At the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE SA), the Healthcare and Life Sciences practice group focuses on affordable healthcare and access to medicines as well as supporting innovation to improve overall wellness and societal outcomes. In this sector, we have seen the continuous development of innovative technologies to meet the ever-changing needs of patients, support the increased use of telehealth, empower consumers who are taking more ownership of their personal and mental health, and help combat the rising cost of healthcare around the world. But one thing remains certain: we will continue to see innovation in technology and tools to accommodate new demands and gaps in the industry.
As we continue in 2023, we reflect on several advancements in healthcare and life sciences while also noting three key trends in the sector this year: the rise and related challenges of healthcare consumerism, bringing hospital to the home, and increased focus on longevity technology.
1) The Rise and Related Challenges of Healthcare Consumerism
Healthcare consumerism has been discussed for nearly a century, but the more recent growth in sentiment is due to the global shift towards value-based care.
Today’s patients are more educated about medical terminologies, diseases, and approaches to disease prevention and maintenance. They are more motivated to take charge of their health by adhering to better lifestyle choices, maintaining “preventive” care screenings, and being more informed about public health. With this newfound education and motivation comes the demand for transparency, trust, and access to their health data. Similar to retail experiences, they want what they pay for, and that includes access to their health data and the ability to transact it for better health outcomes. All of these dynamics are shaping the future of healthcare consumerism.
In support of the evolving way consumers view and choose their healthcare, ongoing technological advancements enable patients to have different experiences and control of their healthcare outcomes. The increased reliance on telehealth and mobile health technologies gives consumers more choices on when and where they want their healthcare administered and with on-demand responses. Meanwhile, the use of distributed ledger technologies (DLTs) is driving the move toward decentralization and incentivization for patients to access and manage their health data.
2) The Rise in Bringing Hospital to the Home
The concept of “hospital at home” is technically not new. Reflective of the rapid growth in this space and the successes of hospital-at-home programs, McKinsey estimates up to $265 billion worth of care services will be spent within the next two years. This totals about 25% of the total cost of care that could shift from traditional facilities to the home—without a reduction in quality or access.
Numerous diseases and illnesses must still be treated in a hospital setting, but with technological advancements, many can be monitored at home. Advances in remote patient monitoring (RPM) and remote therapeutic monitoring (RTM) allow doctors to receive near real-time data on patients’ blood pressure, heart rates, blood glucose levels, and their reactions to therapeutic delivery devices. The monitoring of these vital elements, especially for chronic disease patients, alleviates the burden of frequent hospital or doctor’s office visits. Instead, these technologies are conveniently designed for the patient and/or caregiver to implement, after which the data immediately begins transmitting back to the clinical provider.
Receiving care at home instead of at a hospital can dramatically reduce costs while also improving the patient experience. But there can be challenges, notably in infrastructure, accessibility, and feasibility. Consumers must be cognizant of proper power consumption and battery life for these technologies, must have stable internet connectivity in the home, and data and privacy protection are essential. System reliability is critical; devices must always be powered and connected to ensure continuous real-time monitoring.
3) Longevity Technology
Global life expectancy appears to have declined between 2019 and 2020 and again between 2020 and 2021. Uncertainty about its exact size aside, this represents the first decline in global life expectancy since 1950. The decline between 2019 and 2021 may be in part due to the number of deaths related to COVID-19, although other conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, and suicide increased during the last decade.
Longevity technology, combined with scientific research, focuses on enabling people to live longer with better health and wellness. For the last few decades, the term ‘preventive care’ has been used to motivate patients to engage in yearly physicals, cancer screenings, and other better wellness activities—not necessarily always to prevent the disease, but to get ahead of it.
The new race in healthcare has now become longevity technology. Unlike the current use of digital technologies designed for monitoring and maintenance, longevity technology seeks to create a fundamental paradigm shift from treatment to prevention. It seeks to take technologies that simply monitor to ones that monitor and offer insights. Using digital technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and wearables, and biosensors in combination with scientific advancements in genetics, environmental, and physiological research, the world’s experts are seeking how they can improve longevity and quality of life.
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