Posted: 22 Sep. 2020 10 min. read

Prioritizing connected health care—now and in the future

By Lynne Sterrett, RN, National Consulting leader, Deloitte Consulting LLP

Health is understandably top of mind for us all. In our recent Deloitte 2020 survey of US health care consumers, we asked people how their perceptions have changed—before and since the pandemic began. The answer was clear: consumer needs have changed dramatically, and they’re intent on a system that works for them, not on them. These takeaways highlight our existing perspective of a radically different future. In our 2019 paper, Forces of Change: The Future of Health, we envision empowered consumers—enabled by radically interoperable data—who navigate their own health journey through an ecosystem made up of industry players that are focused on meeting a broad set of needs for increasingly discerning customers.

Our most recent study shows that consumers are indeed becoming increasingly active and engaged in their health care, a necessary ingredient of this envisioned future. Gone are the days of patients taking the word of their doctors without question. More than half of those surveyed said they were “very” or “extremely likely” to tell their doctors when they disagree with them. This is not just a product of the younger generation—seniors and baby boomers said they were even more likely than younger respondents to voice disagreements with a doctor (Figure 1).

Additionally, we found that consumers have grown much more comfortable with using technology to manage their health. More consumers are relying on technology to track their health, and the pandemic has significantly increased their willingness to share their health data (Figure 2). This is just one way in which COVID-19 is reshaping the health care landscape into one that more closely resembles our vision for the future. Almost 70% of the baby boomers we surveyed indicated that ongoing measurement of their fitness—or tracking of their health with connected devices—has led to “a great deal” or “moderate amount” of changes in their behaviors. While one might hypothesize that these changes are generational in nature, empowered and data-enabled consumers extend beyond Millennials and Generation Z. 

The pandemic has catalyzed the industry’s transformation, revealing gaps in the current health care ecosystem and further emphasizing the need to orient around the consumer rather than perpetuate the legacy provider-centric system. A prime example is the recent and dramatic rise of virtual care. Telehealth provider Teledoc conducted more than 2.8 million virtual visits between April and June—more than triple the number reported during the same period last year—while its US membership nearly doubled year over year to 51.5 million.1 This previously unimaginable expansion likely previews massive changes in health delivery. It is being enabled by improving interoperability and increasingly empowered consumers who are demanding care when, where, and how they want it. Health care is rapidly becoming a consumer product.

The impacts on the health care system could be profound, with fundamental changes in how care is delivered, financed, and maintained. The need for a fixed infrastructure and a large numbers of hospital beds will likely decline as sickness is increasingly prevented and the care that is required is delivered in non-institutional locations. Technology can increasingly support disease detection and prevention, changing the role and quantum of physicians and other clinicians within the system. There may well be less reliance on insurance as other financing vehicles become viable in helping consumers engage in their health sooner and more proactively. It is unlikely that any area of the health care ecosystem will be unaffected by these disruptive changes.

Further, we expect to see a rapid rise of more precise, more tailored solutions that are deeply personalized. This could include deep genetic and biologic information that can ensure individuals are given tailored solutions specific to their own health and well-being. We expect to see more engagement among individuals given the great potential of more tailored solutions.    

This revolution will likely drive a reexamination of the fundamental health care business models and spur collaboration with partners that bring different skills and capabilities. In one example, physically distributed delivery networks could transform to virtual networks that require partnerships with retailers, remote monitoring, and telehealth players to deliver the same services at much lower costs.

The very basis of competition is changing in health care and health care players should act quickly to evolve and take advantage of this change. Incumbents historically struggle with navigating large-scale disruption and will likely need to collaborate with those outside their four walls (e.g., by partnering with external players to create an ecosystem) or risk falling behind competitors, both traditional and new. A team-based approach to transformation will likely be critical because the consumer is connected to the entire ecosystem. The world that’s coming is too complex for any one enterprise to manage alone.

While incremental change may have been sufficient prior to COVID-19, that is no longer an option. The consumer is more empowered than ever before. In this moment, traditional health care players should act boldly and definitively to remain ahead of the curve and thrive in the evolving health care landscape.

Endnotes

1. Virtual care’s post-COVID-19 future comes into focus, American Hospital Association  

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Lynne Sterrett

Lynne Sterrett

Principal

Lynne Sterrett is the National Consulting leader for the Life Sciences and Health Care practice at Deloitte. With more than 20 years of consulting experience, she has a record of accomplishment for successful delivery of client-focused executable strategies. Sterrett has been known to drive strategic transformation offerings to her clients in the provider and health plan vertical. Her background as a clinician provides a key differentiator working alongside provider, health plan, and life science clients in a multitude of next generation technologies. These technologies include AI and cognitive, cloud migration business plans, and human experience digital offerings.