As Health Enters the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Many Countries Share a Common Vision | Deloitte US has been saved
By Stephanie Allen, Deloitte Global Public Health Care Leader, and Australian Health Leader
It doesn’t matter where I travel in the world—I am often struck by the similarities rather than the differences in health care. Worldwide, health care and health systems haven’t changed much since Florence Nightingale was a girl. We still use hospitals to care for our sick. We treat them, and we hope they get better. But this is all about to change.
While every government approaches health care a little differently, upcoming research from the Center for Health Solutions shows that many countries face similar challenges and share a common vision for the future of health. There are three main catalysts for change:
These forces or catalysts of change are founded on the capabilities offered by the 4th industrial revolution.
Welcome to the fourth industrial revolution
Klaus Schwab, executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, describes three previous industrial revolutions where new forms of “energy” were created that enabled people to do new and different things.3
In the first industrial revolution, we discovered coal and steam power. The steam-powered train opened new trade routes for the transportation of goods and services. In the second industrial revolution, we discovered the oil and electricity that powered factories and opened the door to the mass production of things like automobiles. The third industrial revolution signaled a move away from mechanical and analogue technologies to computers, the internet, and digitized communication. We are now in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution where technologies are elegantly integrated.
The new power driving this revolution is exponential technologies including the internet of things (IoT), fifth-generation technology (5G), robotics, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence (AI). These technologies are changing the way we work and live. By clicking on a calendar invite on a smartphone, we can get directions to our destination, an anticipated ETA, real-time transport options, and voice-activated guidance. Unlike the three previous revolutions (which were constricted to geographies), the fourth industrial revolution knows no boundaries. With an estimated 71 percent of the world’s population connected to mobile devices by 2025,4 the impact and opportunity will be much greater.
Here’s how I see the fourth industrial revolution playing out in health care: Imagine a pre-diabetic consumer walks into a pharmacy and picks up a candy bar. Immediately, that person’s smart watch, which has automatically connected to the store’s computer system, sends a signal warning against the unhealthy snack. When that person picks up a bag of almonds instead, a message reinforces the healthier choice by offering a 20 percent discount, for example. The ability to encourage well-being in real-time could be enabled by the emerging technology, interoperable data, and personalized medicine in the future. This is all part of the fourth industrial revolution. It is no longer the technologies themselves that are important, but rather what the technologies allow you to do and the velocity at which change occurs.
The future of the digital health record
Paper patient records were digitized during the third industrial revolution. In many countries, this digitized record is not accessible outside of the hospital or available to patients. Moving all of a patient’s information to a single location—and matching digital records to the correct patient—is a challenge that is not unique to any one country.
During the fourth industrial revolution, interoperability can remove these obstacles. Digital records might combine traditional clinical and pharmaceutical information with previously unavailable data to create a highly personalized overview of someone’s health. Data from a smart bathroom scale, smart medical devices, and wearable fitness trackers could automatically flow into each person’s digital record and be automatically integrated with other data sets. A history of food purchases from the grocery store might be used to nudge consumers toward healthier food choices. Financial data might help identify stress issues related to money, or erratic spending habits that could flag possible mental health issues.
As the data infrastructure evolves, real-time collection, integration, and analyses of patient data will likely become more common. Insights from these data can strengthen our understanding of health and help us answer the questions we couldn’t in the past.
It’s worth noting that while a government might require patient data to be stored in a single location, there is sometimes a distrust of government and its ability to safeguard information. In some countries, there is greater cultural acceptance when it comes to the idea of storing and even sharing health information. This acceptance occurs when consumers see value in a comprehensive patient record where their entire health history exists in one place.
Three countries, three approaches to digital records
Here’s a look at how three countries are combining technology and data to bring patient records into the fourth industrial revolution:
As with any major transformation, we expect the fourth industrial revolution will lead to greater efficiencies in the health ecosystem, new opportunities for health stakeholders and governments, and better health for individuals and populations. As Klaus Schwab might say, it’s not the technologies in and of themselves that are significant—it is the way that we elegantly integrate them to do new and different things.
1. How does health spending in the US compare to other countries?, Kaiser Family Foundation, December 7, 2018
2. Global Health Expenditure Database, World Health Organization based on 2015 data. (World Health Organization's Global Health Expenditure Database.)
3. The Fourth Industrial Revolution, by Klaus Schwab, January 11, 2016
4. Smartphone ownership is growing rapidly around the world, but not always equally, Pew Research Center, February 5, 2019
5. Learning from the Estonian e-health system, Health Europa, January 11, 2019
6. Healthcare in Estonia, The Medical Futurist, May 16, 2019
7. What about LSP? Patients want control of their medical data, Computable, September 21, 2016
8. E-health in verschillende snelheden, e-health monitor, November 2018