With rapid IT and bio-tech developments, healthcare is changing rapidly. We see a trend towards patients wanting and having more control over their own healthcare, and with it, the emergence of peer-to-peer medicine as an alternative to traditional healthcare.68
Meanwhile, globally, mental health is finally being recognised as part of a much-needed debate and reform. With growing and changing populations increasingly complex challenges and rising cost, will our formal healthcare systems be ready?
The health sector will need to respond to the implications of choices over healthcare by offering patients greater autonomy – and perhaps reconsidering the role of the doctor itself. Technology may well assist with this, albeit in a slow and steady manner. The arrival of 5G could potentially increase diversity, making video conference doctor appointments more feasible.69 In the future, it may help further develop our smartphones as medical devices, able to monitor vital signs or even conduct medical scans.
Several startups are already looking to expand wearable technology beyond physical monitoring. They aim to empower people with the data they need to achieve health beyond physical fitness. Mental health is a key area of focus; the same mechanisms that have proved popular when tracking food intake or steps can be actively applied to mood shifts and their triggers.
Despite the potential merits of greater health self-reliance, healthcare professionals remain hesitant about a changing dynamic between doctor and patient. In the UK, for example, we have been talking about moving the National Health Service from an illness to a wellness service for decades. Progress has been slow. It therefore looks as though we will drift rather than shift into a world of technology-enabled health self-reliance.
Stakeholders within the sector, both historic and new entrants, will have to evolve their health management offerings to fit the future ‘beyond the pill’ landscape. However, with 73% globally holding the view that their doctor knows best, even with increased health democratisation, it doesn’t appear doctors will be out of a job just yet.
Whatever happens, as key figures of trust, doctors will remain gatekeepers to patients. We cannot underestimate their importance and influence in ensuring adoption of new and patient-centred healthcare solutions, whether face-to-face or digitally, which in turn may improve outcomes and cut costs.
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