The coming together of the physical and digital worlds is giving a new boost to innovation in healthcare. How will that impact markets, players and patients?
Future of health 4 – The patients of tomorrow
Understanding tomorrow's health consumers: behaviors, expectations and attitudes
The patients of tomorrow are confronted with a wide array of new diagnostic approaches, from smartphone apps to home testing and genetic analysis. They benefit from novel therapeutic technologies, including the use of Big Data and artificial intelligence (AI) to find the right therapy and new modalities such as cell and gene therapies (CGT) and mRNA therapeutics, some of these innovations applied in a highly personalized manner. This revolution in treatment, combined with technological advances such as wearable devices and telehealth services, will transform the way patients interact with healthcare players and receive health-related services, giving them greater agency than ever before. The question is, how will they use this newly acquired power? What are their expectations of healthcare systems, treatments and interactions with players in the healthcare industry? And how open are they to new technology, the idea of sharing data that is relevant for their health and other trends in the industry? We take a closer look at what makes tomorrow's patients tick and suggest how players in the healthcare industry should be responding.
New survey findings: Future of health 4
Roland Berger's fourth annual Future of health study focuses on healthcare consumers, or "the patients of tomorrow". Almost 2,500 people from 19 countries answered a series of survey questions about their openness to medical and technological innovations, whom they trust in the healthcare sector, current trends in health care and their willingness to make out-of-pocket payments to technology companies for integrated healthcare pathways. Our most striking finding was that patients largely have a positive attitude towards innovations. This is particularly true for the younger generation – the older generation remain skeptical of new trends, preferring more traditional healthcare approaches. As the older generation are also more likely to be in worse health, it seems that precisely the group that needs healthcare-related innovations the most are actually the least open to them.
The patients of tomorrow – three archetypes
Based on our survey results we identify three patient "archetypes" or groups of healthcare consumers. These three groups differ significantly in their characteristics, behaviors, expectations, and attitudes toward medical innovations and trends in the healthcare industry in the aftermath of the pandemic, including technology-driven innovations. We call these health care consumers the Adopters, the Followers and the Hesitant. Noticeably, industrialized countries, which have well-established healthcare systems and often older populations, are home to fewer Adopters than less industrialized countries – one of just a number of striking differences between healthcare consumers in different countries.
A matter of trust
When it comes to how patients want to be guided through the healthcare system, the survey reveals that respondents are divided. One-quarter say that they would like to be steered through a coordinated health system, while another quarter prefer to choose their own physicians and treatments. The remainder could live with both systems. It would appear that while some patients would like to determine by themselves when to receive treatment and from whom, the vast majority would still appreciate guidance through the health system on specific occasions. As with openness to digital innovations, we found differences between respondents depending upon their age, level of education and current health status. Regarding their preferred main point of contact for health-related issues, only half of respondents named their health insurer. The remainder, it seems, would rather trust their physician to guide them than their healthcare insurer. Indeed, traditional health care providers enjoy the greatest trust on the part of patients.
Recommendations for healthcare players
For all players in the healthcare industry , how they frame their message in a world where care delivery has been shaped by COVID-19 is critical. The patients of tomorrow will only trust private healthcare providers with their personal health information if the benefits of doing so are clearly communicated to them – they are far less likely to do so if they cannot see what they will get out of this trend in terms of their patient experience or treatment. Their trust in digital providers is also likely to depend on how transparent providers are about where they store their healthcare data, for example. Patients place great trust their traditional healthcare providers, as was demonstrated most recently by the pandemic, but all other players will need to build stronger, trust-based relationships with the patients of tomorrow to ensure success.
Our recommendations for players in the healthcare industry cover a wide range of areas, as in our pre-pandemic studies. Here, we present only a selection; for further detailed industry recommendations, please refer to the full report. Thus, for health insurance companies, digital is a great marketing topic for younger, healthier, better educated target groups. However, they will need to communicate a different message for older, less healthy or less well-educated patients. As the race heats up with Big Tech, traditional healthcare providers need to be aware of their own unique selling proposition (USP). Using this as a basis, traditional providers within the healthcare industry can potentially start developing partnerships with tech companies so they can deliver relevant services and so expand their value chain in the industry.
For their part, pharmaceutical companies will want to reduce their dependency on integrators and platforms, using their power to innovate and creating data evidence that is so convincing that no-one can ignore their products. Medtech (medical technology) companies will make an essential contribution to diagnosis and treatment, at the same time capturing the information that will enable a fully data-driven (and AI-based) healthcare system. Of all the players in the healthcare industry, they are under the greatest pressure to digitize their portfolio. And finally, governments would be well advised to exploit the potential of data-driven digital healthcare to improve health outcomes. This will make their health systems - from traditional healthcare services to modern trends in the industry such as telehealth, cloud-based patient monitoring using artificial intelligence and healthcare technology such as smartphone applications aimed at improving mental health and well-being - more efficient in a post-pandemic world. It will also help a diminishing workforce in the industry cope with the challenges of patient care among aging populations.
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