A new paper published by Deloitte examines the major issues facing the global healthcare sector in 2019 – with future challenges centred on growing and aging populations, a profusion of chronic diseases, and the increasing costs of high-tech medical treatments.
Global healthcare in numbers
After growing at an annual rate just short of 3% for the past few years, global healthcare spending is forecast to accelerate sharply until at least 2022 – a function of expanding healthcare provision in developing countries, plus the increased care requirements of aging populations in the developed world. Large inequalities in per-capita healthcare spending continue to exist, with the US topping the table at $11,674 per person per annum, compared to just $54 per capita in Pakistan. But high cost is no guarantee of high-quality care, with the US sitting bottom of the table for overall healthcare performance.
Modern healthcare facilities are crammed with technological innovation, yet developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics promise a new generation of value-adding digital solutions that have the potential to reduce cost and enhance patient care. AI can be particularly useful in supporting diagnosis, and in accelerating the development of new drugs, while robotics has enormous potential to relieve staff of mechanical tasks in areas such as decontamination and sterilisation. Rather than replacing medical professionals, these systems should be deployed to support existing staff, freeing them up to spend more time with patients. Of course, large-scale implementation of these technologies depends on a number of factors, not least the accuracy of core technologies like natural language processing.
A growing talent gap
Despite the countless technological innovations that are driving the sector forward into a new digital age, healthcare remains very much a people-centric business, and the quality of care that patients receive is a function of the quality of the people who provide and manage healthcare services. Yet with growing populations around the globe, the supply of skilled medical professionals and senior healthcare executives generally lags behind demand, which means the ability to recruit high-calibre professionals and executives is a critical success factor for all healthcare institutions. This is a problem felt all-too-keenly by the NHS, while internationally, the World Health Organisation predicts a shortfall of up to 2 million health professionals in the European Union by 2020.
The future of healthcare
To cope with the demands of expanding and aging populations, the global healthcare sector must evolve from being a reactive service that responds to people’s illnesses, towards a more proactive service that maintains people’s health. It must develop the capability to deliver technology-enabled care wherever and whenever patients need it, and it must do so in a way that makes efficient use of tight budgets. Achieving this vision will require the close collaboration of all stakeholders, including governments, healthcare providers, senior healthcare professionals and, ultimately, patients. It is an ambitious goal, but intelligent application of new technologies will go a long way to making this vision achievable.
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