The future of health care

Health care is undergoing a digital transformation, speeded by the COVID-19 pandemic.

17 Sep 2020

The future of healthcare – in 60 seconds

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted massive economic damage on the health care industry;
  • However, developments in data analysis and digital connectivity are driving a digital transformation in health care;
  • Telemedicine has accelerated significantly because consumers have opted for the socially distanced safety, low cost, and ease of remote health services;
  • New digital technologies could speed the development of a COVID-19 vaccine and boost the genomic medicine sector;
  • We believe that the future of health care looks bright, particularly companies that are powering the digital transformation of the health care sector in areas like telemedicine, genomic medicine, and robotic-assisted surgery.

Typically, the health care sector remains resilient during tough economic times.

In the United States, health care employment actually grew during the Great Financial Crisis, offering a crucial offset as the rest of the economy faltered.

According to US Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment would have been 600,000 persons higher (at 9.2 million persons unemployed) at the start of 2010 were it not for employment growth in the health care sector.

What is the situation today?

The current health care crisis extends beyond the pandemic.

While it might seem paradoxical, the COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted massive economic damage on the health care industry. Hospital systems have suffered enormous financial strains as a result of the onslaught of COVID-19 hospitalizations, procedure cancellations (electoral procedures had become increasingly important to hospitals' bottom line), and lower non-COVID-19 emergency room traffic.

As governments have imposed lockdowns, we have seen job losses in dentists and physician's offices, as well as physical therapy clinics that have paralleled losses in the overall service sector

Digital transformation offers a way forward

Despite the magnitude of health care supply and demand destruction, we see opportunities in the digital transformation of health care.

Although traditionally slow to adopt new digital technologies, we see faster adoption as systems around the world struggle with rising costs and the constraints paused by COVID-19.

Telemedicine, genomic medicine, and robotic-assisted surgery are just three areas that offer new services that could meaningfully affect patient outcomes.

Although traditionally slow to adopt new digital technologies, we see faster adoption as systems around the world struggle with rising costs and the constraints paused by COVID-19.

At its core are two main drivers:

  • developments in data analysis (from increased computing power – for instance genomic medicine is a big data science), and
  • connectivity (permitting care outside hospitals).
     

Telemedicine – global virtual care

The adoption of telemedicine has accelerated significantly, helped by a much more accommodative regulatory environment ushered by the current crisis. Consumers have increasingly opted for the socially distanced safety, low cost, and ease of remote telemedicine.

In March, reported that several providers started offering coronavirus assessments online, using telemedicine platforms, when the COVID-19 crisis started to take hold in Europe and the United States. The objective was to screen patients during a telehealth visit to detect potential symptoms and to keep patients who don’t need to be hospitalized away from waiting rooms.

Growth of telehealth visits during COVID-19 - % weekly increases, vs pre-COVID-19 baseline

Source: IQVIA – medical claim data analysis, 2020. Baseline: average of visits for period 1/10/2020-2/28/2020.

The percentage increase in telehealth visits in the United States per week from March 6, 2020 to April 3, 2020 compared with the baseline number of visits before the outbreak of COVID-19, according to IQVIA

In a bull scenario, telemedicine could radically disrupt ambulatory care delivery by scaling accessibility at lower delivery cost than conventional offices.

Beyond the telehealth visit described above, telemedicine could become even more effective with the growing availability of wearable sensors that could report on blood chemistry, blood pressure, and other important metrics.

Telemedicine: market size (USD bn), 2014-2025 (f)

Source: UBS GWM CIO, Frost & Sullivan, Statista, Bloomberg Intelligence, March 2020

UBS forecasts on the growth of produced data in the US and China in zettabytes between 2014 and 2015

Genomic medicine - mastering biology to advance human health

New digital technologies, already transforming drug discovery and therapeutic development, could speed the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Representing the culmination of two decades of progress, new sequencing tools have given researchers quick access to COVID-19’s RNA sequence, lending crucial insight into how the virus operates.

Advances in robotics, cloud computing, and bioinformatics facilitate faster vaccine candidate development with greater automation and parallelization than could have been possible using conventional techniques.

Over the longer term, we see great potential for companies that can combine biology, software, computing and chemistry to advance the medical state of the art, with key application areas including gene expression, immunology, and DNA sequencing.

The future of health care looks bright

We believe that the future of health care looks bright and it starts now with companies that are powering the digital transformation of the health care sector. This sector is notoriously slow in adapting to new technologies, but COVID-19 may prove to be a watershed moment. So contact us now to learn more about how to invest in digital transformation.


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