Digital Disrupts: How Emerging Economic Models Impact Healthcare

In my last column, I introduced a few macro trends disrupting the healthcare industry. The future of the business—no matter which healthcare industry you are in—is digital.

Profound transformation is shifting healthcare. The amount of funding and the slate of new entrants across the industry are staggering. Per Rock Health, venture funding of digital health companies surpassed $4 billion in 2014—nearly equivalent to the prior three years combined—and has outgrown traditional healthcare and technology.

A true consumer-driven market is clearly emerging. Patients are clearly leading the way. Patient behavior changes and expectations are gearing innovation towards direct selling from apps toward wearables, and data availability is the key driver. A desire for convenience, speed and innovation is driving change in medical technology and devices—and new potentially very disruptive economic models are emerging.

Do-It-Yourself Healthcare

Engaged and empowered people are taking their health into their own hands. The Internet provides people with more information than ever imagined. Thriving online communities are easily found for people with chronic, hard-to-diagnose and rare diseases and disorders. The emergence of CVS Minute Clinics, Walgreens Healthcare Clinics or extended emergency clinics for hospital systems demonstrate this—people are opting for more convenient options for routine care than offered by general practitioners.

The Collaborative Economy

AirBnB and Uber get all of the attention but the “collaborative economy,”1 sometimes referred to as the peer-to-peer, or mesh economy —also known as collaborative consumption—is a socio-economic system built on the sharing of human and physical resources. It includes the shared creation, production, distribution, trade and consumption of goods and services by different people and organizations.

While still nascent, this economic model could be very disruptive across healthcare. The question is: What happens when engaged, empowered, tech-savvy and very purpose-driven people connect to one another, rather than institutions, to solve healthcare problems? The answer: Profound change. A growing list of emerging companies including Bigfoot Biomedical, Tidepool, PatientsLikeMe, Cohealo and HelpAround, illustrate this phenomenon.

Previous barriers to start-up success—access to the right people and money—have been dramatically lowered, if not obliterated over the past few years. With the rise of social media, access to like-minded people has never been easier. Technological barriers have lowered significantly and it’s easier to create solutions with minimal expertise.

While tech barriers lowered, access to money for novel idea development also decreased dramatically. A new project can be funded on Kickstarter or IndieGoGo—rather than through bank loans. Open partnering is the new proprietary. In fact, partnering and sharing of ideas to ensure a place in an emerging ecosystem of care is absolutely critical to success today—in direct contrast to the older proprietary development models focused on owning or locking-in users.

A lack of data standards and format, combined with a push towards higher quality care, better outcomes and lower costs—all operating on open, standards-based, interoperable devices—will thrive. These small shifts in healthcare and the changes brought about are not immediately evident on the surface, but the healthcare system—largely unchanged for decades—is slowly coming undone.


1. Wikipedia: Collaborative Economy


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