Report warns of healthcare changes

Pressure from global recession and relentlessly rising costs of chronic disease will force healthcare systems across the world to become more patient-focused, a report on the industry said on Tuesday.

A report by the consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) Health Research Institute said the industry’s response to the pressures would be to encourage people to take more responsibility for their own health.

New tools, technology and health information systems will be developed and deployed to give consumers the “power to take charge”, it said.

“The burden of chronic disease is going to hit every country in the world -- developing or developed -- and the costs will rise for everyone,” said David Chin, director of the PwC institute. “But there are new technologies that will help mitigate some of those costs.”

The report, which drew on a survey of almost 600 government and health industry leaders in more than 20 countries, said there was a growing recognition that if the patient is left out of the equation, it will become impossible for health systems to adequately manage care, consumption and spending.

“The overarching challenge for incumbent health systems will be to shift their internal focus from a siloed bureaucratic healthcare infrastructure to one that puts the patient at the centre ... and engages them to be active stakeholders in their health and the health system,” the report said.

Chin said mobile technologies and the internet would emerge as some of the most important tools. He noted that in a separate survey of around 3,500 consumers in 7 countries, PwC found that the internet was now cited by patients as their first source of healthcare information, ranking above doctors and hospitals.

Chin saw the potential in the next decade for increasing use of mobile monitoring systems -- for example to track blood sugar levels in diabetes patients and report them back to a doctor or clinic -- and said health information would increasingly be disseminated via social-network types sites on the internet.

“Of course the advantage to an insurance company or (healthcare) delivery system is that is costs less to deliver care over the internet,” said Chin. “You’re able to reach a wider audience for a lot less money.”

“We’re optimistic that the combination of a personalised approach and better technology will improve the health of the population, and start addressing the cost issue,” he said.

The report, entitled HealthCast: The Customisation of Diagnosis, Care and Cure, claimed nearly three quarters of health leaders expect health funding and financing in their countries to be redistributed from treating sickness in acute settings to keeping people well outside hospitals, nursing homes and doctors’ clinics. Plus, some 45 per cent of health leaders expect personalised medicine to be a factor, with new diagnostic tools and the development of targeted drugs for specific genotypes making it possible to customise patient diagnosis and treatment.

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