Posted: 14 May 2019 5 min. read

By 2040, a symphony of health could surround consumers and ensure their wellbeing

By Doug Beaudoin, vice chairman, US Life Sciences & Health Care leader, Deloitte LLP

The US health care system is a collection of disconnected independent components. From the consumer’s perspective, hospitals, physicians, health plans, pharmaceutical companies, and medical-device manufacturers might seem like a group of musicians who have never played together. Instead of a healthy harmony, the patient experiences a disjointed cacophony of complexity. As health data becomes more interoperable—and more aligned to the needs of consumers—the players in this orchestra will listen to each other, and the notes they generate will blend into a balanced symphony of health.

In this analogy, the patient is the audience, and interoperable data is the conductor that enables the players to play in sync. Some incumbent players might not be able to keep up with the new arrangements, or they might be replaced by new players who possess different abilities that improve the experience for audiences.

By 2040, we expect that health will be defined holistically as an overall state of wellbeing encompassing mental, social, emotional, physical, and spiritual health. While we don’t expect to eliminate disease, we do expect far more attention will be devoted to prevention and wellbeing, while sick care is limited to people who have complex conditions. If this vision for the future of health is realized, we will likely see healthier populations and dramatic decreases in health care spending.

The transition from sick care to wellbeing

The US has one of the best sick-care systems in the world, but it is a system designed to react to illness rather than prevent it in the first place. Most hospitals have patients who are there because they fell through the cracks of this system.

Imagine Larry, a recently widowed elderly man who relied on his wife to help him manage his type 2 diabetes and diet. In this scenario, Larry quickly becomes overwhelmed by everything needed to manage his illness, and he lacks the motivation to take it on himself. Without support structures, he misses doctor appointments, forgets medications, eats poorly, falls into a state of depression, and ultimately winds up being hospitalized. This is exactly how our episodic-based reactive health system was designed to work.

The ubiquitous, proactive, and integrated health system we envision by 2040 (perhaps even sooner) will reduce or even eliminate these types of situations. Immediately after Larry’s wife passes, a care advocate is automatically notified. The advocate might regularly visit Larry in person or virtually to check in and provide him with tools that will help him manage his health. A virtual assistant, for example, might remind Larry to take his medications or to take a walk outside. It might ask simple questions that allow his mood to be assessed through an artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled voice analysis. A smart toilet might analyze his urine and alert the care team to changes in glucose levels. Based on glucose levels—combined with data from his smart refrigerator and pantry—the care advocate might help Larry schedule a drone to deliver groceries, medications, and vitamins. A virtual care coach might lead Larry through daily exercises. When in-person appointments are needed, the care team might schedule a driverless car to transport Larry.

This might seem like an overly rosy picture, and we certainly expect people will be dealing with complex health challenges 20 years from now. But we think consumers will have a much different relationship with their health in the future. We anticipate early detection and prevention will help consumers sidestep chronic diseases and live healthier lives. People who have chronic conditions will likely be surrounded by virtual and human support systems that can keep them from falling through the cracks.

The four A’s that can drive the future of health for consumers

We all approach our health (and the health system) differently. While some of us eat right, exercise regularly, and schedule wellness visits with our doctor, others feel they don’t have time to focus on their health…or they are worried about hearing bad news from a doctor. Some of us just feel helpless when it comes to improving our wellbeing.

The future health system will likely be omni-present and will wrap around all consumers. We anticipate that by 2040, 60 percent of the health system will be focused on prevention and wellbeing, while 40 percent is devoted to actual care.1 This is the opposite of where we are now.

To realize this future, consumers should willingly engage in their health. Rather than being passengers in a system, they should be drivers acting in their own best interest. We expect four key factors will influence how consumers experience health in the future:

  1. Attitude: Connected and informed consumers will likely be more willing to make healthy choices as they gain a better understanding of the connection between their choices and their health. Improved health literacy will likely translate to an improved attitude about health.
  2. Agency: Transparency can empower consumers to make informed decisions and reduce mistrust and frustration. Rather than just helping consumers be more compliant, transparency can help ensure consumers have complete information about their health that can help them make the most appropriate decisions.
  3. Availability: Consumers can engage with access points in the health system that are convenient and personalized. Entry points are patient-specific and omni-present. Care availability will likely be woven into the fabric of each person’s life so access to information and solutions are always available.
  4. Access: Care likely won’t be confined to brick-and-mortar facilities. We expect the center of gravity in health will be the individual rather than the system. Access will likely be about getting solutions to the consumer rather than getting the consumer to a solution. We see a blurred definition of access that will encompass digital, virtual, and physical access points. During a recent DBriefs webinar, 37 percent of attendees said access to personal health data would drive most consumer engagement and behavior change.

Like an orchestra, the future of health will likely require an ensemble of players that perform different parts but share a common purpose (there won’t be room for soloists). Some existing stakeholders will be reluctant to change their business models to ensure their spot in this ensemble. Others will drive change and help define the future of health. Health care stakeholders that don’t lead the change should adapt or they might not be around for the curtain call once the future of health arrives.

1. Deloitte Research


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Doug Beaudoin

Doug Beaudoin

Chief Information Officer

Doug Beaudoin is the Chief Information Officer for the Deloitte US Firms, leading all facets of technology. He is responsible for strategy, applications, infrastructure, support, and execution, and he is passionate about applying his client service and technology background to accelerate innovation in Deloitte’s portfolios and drive virtualization and digital transformation advantages in the marketplace. Doug is instrumental in the transformation of technology at Deloitte into a worldwide community of technology professionals working across member firms to serve Deloitte and drive synergies and efficiencies across our network. Beaudoin spends time working with major clients discussing technology strategy, trends, and leadership. He is a member of the Deloitte US Management Committee and serves as a Deloitte advisory partner to two large health system clients. With 30 years of experience in areas including the Life Sciences and Health Care industry, Beaudoin has advised many of the industry’s market leaders on their most strategic and transformative initiatives, driving shifts enabled by technology. Previously, Beaudoin served as Vice Chair and US Life Sciences and Health Care (LSHC) Industry Leader for Deloitte LLP, leading the overall strategic direction for the life sciences and health care practices, including audit, consulting, tax, and advisory services. He also served as Deloitte’s Health Care Global Leader and US LSHC Consulting Leader, as well as the Consulting Leader for the Deloitte Private client channel. He worked closely with Federal Health and served as a Deloitte advisory partner for several federal clients. Beaudoin’s deep IT experience includes large-scale digital implementations and technology transformation projects for both commercial and government organizations, incorporating the convergence of data and platforms. He led the development of Deloitte’s proprietary ConvergeHEALTH hybrid healthcare solutions business, directed at transforming the health care system toward health and wellness powered by radically interoperable data for personalized and seamless consumer experience. Beaudoin holds a Master of Health Administration from the University of Ottawa and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Western Ontario. He serves on the Boston board of City Year.