It is a fair assumption that a lot of us are thinking about the future right now. And why not? Within a few weeks we will have left the short days and cold nights of winter behind us and, if all goes well with the vaccination programme, we could be on the brink of saying goodbye to the darkest days of the coronavirus pandemic. Nothing is certain, and we will all have to do our bit for a little while longer, but the future does at least hold a promise of some return to a cherished normality.
But what about beyond that? What does the future hold in healthcare in the long-term? At the end of last year we brought you the first half of accountancy giant Deloitte’s series on the future of healthcare. The study looks at what changes are likely to come about over the next five years. The first series of articles we examined looked how we may soon be benefitting from continuous health monitoring, from having direct access to our own health records and how technological changes in personalised healthcare (think bio-engineered organs) could all become the norm. In the second and final chapter, we look at key developments such as advances in pharmaceutical research and development, improvements in supply chains and even how global warming will affect healthcare.
Decline in pharmaceutical research and developments is reversed - the stunning success achieved by the pharmaceutical industry in producing a series of coronavirus vaccines shows just how quickly things are developing in the industry. A process that might have been expected to take years, was completed in months. But this could be just the start of an acceleration in change. According to Deloitte the use of Artificial Intelligence and increased take up of joint ventures with academia will lead to dramatic improvements in the discovery and development of new drugs. Innovative techniques could include virtual clinical trials and use of wearable devices to monitor the effects of new drugs. Artificial evidence will be used to identify novel compounds that could crack some of the trickiest medical problems.
Collaboration rather than competition - the joint ventures between big pharma companies and biotech minnows or research universities to produce the coronavirus vaccines could be just the start of a new period of cooperation in the healthcare industry. This will include not just pharmaceutical research, but data sharing across the industry, funding models and cooperation between private and public sector organisations. This cooperation and information sharing will improve standards across the board and accelerate change as best practice is shared and adopted at a rapidly accelerating rate.
Decarbonisation becomes engrained in industry - Deloitte predicts that by 2025 the healthcare industry will have fully adopted the ‘green agenda’. Suppliers to the industry will have to adopt zero carbon policies and demonstrate how they recycle and reuse; the use of green energy will be standard across the industry; more and more pharmaceutical products will switch from being disposal to reusable; and even industry funding will require fully audited environment impact assessments of all operations.
What does all this mean for the man, or woman, on the street? Well, if Deloitte is right, more and better drugs should be coming to the market. This could well benefit some of the trickier areas of medicine such as oncology and the development of new antibiotic treatments. It should also mean that the provision of healthcare will become more efficient. By making data more accessible, the restrictions on the healthcare models we have all become used to will start to loosen. This is an area that med(24) believes in passionately. We want to use the very best systems to ensure we are doing everything we can to make your access to healthcare as simple - and effective - as possible. Medicine is always an exciting and positive industry to be in, now perhaps more than ever.