Healthcare

Securing a Healthy Future

Drivers of Change

Surgeon touching hologram of a heart

The healthcare industry is facing extraordinary pressures that are fundamentally altering the sector’s future. COVID-19 has acted as an unprecedented catalyst, accelerating innovation like never before. Other forces are also driving development. Demographic change is one consideration – aging populations are expected to bring greater demand for drugs and services in the coming years. Meanwhile, as more women delay motherhood in order to benefit from education and career opportunities, there is a greater focus on removing barriers to pregnancy and childbirth.

Change is also being facilitated by increased levels of collaboration between historically separate disciplines. Such collaboration is giving rise to fields such as bioinformatics and systems biology which could result in new ways of treating disease.

But in most cases it is technology itself that is opening up new possibilities for healthcare. For example, the miniaturization of technology could transform the way in which medication is tracked and even dispensed, while wearable medical devices could not only capture data about the wearer but also suggest solutions or provide treatment.

Advancements in organ and limb replacement are opening up new possibilities, as is the rise of CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) technology, which enables scientists to replace components of DNA. Last but not least, artificial intelligence has a key role to play in revolutionizing drug development, diagnosis and treatment.

Opportunities

These developments could result in opportunities across all areas of healthcare. Drug discovery can be an inefficient process. AI could be used to identify potential therapeutic candidates more effectively – and other applications include improving diagnosis and choosing the most suitable medication.

Wearable devices are already being developed for purposes which range from monitoring sun exposure to detecting cardiac arrhythmias. The miniaturization of technology is also opening up the possibility of ingestible pills which could track whether or not patients have taken medication, or even dispense medicines directly into the bloodstream or contact emergency services.

Artificial wombs could be used to support premature babies

Artificial wombs could be used to support premature babies – but they could also enable embryos to develop partly or fully outside the womb. Meanwhile, advancements in prosthetics could one day result in consumers voluntarily replacing natural limbs or organs with artificial substitutes. And CRISPR technology could be used not only to prevent genetic diseases, but also to create ‘designer babies’.


Threats

More people are worried than enthusiastic about the prospect of gene editing

That’s not to say that the path to these developments will be smooth. With so many developments ahead, it’s likely that new start-ups will emerge to take advantage of new therapeutic technologies. As such, there’s a very real risk that key players could face becoming obsolete unless they adapt to the changing market.

It’s also important to note that ethical concerns are a significant consideration for many of the areas now being explored. Research by the National Human Genome Research Institute found that more people are worried than enthusiastic about the prospect of gene editing to reduce the risk of disease in babies. The ability for parents to edit their children to improve specific skills or attributes is likely to raise concerns, as is the prospect of enabling people to replace healthy organs with prosthetics.


Strategic Imperatives for Success

When it comes to benefiting from these opportunities, technology is clearly a key strategic imperative for success: companies which embrace these developments will position themselves to take advantage of a wide range of new markets and opportunities. But that’s not all – in order to succeed in this evolving landscape, healthcare companies will also need to take full advantage of opportunities to operate more efficiently and effectively, whether that means increasing the ROI of clinical trials, or increasing success rates in drug discovery.

One area of interest is the increasing use of biomarkers to improve clinical trial success rates by categorizing patients in different ways. Clinical trials that do so are benefiting from double the success rate of those that don’t. Meanwhile, AI has enormous potential to support and disrupt many areas of healthcare, potentially even bending the healthcare cost curve – in other words, slowing the growth of healthcare costs, while enhancing the outcome.

There is also much to be gained by embracing new partnership opportunities. Indeed, many drug developers have already partnered with AI-focused drug discovery platforms. And while medical systems have historically been positioned as competitors, data sharing between different parties can open new opportunities to boost knowledge and reduce consumer healthcare costs.


Healthcare: Up Close

Common themes for healthcare companies include managing costs and seeking to take advantage of new technology – with high leverage proving an obstacle for some.

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