Unfortunately, the reality for healthcare systems across the world is very different - hospitals rarely have enough money to pay for the resources needed to meet the infinite demand for healthcare in their communities. Governments face a never-ending challenge: where to invest the limited pot of money they have for national healthcare? For example, a big upfront payment to vaccinate all children against a disease should prevent having to pay for treating the actual disease later. But it’s a big commitment without any immediate benefits. Without the facts in front of them, how do they know if it will be worth it?
In an alternate future-proofed scenario, decision makers and healthcare providers would have good quality data on everything, from everyone, in every country, without gaps. The more good quality data available to work with, the stronger the evidence. Artificial intelligence, where clever computers can take patterns in this data to intelligently predict what might happen next – will start to bridge the gaps in knowledge, while the actual real-world science and information caught up. GDPR type regulations in every region and blockchain technology would close the gap on data security and give room to work safely with this information. Our personal data would be fully protected with transparency and traceability. It would enter a ‘chain’ at one end, and be accounted for at every step, only supporting evidence generation in pre-agreed areas. No longer would we worry about our data being leaked to third parties. People will be more concerned about their data being used optimally for well-being, to prevent illness or find a better treatment, than it being mis-used for commercial or political gain.
Through this information, we would know how someone’s genetic profile, environment or lifestyle, might impact their response to a particular treatment. We would know which treatments to use at every step of the patient journey, to get the best effect for that person. We would know which doctors to work with to ensure every aspect of someone’s disease is managed. We would be able to develop medicines and healthcare technologies that are even more targeted and personalised, offering better outcomes, with fewer side effects.
Patients will also have more say in their care. They will be more empowered with more knowledge. Advances in personal health trackers will make personal health information more understandable and more accessible. With a better grasp of healthcare knowledge and greater purpose to take control of their health, patients will be in a better position to help inform healthcare decisions and ensure that the real-life urgency of their own needs are factored into data heavy decision-making processes.
In countries where establishing even basic healthcare is the goal, using data to understand how to use resources most efficiently will help stretch what is available, further. In these cases, it might be the data shows us investing in clean water or education on preventing infectious disease is a better use of resource, than preparing to pay for fighting infectious disease later on. In these cases, the savings could then go to other areas - clearing a path towards a basic standard of quality healthcare for everyone, not just the wealthy.
With data and knowledge, decision makers would know what works, and what doesn’t, in some cases even what works for any individual. They would be better informed in order to decide what to invest in, where to hold back. Our healthcare systems would be more customised to individuals rather than taking a “one size fits all” approach. People would feel better quicker. Get back to work quicker. Rely less on their caregivers and hospital resources. There would be less waste. Overall our economies and societies would benefit from better choices made early on.
But how do we get there? The FutureProofing Healthcare Indices have been set up to assess how countries across a number of regions are progressing in future-proofing their healthcare systems. Who’s doing well in what area that we can learn from? What needs to change? We are not just looking at wealthy nations, but also those where establishing basic quality healthcare for everyone, is the goal.
Find out more here on the website, get involved in the conversation, and stay tuned as these results unfold around the world in the months to come.