Incredible advances in automation, artificial intelligence, machine-learning and other emerging forms of cognitive technologies are changing how we all work and live. The ability to process vast quantities of data, discover new insights and spot patterns and trends that were previously undetectable by humans is creating the basis for entirely new business models and services. And nowhere do these disruptive trends have clearer implications than in healthcare and life sciences.
The healthcare industry faces a wide range of challenges. People are living longer. Their expectations of the health services they want and need are transforming. They seek to be involved in decisions about treatments and services personalized for them. They are taking an active role in monitoring and managing their own health. More connected and more informed than ever, today’s health consumers expect a great deal from their providers.
To respond, Life Sciences businesses need to grasp the nettle, and start building the new, digital capabilities that will be essential to win in this emerging environment. To do that, they must develop new approaches that harness the huge volumes of data to design and deliver patient-centric, personalized services and experiences rather than focusing on products. This is what EY calls Life Sciences 4.0.
Life sciences 4.0 is where AI comes in to its own. It offers the ability to process data at previously unimaginable volumes to enable health and life sciences businesses to become attuned to the unique needs of every patient. The sources of data, as well as their volumes, are also expanding rapidly. To create new services, life sciences businesses will need to draw on genetic and biological data but also behavioural and other lifestyle information that will support an ever-closer alignment with individual needs.
Digital platforms are emerging that bring together all this health-related information in one place – and crucially put the patient at the centre of developing new services. These emerging platforms will connect consumers, physicians, payers, policymakers and product makers enabling them to combine capabilities and share data. In effect, the platform puts the consumer, not products or solutions, at the centre of all stakeholders’ efforts to develop new technologies, services and experiences.
The focus on the patient/consumer at the centre of new platform-driven approaches means it’s not just traditional life-sciences and healthcare businesses that are preparing for this very different future. Other businesses from outside the sector are taking a keen interest. Some of the tech giants have already made considerable investments in health-related technologies and new business models. They are leveraging their relationship with consumers, their proven data capabilities and technology leadership to reinvent the delivery of health-related services. As people take a greater interest in managing their own health and well-being through technology, a wide range of players from device manufacturers to health tech start-ups are creating new approaches to support them. The funding that health start-ups are attracting, for example, indicates just how extensively change is taking place: it’s more than trebled to $6 billion in the US alone between 2010 and today .
But while the disruptive changes that will sweep over the healthcare and life sciences industry are technology-driven, it’s equally critical to ensure that the human factor remains a central focus. The adoption of smart machines should not present an either/or dilemma. The power of AI and cognitive computing lies not in its ability to replace people, but rather how it can augment them.
Dealing with patients, for example, will still need qualities that machines cannot, and may not ever, offer, such as empathy. Making judgements about a specific patient’s treatment will always require a sensitive and considered view of multiple factors, both personal and contextual, that humans are uniquely equipped to make. AI may be able to analyse more data and make a diagnosis far faster than humans alone could ever hope to achieve. But it won’t be able to deliver the news and discuss options for treatment sensitively. The human touch will remain essential in delivering truly patient-centric care. Companies that can combine people and machines to achieve optimal outcomes for patients will ultimately emerge as the winners in the age of disruption.
Andrew Monro is a Partner and Head of Life Science at EY in the UK and Ireland. He will speak at the LSS/Scotsman Conferences event, Moving Forward Together: To 2025 and Beyond on November 12th at the University of Strathclyde.
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