Published: January 10, 2017 - 11:43

The quantified self and the informed but demanding patient – trends that are making healthcare progressively digital

Digitalization plays an increasingly significant role in the healthcare sector. Below you’ll read about three trends that will impact the healthcare sector in 2017.

 

1. The globalization of medicine and medical services

In these times of digitalization, medical services are no longer limited to local hospitals and doctors. More and more often, providers are operating independently of hospitals and insurance companies. For example, x-ray images, computer tomography (CT), or magnetic resonance tomography (MRI) can also be carried out by autonomous institutions, and the compilation of the clinical findings can be outsourced: services that allow for diagnosis at an international level.

Private apps, websites, and the like − but increasingly even official government services − provide mostly fee-based communication with the appropriate specialist staff via telephone or internet. Since regulation is lacking, only "advisory services" are offered, but the road to diagnostics is not far off.

 

2. The world of the quantified self

Millions of users around the world use fitness trackers, smartphones or smartwatches to measure their calories and monitor their sleep patterns. Different providers offer a wide range of fitness trackers, apps and wearables, with the goal of providing a comprehensive picture of personal health and performance levels. Although this technology has not yet matured, more accurate measuring systems and new business models are already on the horizon. The year 2017 promises "smarter" solutions by linking these tools to the classically regulated healthcare system.

Nowadays, private players are already offering the anonymized data they’ve collected to healthcare facilities for analyzing trends.

However, the use by the established medical system requires that these products and their software conform to a certain standard (certifications) in order to be able to measure, record, and analyze the data in a way that is compliant with common medical guidelines.

 

3. The demanding informed patient

Already today, the "informed" patient is increasingly challenging healthcare providers like hospitals or doctors. This means that more and more patients are getting answers from the World Wide Web before they visit the doctor’s office. Dr. Google’s diagnosis often leads to a distorted or exaggerated understanding of the sickness, and above all, to a colored perception of the symptoms. This can influence the doctor’s diagnosis and trigger cost-intensive examinations.

On the other hand, this demanding approach also means that long before they step foot into the doctor’s office or hospital, many patients have checked out the hospital’s or office’s internet presence and range of services, and read the patient reviews. This means that healthcare facilities are suddenly being treated like consumer products, pushed into the limelight and put to the test.

On social media platforms, good and bad experiences are discussed and compared, making the sickness easier to deal with, but also providing a fertile breeding ground for the uncontrolled spread of advice and subjective opinions and impressions.

In the future, a professionalization of medical information will take place, emerging as a private business model or as the extended arm of existing facilities in our healthcare system.