A life sciences and health care perspective: Tech Trends 2018
Technology trends transforming the future of life sciences and health care
Digital reality in life sciences and health care
Augmented and digital reality tools are poised to change the ways doctors and patients collaborate
What if a surgeon or patient could train or prepare for a complex procedure by simulating it first in a 360-degree, 3D simulation? What if a patient could put aside the pamphlets and actually see the impact a diet would have on his or her future appearance? What if impaired mobility patients could experience brain- and coordination-building activities in complete safety?
Immersive "digital reality" tools such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are making these scenarios increasingly realistic. As with many earlier technology waves, VR and AR got an early boost from frivolous uses and are graduating to more constructive roles. Barriers to technology, cost, and content are beginning to fall, and early adopters are already hard at work.
Where are these technologies headed in the life sciences and health care sectors? Developers are beginning to hear and answer the call for applications designed specifically for clinical, research, and educational use across the industry. We could soon see a day when VR and AR will be central to core integration, cloud deployment, and enhanced connectivity and access.
Blockchain to blockchains in life sciences and health care
What broader integration is making possible today
For life sciences and health care, blockchain constructs for sharing and authenticating data has the potential to enhance collaboration, trust, interoperability, traceability, and auditability across a range of functions such as clinical trials, supply chain management, financial transactions, credentialing, and claims processing. The shift from blockchain to blockchains—to networks of networks—is particularly compelling in life sciences and health care, where the distinct sectors work together in one broadly interdependent ecosystem.
Among the earliest practical use cases in the industry are ones in which blockchain can help handle identity better—in electronic health records and beyond. In place of multiple, duplicative records crossing from silo to silo, imagine a single, massive, longitudinal patient record that every player in the system—from patient to doctor to insurer to researcher—can use without any loss of privacy or security.
Companies should look to standardize the technology, talent, and platforms that will drive future initiatives. But individual organizations can only go so far in promoting blockchain. Its broad implementation in the life sciences and health care ecosystem will take a “tipping point” of trust and adoption among stakeholders, including patients. Collaborating with different stakeholders on pilots allows organizations to share the costs of experimentation and model the multi-party commitments that a later, full-scale implementation will involve. An architecture that can connect everyone must have broad acceptance before it does connect everyone.
The no-collar workforce in life sciences and health care
When humans and machines team up, improvement in outcomes and job satisfation can rise together.
The nature of work across almost every industry is being disrupted by rapidly evolving digital technology—driving increased automation, affecting the proximity of where work is performed, and giving rise to new and open talent models.
As emerging technologies continue to gain traction and shift the way work is performed, organizations across industries have a tremendous opportunity to reimagine worker roles to serve more strategic objectives, considering the human value-added skills necessary to support a hybrid workforce model in which technology augments human performance.
The term “no-collar” workforce references a powerful collaboration of humans and technology where the unique strengths of both can be leveraged. Across health plans, health care providers, and life sciences organizations, the move to a no-collar workforce creates a compelling opportunity to improve clinical outcomes, reduce per capita costs, enhance the patient experience, and create a more fulfilling and effective workforce.
The API imperative in life sciences and health care
From IT concern to business mandate to drive digital acceleration
For as long as computer science has been in existence, so too have application programming interfaces (APIs). APIs in any form over the last 20 years have helped connect data, applications, and ultimately business processes across disparate technology systems. However, the role and function of APIs is drastically changing, with APIs becoming an important ingredient in the life sciences and health care industry as they aim to improve interoperability and data exchange.
Now that the first step in the digitization of health care—the adoption of EHRs—is mostly complete, the industry is turning to APIs to help unleash the transformative power of its data through the integration that APIs help provide—at least that’s the idea. But life sciences and health care organizations have been slower than other industries to leverage the strategic capabilities enabled by APIs.
As the industry evolves toward broader, enterprise-wide value chain capabilities—driven by heightened competition and advanced technologies—the business case for information flow and access within and outside the enterprise is more solid than ever. The justification is making widespread adoption of APIs a strategic imperative—sooner rather than later.
The new core in life sciences and health care
Ready for the spotlight: unleashing the digital potential in "heart of the business" operations
Technology that lives out front—where patients, members, and customers can see it—can help a life sciences or health care organization shine. But the technology at the core—that most people never see—makes an organization work. Back-office systems, and the quality of their connections with front-end enterprise functions, are the critical infrastructure that make pricing, product availability, logistics, quality, financials, and other “heart of the business” information available where it’s needed.
In the midst of the digital revolution, the core’s full potential in life sciences and health care remains largely untapped. But expect to see movement here over the course of the next 12-18 months as CIOs, CFOs, COOs, and supply chain leaders begin developing new digital capabilities in their core systems. We are not talking about deploying point solutions or shiny digital add-ons. Rather, this is about constructing a new core in which automation, analytics, real-time analysis and reporting, and interconnections are baked into systems and processes, fundamentally changing how work gets done.
With a comprehensive strategy and a willingness to take measured steps ahead, life sciences and health care organizations can join organizations in other industries that have charted a way forward. Because they haven’t often been the first to move, life sciences and health care organizations can learn from those that have already embarked on the transformation. These investments may not be the most glamorous ones a company makes. But they may be some of the most important.
Reengineering technology in life sciences and health care
Building new IT delivery models from the bottom up and top down
As the rate of change in the life sciences and health care industry has continued to steadily accelerate, CIOs are now taking a more head-on approach to issues they’ve long been aware of but have so far been able to work around. Many IT departments are also working with platforms that weren’t designed to perform the tasks that a sophisticated, modern IT organization requires.
It’s against this backdrop that many life sciences and health care CIOs are beginning to act on broader trends underway in the world of technology—starting with building new IT delivery models. Over the next 18 to 24 months, we’ll likely see CIOs begin reengineering not only their IT shops but, more broadly, their approaches to technology. The goals of these efforts will be to transform their technology ecosystems from collections of working parts into high-performance engines that deliver speed, impact, and value.
When it comes to business developments like these, the life sciences and health care industry is at large conservative—and leaders tend to take notes from other industries before making their own moves. So if that’s your approach, don’t worry: You’re not alone. Just make sure you’re not the last one to the party.
Enterprise data sovereignty in life sciences and health care
A new model of sharing for stewards of health information
Enterprise data sovereignty is a two-sided coin. There’s growing recognition that information can’t realize its full potential if it’s locked away and compartmentalized. So organizations in many fields are revisiting their architectures in an effort to “set data free.” But a desire to share knowledge doesn’t mean one can wish away the mandates of privacy and security.
As in so many other areas, life sciences and health care represent a special case, where industry regulations make it harder, not easier, to move data from place to place. Yet the industry also needs freely available data to function well. How can it reconcile these two facts? A possible future is one in which sovereignty over the data rests with the patient, and the patient entrusts third parties with the management of it.
No matter who owns or manages it, data should still be generated at multiple points of an encounter. The real challenge is how users can take the data from those encounters and make it easily accessible, freeing it from the control of intermediaries who may delay or silo it.
What can pave the way forward? The industry’s opportunity to overcome these issues of relevance and accessibility is to shift the focus away from a document-centric approach to one that’s event-driven and message-centric, and to provide only the relevant data needed at specific points to determine the next best action. It’s one thing to know everything associated with a care plan; it’s another to be able to tailor that plan so it’s addressing the needs of the patient dynamically and in real time as events unfold.