By Sarah Thomas, Managing Director, Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, Deloitte Services LLP.
I recently had the pleasure of leading a webcast panel discussion with three of Deloitte’s top technology leaders. We took a sector-by-sector look at how technology is beginning to transform life sciences firms and health care organizations. While each panelist represented a different sector, they all agreed that multiple forces are putting pressure on stakeholders to incorporate new technologies, and work together to improve the journey of care.
What is driving stakeholders to invest in new technologies?
Our panelists agreed that life sciences and health care organizations are turning to new technologies to help them accomplish two key goals:
Improve efficiencies while reducing costs: For years, the idea of doing more for less has been a common refrain throughout our industry. Industry leaders want to replace costly and inefficient legacy processes with streamlined procedures that add value to the system.
Build new and effective business models: Some technology giants are entering the health care space by leveraging their technological expertise and consumer prowess. Many recently announced merger and acquisition (M&A) deals point to a trend of vertically integrated business models—whether this means primary care groups coming together with health insurers, or large retail pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) joining traditional health insurers to push further into care delivery.
How are new technologies playing out?
Technology is providing new opportunities to all health care stakeholders—including patients.
During our session, we discussed a variety of trends taking place among health systems, health plans, and life sciences companies.
Life sciences companies are becoming more aware that they need to transform:Historically, life sciences companies have held patients at an arms-length for a number of reasons. Now, companies are beginning to shift their thinking about patients – many reaching out directly to customers to make their products better and improve marketing. Life sciences companies are commonly taking advantage of social media to build communities of interest where patients can interact with the company and with each other, creating more trust and brand permission. These organizations also are investing heavily in data and analytics, seeking new ways to drive discoveries, gather data about adverse reactions, and use data to provide real-world evidence. From an enterprise data sovereignty perspective, we see many opportunities for life sciences companies to harness data and technology from the end of the supply chain to more direct patient engagement.
Health systems are reengineering their technology operating models: To implement more agile processes, many health systems are beginning to try new things, fail fast, learn from the experience, and ultimately reach the most appropriate solution. This is a departure from the traditional multi-year “waterfall” approach to IT implementation. Many health systems also are trying to determine which activities should be outsourced. Outsourcing some less-complex tasks, for example, could help free up IT departments to focus on more complicated processes. From a clinical perspective, augmented reality/virtual reality could have a big impact for health systems and health care providers. While adoption has been slow, these technologies have great potential when it comes to future care delivery for home health and telehealth. It will be exciting to see what plays out.
Health plans want to bring capabilities to market more quickly than they have in the past, whether it be for value-based care, data science, or artificial intelligence: Health plans often need a set of systems and technology assets that are more plug-and-play than they used to be. Legacy systems typically have a lot of hard wiring and integration costs, which tend to be extremely expensive and high-risk when systems are swapped out, or when new capabilities are added. Incorporating more cloud-based capabilities or SAS systems can require health plans to work with innovative partners that offer essential capabilities. The ability to interact and integrate new technologies more nimbly than in the past is likely to be an absolute cornerstone of competition going forward. Data and analytics can enable health plans to have a holistic view of their members, helping manage population health and shift to value-based care moving forward.
Looking to the future
Even as life sciences and health care organizations focus on reengineering core technologies, our speakers did not lose sight of new and emerging innovations. Not only might these technologies change how companies and organizations do business, they also could affect the workforce of the future – redefining talent strategies and future skill sets.
Organizations are likely to see huge amounts of information generated by e-commerce companies, search firms, and through social media. Some medical device companies, for example, are adding sensors to their products, which will allow them to gather consumer data and build their own versions of electronic health records. Companies that want to leverage the data from these diverse sources will have to navigate a world of licenses while abiding by rules tied to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
While our panelists primarily focused on how technology trends can impact stakeholders over the next 18 months to three years, they also explored exponentials and quantum computing, which could have longer-term impacts on stakeholders. Such advances will affect not only issues like data security, but can also impact material science, molecular engineering, and other areas where we expect significant breakthroughs.
What challenges will technology solve?
Artificial intelligence, automation, robotics, and advanced analytics could help reduce, or even eliminate, patient pain points such as referrals, denied claims, and requests to juggle multiple clipboards in the doctor’s office. Despite the potential, however, the patient journey is unlikely to improve until health care stakeholders can incorporate these emerging technologies and work together toward a common goal. Organizations most likely to thrive in this future will be those that are able to put the technology pieces together to form a coherent, winning strategy, and offer differentiated products to the market.