Building the healthcare system of the future

Today’s model of healthcare provision is becoming increasingly unsustainable. To deliver continued improvements to the world’s health, healthcare will need to be transformed, with digital playing a central role.

The introduction of digital services will be one of the most important factors in the transformation of healthcare over the next decade.

Although few industries have the potential to be changed so profoundly by digital technology as healthcare, the challenges facing innovators should not be underestimated. Our analysis of healthcare and digital trends highlights some of the regulatory barriers, economic hurdles and difficulties in effectively digitizing patient data awaiting those who wish to launch pioneering services.

The stakes could hardly be higher. By almost any measure, global health has improved dramatically in recent decades. However, the current model for providing healthcare is being slowly torn apart by the opposing forces of an ageing population and greater restraints on government spending. Maintaining the status quo is not an option. To deliver continued improvements to the world’s health, healthcare will need to be transformed, with digital playing a vital role.

The healthcare system of the future will look very different, with a crucial change being the move to ‘consumer-centric’ healthcare, allowing citizens to have much more responsibility for managing their healthcare and that of their families.

The two expected big shifts will be disruptions to the location of care (for instance, moving care out of the hospital and closer to home) and disruptions to the type of care (‘diagnose and treat’ to ‘prevent and manage’).¹ Rather than the inpatient setting, the outpatient setting will now be the optimal medium of care. As such, the home will become an important new location of care, and virtual care will broaden access to healthcare in rural areas, especially in emerging economies. This will result in a new structure for the healthcare system (see graphic below), with less focus on adding new beds and more on developing services to provide improved access and quality of care at lower cost.

Digital is supporting and accelerating the systemic shift to value-based healthcare. New intelligence, in hardware and other objects, is bridging the gap between the digital and the physical worlds. Hospitals, physicians’ offices and payers are accessible with a click, tap or scroll. Highly connected hardware components, along with smart sensors and devices, help payers and providers give consumers what they want: better health outcomes at lower cost, coupled with convenience and a better experience.

Our recommendations for businesses include formulating an outside-in strategy (through shifting the focus from managing inputs to delivering medical outputs), creating a culture of iterative innovation, and championing the customer experience. For governments and policy leaders, our recommendations include liberating data sources (clarifying that patients are the ultimate owners of their clinical data), investing in data standards and infrastructure, and establishing interoperability requirements on a global level.

Sources: World Economic Forum (WEF),