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Transform Care June 29, 2016

Empowerment: The Real Digital Technology Revolution in Healthcare

Global Leader, Health and Life Sciences, Oliver Wyman
Key Takeaway
What's revolutionary about current wave of #health innovation isn't tech itself but how it's empowering consumers

Sam Glick is a partner in Oliver Wyman’s Health & Life Sciences practice and the San Francisco office leader. He focuses on consumer-centric healthcare, working with leading providers, health plans, employers, enablement companies, retailers, and venture capital. In a recent article for InternetHealthManagement, he explained how consumer empowerment lies at the heart of the health tech revolution:

There is a digital revolution underway in healthcare. That’s not news. We know that nearly 275 million wearable electronic devices will be sold this year, according to Gartner, Inc. We understand that mobile health apps is one of the fastest growing categories in the app market, with expected revenue of $26 billion by the end of 2017, says research firm Research2Guidance. And we get that the home diagnostics market is expected to surge to $27 billion by 2018, according to MarketsandMarkets.com.

Digital technology is changing how we live and helping us to live well. However, what is truly revolutionary about this current wave of innovation is not the technology itself, but how it is empowering consumers. Now it is consumers—powered and empowered by digital technology—who are reshaping our healthcare marketplace.

Today’s innovators (both new health technology companies and forward-thinking payer and provider organizations) are harnessing the rise in consumerism to redefine the healthcare marketplace. It’s the same transformation that occurred in the music, transportation and retail industries. Digital advances literally put those markets in consumers’ hands, and changed people’s expectations for accessibility, customization, affordability, and experience. Now, healthcare is undergoing its own consumer-centric revolution.

Currently, healthcare is a supply-driven market. The system revolves around provision of sick-care services. Payers and providers set the terms for when, where, how, and how much. The consumer experience is a maze of start-and-stop interactions, with little transparency on cost or quality. And people are fed up.

The emerging, new marketplace will upend that supply-centered model. Fueled by digital technology and consumers’ reset expectations, the new market will blend sick care with health, wellness, and lifestyle. The focus will be on prevention and consumers’ interactions with the market won’t stop at the sick-care border. The new market will seamlessly bridge health, medication management, nutrition, stress management, fitness, behavior change and more.

Now it is consumers—powered and empowered by digital technology—who are reshaping our healthcare marketplace. - Sam Glick

Take chronic care. Currently, chronic diseases accounts for 86% of our nation’s healthcare costs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes alone costs $245 billion a year, including $176 billion in direct medical costs and $69 billion in decreased productivity. Chronic disease innovators understand the key to helping people live better with chronic disease is proactive engagement and prevention. New “smart” monitoring devices and digital technology are helping them engage people with diabetes in more effective and powerful ways than ever before.

For example, wearable blood-glucose monitors can track a person’s sugar levels, and then wirelessly transmit that information, along with details about a person’s physical activity (steps) to the smart cloud. There, the raw data can be analysed, aggregated, and turned into real-time tips and feedback, which is communicated to the consumer almost immediately via the smart device, a personalized text message, or a call from a diabetes care manager. Going the other way, consumers can access on-demand health coaching with the touch of a button. Some companies also connect device wearers to online peer support, so the experience is now a shared, social one, rather than a solitary journey in disease management.

Because these sorts of devices track a person’s readings over time, the idea is they can help prevent serious events. For instance, a person might get a message that says: “It looks like your sugar levels have been running high in the afternoons. You might want to adjust your lunchtime dose.” In addition, the continual feedback can inform and empower people so they can identify trends themselves and they can begin to make better, proactive decisions about their diabetes management.

The companies offering these sorts of technology go beyond traditional diabetes education and outreach, and they are much more than a care team; they are a person’s trusted partner on the journey to living better with diabetes. The technology enables highly personalized, 24-hour care and support, and it helps put the consumer in the driver’s seat. That is the true digital technology revolution.

Reprinted from InternetHealthManagement, by permission, June 20, 2016.

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