Posted: 10 Mar. 2022 8 min. read

Can platform-enabled ecosystems revolutionize health?

By Peter Micca, partner, and Simon Gisby, partner, Deloitte & Touche LLP

Simon and his family recently returned from a wonderful holiday at a beach house in the Caribbean. They purchased their plane tickets through a travel website, booked their villa through a short-term vacation-rental service, and used a ride-hailing app to take them from their house to the airport…and from the airport to their vacation home.

These are all examples of platform-enabled ecosystems that connect under-utilized assets to a consumer, on demand. Ride-hailing apps connect consumers to previously ignored or under-utilized assets (cars and drivers). Short-term vacation-rental services connect travelers with unused bedrooms or properties. Rather than owning cars or hotel rooms, these platform-enabled companies connect the owners of under-utilized assets to consumers. Many investors are rewarding this business model.

Platform-enabled ecosystems have already transformed several industries and are beginning to gain traction in health care, according to our new report on building platform-enabled ecosystems. In health care, clinical expertise is often an under-utilized asset. Clinicians typically work within a rigid system that determines when and where patients can meet with them. Data could be seen as another underutilized asset in health care. Detailed health care data—combined with technology and analytics—could provide clinicians with actionable insights to help them make more informed decisions. Some real-world evidence companies have identified underutilized data assets and created a marketplace where data suppliers and buyers can convene. In addition, platform-enabled ecosystems could make it easier for consumers to comparison shop for drugs and medical tests and compare hospitals based on quality and prices for the same procedure.

Health tech innovators invest in the Future of Health

The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions interviewed health-tech innovators, investors, and a diverse set of leaders from health care organizations. While some interviewees were skeptical about platform-enabled ecosystems as a future business model for health care, others were bullish on the concept. Some of them explained how platform-enabled ecosystems are already helping their organizations access and unlock the value of their underutilized assets. These ecosystems could help push the health sector closer to the Future of Health that Deloitte envisions.

Virtual-health platforms, for example, make it possible to leverage untapped provider availability, allowing clinicians to see patients anywhere at any time, and in a safer environment. While virtual health existed long before COVID-19 emerged, regulatory and financial barriers often limited wide-spread adoption. Many of those barriers were removed during the pandemic to help patients stay connected to clinicians. About 80% of consumers who have used virtual-health services say they are willing to use it again, according to Deloitte’s 2020 Health Care Consumer Survey.

Leveraging under-utilized assets could also help direct consumers to the most appropriate physician and/or clinical care settings, provide easier access to second opinions for serious and complex care, and turn the home into an alternative site of care by enabling the continuous monitoring of conditions through connected devices.

Creating a health care ecosystem

Transforming the traditional health care model will likely require a combination of technology, capital, and talent, which is often well beyond the reaches of most health systems. However, technology-enabled partnerships between various stakeholders could lead to the creation of a health care ecosystem.

Consider this: Up to 80% of health outcomes are affected by social, economic, and environmental factors, as our colleague Dr. Elizabeth Baca noted in a blog. A platform-enabled health care ecosystem could support new alliances that could help minimize the impact of those factors. While hospitals and health systems typically cannot provide housing, groceries, or job training to their patients, they can partner with community-based organizations and leverage technology to connect those organizations to patients. Similarly, access to care continues to be uneven across patient populations. Health plans might consider delegating consumer engagement, disease management, and care management to virtual-first providers. This could negate the need for health plans to build such solutions from the ground up.

Investors are eyeing health care platforms

We recently led a panel discussion on health-tech investment trends. The program was sponsored by the New York Health Business Leaders. New York is emerging as a leader in the incubation, investment, and development of health care innovation. In 2021, 182 health and life sciences companies there raised $9 billion—up 150% from 2020—with nearly 90% of those dollars going to digital health-tech innovators, according the organization’s 2022 NY Healthcare Innovation Report.1 Nationally, total health-tech investments in 2021 topped $29 billion (across 729 deals) with an average deal size of nearly $40 million, according to Deloitte's research. These innovators will likely continue to attract investment as the demand for solutions and technology innovations in health care continue to exceed the supply.

Our health care system is highly complex. It involves third-party payers, multiple stakeholders, and requires numerous touch points along the supply chain. What could be achieved if these companies worked together? Health-tech innovators are looking to transform the health care business model and the platform approach is gaining traction, according to the latest data from Rock Health.2

Platform-enabled ecosystems have helped transform unused cars into taxis, private homes into hotels, and travelers into travel agents. Of the nine health tech innovators that went public in 2021, four describe themselves as platform-enabled, according to our report. Many investors understand that technology on its own won’t solve all of the issues that plague health care. However, a platform-enabled model could provide incentives that make joining an ecosystem attractive. It could change the way clinicians and consumers interact with each other, which could lead to higher quality care, better outcomes, and lower health care costs.

1, 2. 2021 year-end digital health funding: Seismic shifts beneath the surface, Rock Health, January 10, 2022

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Peter Micca

Peter Micca

Audit & Assurance Partner and National Health Tech Leader | Life Sciences & Health Care

Peter Micca, Deloitte & Touche LLP, is a partner with 30 years of experience serving a broad array of clients in all sectors of the health care, technology, and life sciences industries. He has significant experience with health technology organizations, software as a service (SaaS) organizations, pharmacy benefit management, clinical and diagnostic operations, emerging growth, as well as private equity–financed organizations in life sciences and health technology and services. Micca applies a deep knowledge of industry sector business issues regarding the emerging trends surrounding consumerism, convergence, cost considerations, regulatory and compliance issues, and consolidation.