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Healthcare systems world over are over-whelmed and struggling with the Covid-19 pandemic. The deluge of infected patients and suspects are stretching the healthcare ecosystem beyond their capacity. Telehealth & Virtual Care tools are being introduced to health systems to increase access and remote-screen people. This and more is happening in addition to the Consumerist demands that has been lurking for some time now.

I equate the current healthcare ecosystem to the telecom ecosystem that was, during the 1990s and till 2007. The Telecom world was dominated by Mobile Operators. They controlled each and every aspect and spec that went into mobile phones be it software or hardware and the services that were provided. On the other side, Consumers had to accept what the Operators provided be it plans, quality of service and/or multimedia features in the phone. In effect, they had centralised the ecosystem around them and it was too much of a clout that one party held. This slowed down innovation and hindered new business models.

A high-level illustration of Telecom ecosystem during 1990s to 2007 and Healthcare ecosystem now.

However, in 2007, Apple disrupted this ecosystem. They came up with a new model where Customer eXperience and Customer Engagement was central to eco-system they created. And this was possible largely due to the new SMAC technologies, then. The rest is history!

The current healthcare ecosystems are centralised around Health Insurers, not connected, not digital, health data is un-interoperable and hence broken from a Consumer service orientation point of view. The industry is largely dominated by traditional businesses providing mass and reactive healthcare. Leaders need to think about personalised and proactive healthcare, now!

From ‘digital front door’ to ‘digital core’

The Telehealth / Virtual Care tools that the Covid-19 crisis has jolted upon the healthcare systems is only the first step toward healthcare going almost completely digital. This trend will likely continue long after the pandemic abates. The demographic shifts with digital natives coming to the fore and population aging, combined with continued shortage of medical professionals, ‘home’ will become the important place for healthcare. In this context, ‘remote-first & connected design is imperative. However, the current players do not seem to be ready given the ecosystem and the complexity & challenges of their systems. A new digital ‘system’ will play a crucial role in how healthcare will adjust to the new reality.

The Covid-19 crisis has levelled the playing field and provides new-age ‘digital’ companies or start-ups also an opportunity to transform the healthcare system. Obviously, Tech Giants come into play here! They are currently thriving in their businesses due to their obsession with Consumer-centricity. With their highly measurable data-driven design whose operating models leverage network effects to deliver personalised and proactive services, they have a head start to consumerist healthcare. Additionally, their expertise in eXperience & engagement can help on-board Consumers through the new ‘digital front door’ and alter the clinics & hospitals networks as ‘fulfilment’ centres through partnerships / collaboration / acquisitions. With access to regular & real-time Consumer data, insurance could actually end-up becoming a commodity!

Let us look at Tech Giants’ readiness in transforming the healthcare and health insurance industry;

  • With Pillpack, Amazon Care, Haven, HIPAA-compliant Smart Speakers, & Amazon Comprehend Medical, Amazon could use its expertise to disrupt everything from the pharmaceutical supply chain to healthcare management
  • Google’s investment in Oscar, its own EHR-like solution, it’s leadership in AI & Cloud services, apart from their readiness to take over the hospitals and create a digital Care centre
  • Apple is leveraging technology to make healthcare more personal. It’s partnership with Hospital networks to bring health records to Consumers’ iPhones, remote monitoring through iWatch, its Appstore and “walled-garden” approach for health data privacy and security.

Chinese companies are leading from the front when it comes to Digital Healthcare systems.

  • With 38,000 healthcare service providers having opened official accounts, from assisting in chronic disease management to magnifying aesthetic medicine, Tencent-owned super app WeChat is becoming a vital component of healthcare in China.
Ping An Good Doctor - Healthcare biz architecture
  • Ping An Good Doctor, with more than 300Mil registered Users, has pioneered the cloud-based Internet hospitals, cloud-based Internet pharmacies, cloud-based Internet clinics and cloud-based Internet village doctors. (PS: I’m personally excited and bullish about PingAn’s healthcare system architecture!)

Yes, there are concerns about data privacy when it comes to Tech Giants’ in healthcare. I believe there is a prospect to convert privacy issue into a ‘data empowerment & opportunity’ for the Consumers. Essentially, this means that the Consumers can choose to provide permission to Tech companies to share their data in exchange for discounted insurance premiums and/or cost of care. And for those population that are privacy conscious, they will still pay “listed” insurance premiums and/or cost of care, (obviously) with no discrimination in Care “services”.

Global Healthcare Systems and CxOs should exploit the current situation to disrupt and address the 7 design principles of Health4.0; Interoperability, Virtualization, Decentralization, Real-time capability, Service orientation, Modularity and Safety, security & resilience. Or risk becoming the new Kodaks of healthcare industry!

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