The Future of Healthcare

The beginning of the year usually finds people predicting how the year in healthcare will turn out. As evidence, many thought leaders are already coming out with their top ten lists of healthcare trends for 2022. Although I love reading these lists, I’m not sure I can add more to the content already out there.

Therefore, instead of a top ten list, I’m going to share a vision for the future of healthcare. We refer to this vision at Black Opal Ventures when we assess companies and opportunities. So, please, read on.

1. Better, faster, and more efficient use of data Currently, the world generates millions of terabytes of healthcare data. Stakeholders have also pumped billions of dollars into gathering this data. Unfortunately, we barely use all of that data.

For example, a 2017 study published in American Medical Informatics Association Symposium Proceedings, reveals that the mere availability of data hasn’t translated into major change in knowledge or clinical practice. This inability to convert available data for beneficial healthcare use is due to several reasons including data complexity and privacy concerns. Furthermore, much of the world’s healthcare data is siloed and inaccessible to patients and clinicians.

We believe the future of healthcare will unlock this data, make it accessible, and useful. Digital health in the future will be data-driven healthcare.

2. Prevention and earlier, more accurate, and more convenient diagnosis Indeed, we’ve made great strides to prevent disease and improve diagnosis. However, we still have a long way to go. Diagnosis, for a clinician, is one of the hardest things to do. We’re often taught that diagnosis is part science, part art. However, I firmly believe that we can and should make it more science. I think about all the times I’ve had to tell a patient they had cancer and wish we could have known earlier or prevented it from the onset. Or the patient who comes in with chest pain to the ER, and as doctors, we make mental calculations of their likelihood of having a heart attack. We have so many opportunities to improve healthcare diagnostic accuracy and prevent upstream of illness. There’s also the strong case of aiding and allowing patients to play a bigger role in self-diagnosis and health monitoring. This helps them stay more aware of their health conditions, combats delays in diagnosis, and may lead to improved accuracy.

3. Care that is delivered anywhere and to anyone at the speed of electrons In the past months, we’ve learned a lot from the pandemic on how care can be delivered differently. In March 2020, traditional medical centers had to pivot to virtually delivering most of their care quickly. It wasn’t something we were used to or had adequate time to prepare for; it just happened.

This was a great change for the industry. Similarly, it was a glimpse into the future of medicine, where care is delivered quickly and conveniently even when the conditions are critical. Of course, the pandemic has also highlighted workforce and supply shortages; traditional healthcare centers don’t yet have the resources for faster and improved care delivery.

We believe the industry is just starting to see how remote care, artificial intelligence, and autonomous systems will increase our ability to deliver care more efficiently and effectively. In the future, technology will help us shore up our inefficient resources and avoid adverse effects of our current shortages.

4. Personalized treatments discovered at lightening speed and delivered to the right patient at the right time In the twenty years since I’ve been practicing, the idea of personalizing treatment has evolved tremendously. It started with cancer, where we could do genetic sequencing of tumors and identify optimal treatment regimens and we are starting to see personalization for other conditions like diabetes and autoimmune disorders.

However, discovery and development processes are slow and expensive despite growing progress. Personalized medicine that could transform the healthcare sector is developing at a dangerously slow pace because of its capital-intensive nature.

Indeed, it’s not surprising that providing the right treatment to the right person and at the right time may take time to develop and mature. Fortunately, though, there is much potential and promise for better, faster, and cheaper treatment discoveries and systems, processes, and technology to deliver personalized treatments.

5. Unbiased Care, data, and outcomes As the future of healthcare rapidly unfolds, we have to keep an eye on disparities; these could be in the nature of care that is delivered or a lack of data or insights because of biases in research and analytics.

Yet again, the personalization of treatments that don’t account for racial, ethnic, or socio-economic factors could also be another cause for concern. It is not uncommon to find racial and other forms of bias in artificial intelligence (AI) healthcare models.

Therefore, as our healthcare technology develops, we have to watch out for and eliminate potential biases. We must also fight against norms that may continue to promote these biases. If we are determined to deliver quality healthcare, we cannot allow the factors that hinder socio-economic cohesion and advancement to affect the digital healthcare sector, too.

So, what now? Technology is here to stay in the healthcare sector, and it’s at the center of almost every digital health innovation. Therefore, we must go beyond speculating on whether technology will transform healthcare.

Instead, we need to deeply reflect on how technology can positively affect the key elements of healthcare delivery and how we can work together to create a better future for the healthcare sector. This means bringing together the world of technology with the world of healthcare much more than we currently do so.

After twenty years in the healthcare industry, I’m more optimistic now than ever that the future of healthcare is bright and I’m thrilled to be a part of that transformation.

This article was originally published on Medium