Posted: 06 Aug. 2019 6 min. read

Looking for some summer reading ideas? Take a stroll through our future-of-health library

By Sarah Thomas, managing director, Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, Deloitte Services LP

I’m a native of Washington, D.C., which is notorious for its hot, sticky summer days and monsoon-like early evening thunderstorms. I never can understand why anyone would choose my fair city for a summer vacation. During the day, the National Mall is often full of sweaty tourists who trudge from one memorial to the next before finally seeking sanctuary in an air-conditioned museum. I tell visitors to embrace the weather—slow down, sit in the shade, and maybe enjoy a glass of iced tea. Sometimes that is enough to make the outdoors bearable (at least until the mosquitos find you).

Whether outside or in, summer is a great time to read. We all had summer reading lists as kids, and vacation offers a nice opportunity to dig into our beach reads or crack a book that has been collecting dust since winter.

The future of health is not in the science fiction section

If you haven’t done so already, I recommend digging into some of the interesting reports and articles we’ve published recently—around the future of health. For these papers and articles, we try to imagine what health is likely to look like in 2040 and during some of the years in between.

  • Forces of change: This report offers our overall vision of where we see the health sector headed based on existing and emerging technologies (and innovations we haven’t yet dreamed up). Over the next 20 years, we expect to see a major transition from treating illness, to keeping people from getting sick in the first place. This change will be fueled by emerging technologies, radically interoperable data, and a highly engaged and motivated population. In addition, the “classic five” silos that make up our current health care system (health plans, health care providers, pharmaceutical companies, medical technology manufacturers, and government/regulators) will transform. Twenty years from now, we expect the value in the health sector will likely be measured by the health and well-being of people, rather than being defined by those five silos. (Pro reading tip—check out the blog from my colleagues Neal Batra and Mike Delone for more on this, and how all of this relates to the music industry).
  • Smart health communities: This report considers the potential impact digital and physical communities can have in keeping people healthy. It includes many interesting initiatives and examples that are already showing some promising results. In Louisville, for example, AIR Louisville made GPS-enabled “smart” inhalers available to individuals who have asthma. Each time an individual took a puff, the inhaler logged the location, time, weather, and pollutants in the air. The individual then received notifications about bad air-quality days and information that helped predict the time and location of asthma attacks. The data were also used to calculate the health care costs of poor air quality and was shared with city officials to understand where to concentrate air-purification efforts.
  • The future of aging: There are already nearly as many millennials (71 million) as there are baby boomers (74 million).1 Just as baby boomers have rejected many of the senior-focused products and services used by their parents, the generations that follow will likely have their own unique needs and expectations. Digital health technologies will likely help people stay in their homes longer as they age, especially if they’re paired with solutions (digital or otherwise) that work to solve non-medical health challenges, such as loneliness, by matching people who have common interests and encouraging them to participate in activities together in a non-virtual way.
  • The digital transformation of biopharma: Before biopharmaceutical manufacturers can get to the future of health that we envision, they should first make the leap to the digital world. Massive amounts of patient data are already being generated by wearable sensors and monitors, at-home diagnostics, and digital therapeutics. Digital therapeutics are emerging as alternatives or supplements to drug interventions in disease areas ranging from asthma to Alzheimer’s to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diabetes.

We have also published several short articles that indicate the future of health might already be here. In case you missed them, here are three recent “Breaking Boundaries” stories from the Health Care Current:

Reading lists, both paper and digital

I recently discovered the Goodreads app, which is helping me manage the list of books I want to read. I’ve always embraced technology that solves for a problem—in this case, trying to remember all the books that friends have recommended, or books I want to read based on reviews that I found particularly interesting. I’m using it less for its potential social aspect (I just have three friends on it), though I see its potential there. I also enjoy the gamification aspect: the app has a 20-book summer reading challenge. I’m up to 16, so on pace to meet the challenge (and ahead of my friends, it turns out).

While I’m using this new technology to manage my lists, I continue to rely on old technology—such as the local library and the little free libraries in our neighborhood—to find the books.

And another fun read

I recently finished The Lost Cyclist, by David Herlihy. This novel pulls together the early evolution of bicycles—from the high-wheel bikes of the late 1800s to the so-called “safety bicycles” that followed. The book includes stories about some of the first intrepid American cyclists to “girdle” or circle the world. It was fun to imagine how or why someone would even contemplate such an endeavor—without smart-phone navigational tools or apps to translate languages (not to mention the lack of paved roads or comfortable bike seats).

While technology has solved many of the problems those pioneers faced (I wonder what they would think of our modern-day gear) there are still risks—think of the traffic alone. And even if we don’t call the bad guys “brigands” anymore, globe-circling cyclists still face threats today. By 2040, maybe those issues will have also been solved by technology.

Happy summer reading!

1. US Census Bureau population projections


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Sarah Thomas

Sarah Thomas

Managing Director | Center for Health Solutions

Sarah is the managing director of the Center for Health Solutions, part of Deloitte LLP’s Life Sciences & Health Care practice. As the leader of the Center, she drives the research agenda to inform stakeholders across the health care landscape about key trends and issues facing the industry. Sarah has more than 13 years of government experience and has deep experience in public policy, with a focus on Medicare payment policy.