In reviewing my Twitter feed from when I was attending the Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange held in mid-March, I see how often I used the term megatrend. Usually, when I think of megatrends, I tend to consider things such as the Internet and cell phones – technologies that have become utterly ubiquitous and vital to those of us in developed nations. At the MindXchange, presenters were instead using the term to describe technologies and cultural shifts they predicted (or hoped) would someday soon have a profound global impact on healthcare.
Among the megatrends I deemed Tweet-worthy (@kmalaspina):
• The concept of Value for Many supplementing – and in some cases replacing – Value for Money. This is an idea being ardently pursued in India, where great strides have been made in radically lowering the cost of procedures such as cataract surgery (from $3000 to $30) and medicines such as the Hepatitis B vaccine (from $18 a dose, to 40¢). (More here.) What’s lost in higher prices is gained in a larger market and the availability of treatments that were previously unaffordable for many.
• The larger role of patients in influencing healthcare options and decisions. Of course, in nearly every non-emergency case, patients have decision-making freedom and responsibility. The Next Big Thing however, is the vastly greater amount of information the patient will have available to him or her – not just through Internet searches – but with personalized mobile health monitoring systems. Patient/physician relationships will become much more collaborative.
• The influence virtual reality will increasingly have in medical treatment and training. We’re coming very close to the time when conversations with computers will be difficult or even impossible to distinguish from those with humans (at least when the conversations are not face-to-face). Accordingly, it is expected that healthcare therapists, in the form of avatars, will provide expert patient evaluation, lowering costs while providing (perhaps a bit ironically) increased “personalization.”
Virtual reality will also become increasingly important in medical instruction and training. Already the days are gone when anatomy classes include cadavers. Instruction in the operation of medical technology – even surgical techniques – are now being taught, effectively and risk-free, with virtual reality.
How these trends will affect costs, availability and other market considerations will be the subject of an upcoming coming blog.