Posted: 30 Oct. 2020 8 min. read

The future is here: how data is driving military health

This post is by Dr. Bruce Green, Managing Director & Chief Medical Officer Deloitte US.

There are few sectors as high stakes as military health. From providing treatment in remote locations to ongoing care for veterans, military health needs to be responsive, comprehensive and effective.

Advances that address these requirements are coming thick and fast. Technology is not only making it easier to treat conditions but also reshaping the way we approach healthcare.

Already, we’re on the cusp of a future where healthcare will be proactive and predictive, rather than reactive and inconsistent. Moving forward, we’ll spend less time treating illness and more time monitoring health and intervening before problems emerge. For military health, where preparing troops to venture into austere locations is a primary focus, this impact will be significant.

The key to this future? Interoperable data and secure platforms. By allowing information to be shared between patients, providers, institutions and researchers, we can focus on addressing issues before they emerge, ensuring the future of military health is truly future focused.

Data driving the change

While there are specific concerns and objectives that define military health, it still has much in common with public healthcare. Not only does the military look at the developments in public health and duplicate it for peacetime care, the two often work hand in glove when it comes to innovation.

Unsurprisingly, military health is therefore shaped by the same trends transforming civilian healthcare. The primary driver of transformation has been data.

Today, patients are taking ownership of their health data. They carry it across providers as part of electronic records and use the information at their fingertips to better understand potential treatments. This empowerment is a fundamental evolution of the patient-provider relationship, and it’s shifting the focus from restoring health to building wellbeing.

This shift has not changed with the pandemic – in many respects, it has accelerated it. Telehealth has gone from being a niche request to a major focus of every large tech company. As people try to minimise contact, we’ve seen the ubiquitous adoption of virtual care almost overnight.

Data is also impacting the way we administer treatment. Twenty years ago, DNA sequencing was prohibitively expensive – now it is cheap, quick and effective. At the same time, we’ve seen a massive demand for data storage. These trends are creating a platform for exponential growth in technology and leading to new therapies that can be personalised to the patient.

But importantly – this information is only useful if it is interoperable with the data of others. Bringing this data together will allow healthcare providers to find better treatments.

The military of the future

Unsurprisingly, 60 percent of physicians see technology as a major driver of change in the health sector, and 85 percent believe radical interoperability and data sharing will become standard practice. For military health, the implications of this are significant.

As these trends continue to inform innovation in the military sector, we see the potential for better health outcomes – both on and off the battlefield. While most of the advances we expect are still a long way from reality, their conception is in the advances in data that we’re seeing today.

So what will the future of military health look like?

Virtual health is one trend we’re already seeing emerge in the military and its impact will only grow larger. Beyond consulting with patients in remote locations, virtual health can be used as a ‘voice over the shoulder’ to talk medical professionals through difficult situations. It will provide better safety and care across every service line; from the battlefield and transport to tertiary hospitals.

Tools, such as augmented reality, will help military personnel prepare for difficult scenarios on the battlefield. Training platforms can show teams where supplies are kept and walk them through their use. Similarly, virtual labs can help develop scenarios to train people under stress and look at ways to bring in technology to improve responses.

Wearable monitors will also better collate data and inform treatment. Beyond the consumer smart watches that help monitor heart rate and sleep cycles, future wearables will be able to understand head trauma, and even alert military personnel to toxic gases.

But this future only exists with interoperable data and better platforms. By continuing to advance technology and keep up with both health demands and changes to the battlefield, we can find new ways to provide care and truly bring military health into the future.

This is not some far away fantasy or future state. It starts with the data we have access to today. 

Get in touch

Phil Roberts

Phil Roberts

Managing Partner, ACT

Phillip is the Lead Partner for Defence and the A&A National Advisory Government Lead. He has served a range of organisations, ranging from one of Australia’s most complex Federal Government Departments through to Australian listed entities, multi-national corporations and not-for-profit entities. Phillip has in excess of 20 years of experience in providing assurance and advisory services throughout Australia, the UK, Canada and the Middle East.