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In this first of two articles, I intend to set the scene of how the future may shape up for the Healthcare industry within the next five years. The second article will delve in to the solution landscape. 

A recently-published report from management consultants, Deloitte, 'Healthcare and Life Sciences Predictions 2020', is based on an observation of current trends, events and bold steps that, if accelerated over the next five years and beyond, will create a very different world of healthcare provision in 2020. For anyone trying to improve healthcare performance, it’s fascinating reading. 

Game-changing technology

If you take the time to read it though, you’ll find the predictions share a number of common themes, including: shifting industry priorities; diminishing geographic boundaries; the evolution of an informed health consumer and, most noticeably, how technology is going to be a game-changer over the next five years.

Meanwhile, a series of realities are driving the search for more effective healthcare delivered at lower cost. As average life expectancy climbs unabated, growth in healthcare spending to 2018 is expected to range for 2.4 per cent in Europe to 4.9 per cent in North America and from 8.1 per cent in Asia and Australia to 8.7 per cent in the Middle East and Africa.

Informed, demanding patients

Against this backdrop the number one prediction in Deloitte’s list for 2020 is that informed and demanding patients will be partners in their own healthcare. The number two prediction is that in this era of digitised medicine, new business models will drive new ideas. The two are closely connected.

By 2020, Deloitte believes, that consumers will accept they are largely responsible for their own health and incentives from health providers for good behaviour in this regard will be firmly established. But I believe this acceptance is just the beginning of a dramatic shift in lifestyles with individuals having a heightened interest in their own wellbeing and interacting increasingly with personal technology to manage their lives.

At the same time, people understanding that they have choices, will gain control and knowledge and will proactively engage with health issues. The realisation of support and education from online technology and apps as well as their increasing availability will drive new opportunities for improved healthcare services and better outcomes.

Deloitte believes privacy and security of data will remain concerns, but there is an understanding of the benefits of sharing data emerging that will counter these concerns. In the next few years clinicians are predicted to go from being reluctant to engaged in electronic information from wearables to active engagement in developing and improving the technology.

But in many cases it’s the patients who are setting the agenda. For instance, Deloitte notes that US consumers’ use of electronic health records across all age groups has doubled in the last five years - from eight to 16 per cent - with over half the US population being `very comfortable` or `somewhat comfortable` with the idea of electronic interaction with medical professionals .

Healthcare in the Cloud 

A cloud platform, such as Salesforce, would provide the only realistic opportunity to take advantage of this mass of data, as it can already work with emerging consumer lifestyle devices such as Google Glass; Epson Moverio’s and Vuzix M100 Smart glasses; along with the likes of Thalmic, Fitbit, and Jawbone UP’s Fitness tracker.

But it’s consumer access to personal electronic health records in particular that will be the foundation for more effective healthcare in the future. In this respect it is the familiarity, omnipresence and capabilities of the smartphone that presents a particular opportunity and marks out its huge potential as a driver of the healthcare revolution.

To be effective, past health information must be stored in a secure, yet easily accessible, way and users be provided with the ability to add to their records and share information easily with the medical professionals they choose, to ensure the best advice is given based on previous history. As the information is personal to the user, it must only be provided to those with whom they wish to share, with no organisation or individual able to access the data unless the user chooses to share with them.

My second article  delves in to the solution landscape and which technologies can make these bold predictions a reality.  

In the meantime, check out a demo of Salesforce for Healthcare to see how you can get started.

Ian Gallifant is founder and CEO of Medelinked, a company dedicated to allowing individuals to use mobile technology and the cloud to increase the effectiveness of health care by enabling them to securely build their health profile online and to connect and share with their network of trusted health partners.