the healthcare provider to be effective in this mission, particularly at the point of care. The best and most relevant diagnoses and treatment information needs to be presented seamlessly to support the healthcare provider in ensuring great health outcomes are achieved for their patients.
"Healthcare service providers are a vital conduit to educate and engage citizens who ultimately need to take responsibility for their own well-being.
"With the dynamics at play in today’s healthcare industry, it makes sense for likeminded health-tech companies with similar dreams, values, and complimentary capabilities to join forces to help address these issues.
"We strongly believe in this approach and invite all tech-players who are driven by the will to make a meaningful impact in healthcare to engage with us.
"Let us talk about the meaningful impact we can make to engage patients in their own well-being and how we empower doctors. Let us combine resources and talented team members who will be liberated to leverage technological trends and focus on quicker delivery of products and services in meaningful areas of healthcare."