Health and care services

Optimising Health Outcomes: Five trends driving the emergence of the personalised health ecosystem

As health care becomes more data driven, EY has explored how organisations globally can create a personalised health ecosystem, to optimise health outcomes to meet growing health needs. Justine McCarthy, Director, Head of Healthcare, EY Ireland, writes.

Long before the Covid-19 pandemic had arrived both global and Irish health sectors had identified the need to transform services to meet the growing demands of an older and chronic disease population. With the continued emergence and reliance on data-based tools and technologies, a more personalised approach to health and wellness is being created. In recent weeks, we have seen how the emphasis on data driven decisions has guided our country to make decisions to safeguard and protect Irish citizens. While companies and organisations long recognised the potential of new tools to capture and use data to transform health, they lacked the “burning platform” to fuel this change. The Covid-19 pandemic – and the global disruption it has caused – has demonstrated that organisations have the opportunity to become more resilient, agile and innovative if they shift to digitally-enabled business models with data at the core. 

For global health organisations, the crisis highlights systemic challenges related to care, including spiralling costs, inadequate infrastructure and older populations. Tackling these challenges – like tackling the pandemic – requires close stakeholder collaboration, identification of shared goals and a commitment to create interoperable systems for data sharing and usage. This pandemic has shown how organisations have reconfigured quickly to meet these unforeseen demands and have implemented new systems, virtual health etc., in a matter of weeks rather than years. Further progress is needed, and the following are five areas where organisations must focus their efforts to build this potential data-driven future.

Trend 1: The explosion of health care data requires a new ecosystem, built around the individual, that will accelerate affordable, accessible care.

We are witnessing an unprecedented explosion of health data: in 2018, the sector generated an estimated 1,218 exabytes of data. Yet, with these data scattered across multiple siloes, all they show is a series of isolated “snapshots” of a person’s health. Integrating these data can turn the fragmented snapshots into a continuous movie, giving us a richer, fuller understanding of the patient’s health outlook, challenges and needs. It is possible to envisage a future system built around using that richer data to deliver better outcomes.

In the recent pandemic, the HSE has worked hard to break down silos quickly; demonstrated in the data driven decisions to successfully guide our path out of this crisis. The best way to accelerate innovation that can improve patients’ lives and health is not to take a protectionist attitude to data. Instead, we need to think in terms of an entirely new ecosystem for health care, which could allow us to integrate all personal health data around the individual patient in a safe manner. Standing at the centre of the future ecosystem, the individual will become the focus for a hyper-personalised approach to health and wellness.

To build this new ecosystem, organisations must:

• Give individuals ownership and control over their data so they have more power over their care;

• Understand data is no longer an asset to be owned, monetised and siloed, but rather, curated and shared to drive better outcomes; and

• Recognise that personalising health also has the potential to make it more affordable and accessible.

Trend 2: With sensors in, on and around us, 5G and artificial intelligence will create a new network transforming health care.

At the heart of the coming data revolution will be complementary technologies with the potential to transform health care. These technologies played a crucial role as the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated: across the globe, sensors tracked people’s movements in order to monitor social distancing; 5G powered telehealth and virtual triage; and AI assisted drug-discovery efforts.

These recent applications are only a preview of the radical potential the technologies hold for health care. The emergence of 5G is accelerating the transport of these data, while AI algorithms are increasingly offering the analytical power needed to convert data into insights at high speed and scale. 

To realise the full potential of sensors, 5G and AI organisations must:

• Collaborate outside the traditional health sector to extract and combine data;

• Work alongside other stakeholders to help develop the AI-based solutions that can deliver hyper-personalisation; and

• Recognise and exploit the potential for anytime, anywhere care delivery enabled by the combination of these technologies.

Together, these technologies offer a powerful emerging new network that will form a key part of the future ecosystem for health care.

Trend 3: To personalise health, organisations must use data to understand and influence behaviour.

There is universal consensus that behaviour is a critical factor in health outcomes. Recognition of the vital role of behaviour has drawn many digital start-ups to attempt to analyse and influence behaviour patterns. These efforts have yielded some success over the past year: Virta Health in the US, for example, recently reported that its remote coaching programme was effective at reversing type 2 diabetes.

To realise its potential behaviour change needs to be treated not as a separate field within health sciences, but as an integral aspect of the way health care is personalised and managed. Future products and services need to be delivered within an influencing environment where AI and sensors can enable a continuous “judge and nudge” assessment of patient behaviour and steer them toward better health.

To use data to enable behaviour change, organisations must:

• Collaborate to design health outcome-based models that reward for better management of health and wellness;

• Incorporate behavioural science into the design of products and services; and

• Work to build patient engagement with behaviour change solutions.

Trend 4: A trusted intelligence system is needed to secure the participation of the patient-consumer and other stakeholders.

Building trust will be vital in the future for organisations hoping to gain both regulatory approval and patient-consumer buy-in. For example, cyber protection is currently a serious unmet need across the sector. Organisations that want to win trust should move now to show they are taking steps to secure their products and the data they generate, hold and share.

In 2019, the FDA issued guidance with a new approach to regulating AI: trusted companies will be permitted to launch unlocked algorithms and collaborate with the FDA on monitoring these products’ performance. The companies that can thrive in this kind of collaborative, trust-based environment will be best placed to create the future “trusted intelligence” systems that will give the individual the secure, convenient tools to engage confidently with the broader ecosystem.

To build a trusted intelligence system, organisations must:

• Design products and solutions with a focus on generating data and securing it;

• Work proactively with regulators to create more robust and trustworthy framework for data exchange; and

• Work with regulators to enable fully powered algorithms to reach the market.

“With the global economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, organisations are facing ever-tighter capital constraints. These constraints make it imperative to move toward more focused business models rather than spreading their efforts across a range of different approaches.”

Trend 5. Organisations must be decisive in the business model they choose to pursue in the future.

With the global economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, organisations are facing ever-tighter capital constraints. These constraints make it imperative to move toward more focused business models rather than spreading their efforts across a range of different approaches.

Breakthrough innovators will develop new approaches to unmet medical needs, from cancer to dementia. With clinicians and health systems capacity-constrained, healthcare managers will play fundamental roles in the ecosystem, especially by delivering care to individuals with chronic diseases.

For all health organisations, the challenge post-Covid-19 will remain to identify what business model they can best employ, and to acquire the data that will make them most effective in this area.

To make the future business model work, organisations must:

• Identify and focus on their own core value to the broader ecosystem;

• Secure access to the right data, and in the right way, to optimise and validate their own business model; and

• Work to build the services and customer engagement expertise to deliver value more effectively. 

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