Global Megatrends

Social media are connecting patients and providers in new ways, while wearable and implantable technologies are helping patients to manage their health wherever they are in their daily lives, write Ms. Carol Murphy, Mr. Colm Devine, and Dr. Maria Fleming.

Ms. Carol Murphy, Mr. Colm Devine and Dr. Maria Fleming
Ms. Carol Murphy, Mr. Colm Devine and Dr. Maria Fleming

Health care – which already accounts for 10% of global GDP — is embarking on a once-in-a-lifetime transformation. Health systems and payers are under increasing cost pressure — driving them to seek more sustainable approaches, including incentives that emphasise value.

Success demands that we reimagine our approach to health, moving beyond the delivery of health care to the management of health by diverse sets of players, with more focus on healthy behaviours, prevention and real-time care.

As the first in a series of breakfast seminars for CIOs, IT Directors and other senior leaders within IT, EY recently brought together Health IT leaders from across the island of Ireland to discuss the top trends emerging in healthcare globally and examine how these are materialising within an Irish context.

With economic recovery beginning to take hold, the time for planning the next major reforms within Irish healthcare is upon us. Keynote speaker, Richard Corbridge, CIO of the Health Service Executive (HSE), responsible for the development of the eHealth Strategy for Ireland, described the era that Ireland is poised to enter into as the “Healthcare Information Age”, where information and digital technology will play a greater role in delivering improved outcomes for patients.

Health care will become more connected to daily life through the growth of mobile and social health solutions.

Health IT wearables will open a digital route so that clinicians can more readily monitor their patients with chronic conditions while cutting down the need for hospital or surgery visits.

Mobile health technologies are empowering patients with more information and control over personal health. Smartphone apps and wirelessly connected medical devices are creating real-time data, making way for real-time interventions. Social media are connecting patients and providers in new ways, while wearable and implantable technologies are helping patients to manage their health wherever they are in their daily lives. For example, patients or their care givers will be able to access information from their Personal Health Record enabling them to schedule appointments, check their test results and order prescriptions. Patients may soon provide information to their clinicians through scientifically valid wearable devices such as smartwatches that can measure and transmit their health status metrics. Health IT wearables will open a digital route so that clinicians can more readily monitor their patients with chronic conditions while cutting down the need for hospital or surgery visits.

The new National Children’s Hospital will be born as a “digital” and largely “paperless” service. It is being designed to include clinical information systems and clinical decision support systems to support a largely paperless organisation with information flowing across services electronically, transforming the way the health sector works to enhance children’s health care experiences and improve their outcomes.

Health care has entered the era of big data

Information generated by electronic health records, payer claims, pharmacy data and mobile health technologies offer intriguing possibilities to utilise “big data” technologies in the service of health care. Entities of all types are actively integrating and analysing disparate streams of data to improve the efficiency of everything from drug R&D to care coordination. The ultimate success of both predictive and preventive healthcare resides within this ability to build and analyse large repositories of genetic, phenotypic, prescribing, health outcomes, population and other types of data.

There is a massive opportunity to extend the use of modern technologies in healthcare and deliver real benefits to patients, staff and healthcare organisations. With the introduction of Electronic Health Records and e-Referrals, patients can see their medical records on their phone or tablet in addition to their caregivers, enabling patients and clinicians to access and update medical records remotely across all settings.

Genetic and genomic information is transforming drug development

The recent availability of genetic and genomic information is transforming the development of new therapies. Genes and gene products represent new targets for intervention, while gene expression profiling will help gain novel insights into drug-disease interactions. Taken together, these techniques will help identify new drug candidates and reduce the number of new molecules that fail in clinical trials, thus lowering drug development costs.

Personalised medicine will come of age

With the price of personal genome sequencing falling below $1,000, the long-awaited personalised medicine revolution is finally arriving. Manufacturers are increasingly focused on personalised medicine approaches. While the high price of targeted therapeutics will exacerbate the pressure on payers, the anticipated increase in genomic data will create new opportunities and challenges for companies looking to gain access to, and make sense of, this information.

Individual Health Identifiers are primarily about patient safety and ensuring that the right information is associated with the right individual at the point of care. An individual health identifier or IHI is a number that uniquely and safely identifies each person that has used, is using, or may use a health or social care service in Ireland. This is because the IHI number can be used to safely identify the individual and to link their correct health records from different systems together showing their medical history. This ensures that healthcare practitioners can provide health services to individuals supported by a comprehensive view of their relevant health information. Individual Health Identifiers will also help in managing our health service more efficiently. Health service providers and health professionals will also have a unique identifier. Service providers will have to use their identifier on their patient records and in relevant communications. This will clearly identify the person and organisation involved at each stage of a person’s care.

These forces, amongst further emerging trends, are making health care organisations take a more proactive, structured approach to their business performance efforts. Drawing on our broad experience and deep knowledge of the healthcare industry, our EY Health and IT Advisory teams help clients respond to these transformative forces in innovative ways, helping them protect their businesses, grow revenues and optimise processes. Working on projects across UK&I, we recognise the significance the healthcare sector can play in boosting Ireland Inc and furthering EY’s overarching goal to build a better working world.

Carol Murphy, IT Advisory, Performance Improvement EY, Colm Devine, Government and Public Service lead EY, Maria Fleming, Advisory, Performance Improvement EY.