The healthcare sector is undergoing profound change that‘s leading to the adoption of new techniques and business models. It is change being driven by technology and, specifically, the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) where these objects will routinely ‘talk’ and ‘share’ data.
This will be a future where for example:
- Cars self-diagnose impending faults and report them to the garage
- Household staples from mineral water to washing powder are automatically added to your shopping list when supplies run low
- Even clothes send suggestions for matching accessories to your smartphone
This may seem gimmicky, but for the life sciences sector the implications are huge. To understand why, consider potential changes to how we treat a condition such as diabetes. Already, there are pumps that monitor glucose levels and dispense carefully calibrated doses of insulin.
An IoT-enabled version of such technology will be more sophisticated still by making the pump an ‘always-on’ device that streams real-time data to healthcare. Here, it can be continuously analysed, keying off alerts and interventions where needed.
Other examples of new techniques have the potential to be more disruptive. In 2016, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) licensed Spritam, a drug to control epilepsy. The drug is manufactured using a 3D printer, and the idea is that printing pills makes them easier to swallow and faster-acting. Building on this, we may eventually see individually dosed pills being 3D-printed locally by pharmacists, or even patients being prescribed a personalised pill that combines multiple medications.
What will these kinds of developments mean for the life sciences sector? Already, there are big questions to think about:
- How will this affect the pharmaceutical industry’s existing business model, and the development of new drugs and techniques?
- If we are to have medicines 3D-printed locally, how will this be administered by healthcare providers and how will this be managed by organisations such as the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)?
While we don’t yet have anywhere near definitive answers, clues are emerging. Here, the good news for the life sciences sector is that it’s already clear new techniques can – and arguably must, in order to be adopted – work with the grain of emerging customer behaviour. In the case of diabetes, for example, what patient would want to return to a world of finger sticks and manual injections?
More generally, these kinds of healthcare developments are especially powerful because they mirror those elsewhere in society. In recent years, businesses have increasingly emphasised getting a 360-degree view of their customers. To strip away the jargon, businesses want to understand their customers so they can build personalised services and offerings.
The healthcare sector is already moving in the same direction, with patient-specific treatments based on big data and looking further ahead, individual DNA profiles. These are subjects we discuss in more depth in our blog A Patient-Facing Industry, but here we want to finish by briefly flagging up how personalisation is driving business change.
Increasingly, as both a way to meet ever-higher customer expectations and to drive value, companies are adopting product-as-a-service (PaaS) and subscription-based models. This removes the initial purchase cost and replaces it with a longer-term service agreement that covers the use of a product. Combine this with the idea of devices connected to the IoT that can report back on their activity and the life sciences sector has a huge new opportunity to develop new business models that focus on providing services rather than just medicines or machines.
In doing this, the sector will be reflecting the kinds of changes seen elsewhere within the economy. To understand why, consider how so many Amazon customers who are already paying a subscription fee for Prime services and organising their lives with the help of Amazon Echo, an IoT-enabled, voice-activated device – is it really such a big leap of imagination to see the healthcare sector moving in the same direction?
Find out more about the future of healthcare by downloading our Life Sciences in flux whitepaper