The current COVID-19 epidemic starkly reveals how growing, aging and increasingly transient populations present a formidable challenge to global healthcare systems. The current crisis casts a sharp light on the access and infrastructure limitations inherent to traditional healthcare delivery, highlighting just how unsustainable current healthcare delivery models can be when confronted with an urgent increase in demand for treatment across one or many geographies.
This situation is most urgent in Asia, where many economies remain on a path to development. Countries in the region are in the process of determining how best to manage population growth and rising needs of healthcare provision. Technology is an obvious answer, with Asia’s smartphone-enabled population providing an opportunity to leapfrog infrastructure upgrades and increase efficiency and access to healthcare information.
But it’s not that simple. While technology-driven innovation has redefined the retail and services sectors, these innovations have yet to achieve such scale within the healthcare sector. As the current crisis shows, the need for technology innovation in the healthcare sector cannot come soon enough. The increased interconnectedness of the world has meant that the spread of infection is almost impossible to contain, and demographic change is placing stress on the healthcare’s financial, human and physical resources.
The technology infrastructure exists. The gap appears to be our ability as a healthcare sector to break free from convention and embrace new ways of thinking and collaborating.
Reasons to be positive
We are on the right path. Administratively, universal digital healthcare records are increasing continuity of care for patients and improving administrative efficiency. Digital records help by removing redundancies from our healthcare systems, providing critical relief to our healthcare budgets.
Elsewhere, the deployment of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and smarter data analysis are improving supply chain efficiency and helping to target treatments to patient needs and demographic trends, reducing redundancy and waste. Robotic systems are driving efficiency and productivity through the automation of low-level tasks, freeing up human resources to focus on patient interaction.
A further area of encouragement is the enhanced delivery of primary healthcare through smartphone-enabled applications that support preventative and first-level care strategies. As well as encouraging early interventions, these technologies – often paired with wearable devices - give patients control over their treatment and improve their accuracy.
A mind-shift change
Experience tells us that in order to realize the potential of new digital tools, an organizational mind-shift is required. This is especially true in sectors where operational standards are based on long-standing, codified standards and behaviours.
The healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors can learn from the technology industry, embracing bold decisions and measured risks, particularly when it comes to iterating innovation and learning from mistakes. In the same way that software developers and mobile device manufacturers embrace the idea of continuous upgrades into their business models, the healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors can do more to kick-start the innovation cycle and develop continuous feedback loops, where the patient experience directly informs improved treatment.
Sector leadership, including a boardroom and executive team composition, can also evolve to include entrepreneurial and technology experience to lead or advise on technology-led transformation. Bringing in those with expertise in digital transformation alongside sector specialists can help organisations adopt a more holistic, global patient worldview and remain relevant.
This is important because the consumerisation of healthcare is happening at speed, accelerated by global issues and nuanced complexities. Consumers’ expectations are also evolving, increasingly accustomed to on-demand goods and services. Healthcare and pharmaceutical firms must improve their agility and responsiveness to keep pace.
Digital transformation signals that the future of healthcare will be collaborative, requiring new partnerships and bold thinking. At Mundipharma, we recognize our role in responding to global healthcare challenges, and this responsibility leads our investment in multiple cutting-edge business transformation projects.
Central to our approach is an open, adaptive culture and a willingness to partner with technology innovators to challenge the status quo. We’re willing to accept that not all of these projects will succeed, but those that do will add real value to the way we support consumers and contribute to addressing global healthcare issues. At the same time, the pursuit of new ideas generates a strong cultural benefit across our business.
The events of recent weeks have shown that we need to evolve quickly to respond to a new normal where pandemics coupled with the unpredictable impacts of climate, demographic and geopolitical change are reshaping global systems, including healthcare.
We have the tools. Navigating this new reality will require collaboration, partnership and much quicker adoption of new technology at scale if we are going to thrive as a company with a purpose.