The future of healthcare & life sciences offers a world of opportunities, but their transformation requires substantial steps and boldness. The industry needs to be open to new insights instead of being mentally closed by existing ones.
Let’s think far into the future
By letting go of our mental barriers, we can think freely about a possible future of healthcare. Imagine it’s 2050, and hospitals no longer have patients. From the moment you are an embryo, you are analyzed. What is your DNA, and what will you look like? This can be changed at your parents’ will. Which diseases are you prone to? The risk of acquiring them can be eliminated through gene editing. Spare body parts and organs can be printed if needed. Everyone knows what is best for them as an individual: what they can eat and drink, which activities to participate in, what their talents are and how to prevent mental illness.
Pills containing miniature needles will painlessly inject drugs into places where treatment needs to be delivered. Healthcare is fully personalized and accessible to everyone. Everything you do is monitored and analyzed. Medical records are stored seamlessly, and personal health data has become a “currency” to pay for treatment and for companies to improve personalized medicine. Healthcare is fully organized around the prevention of disease. When you become ill, it is considered a failure of the healthcare system. Dying is a choice, and everyone is able to live on in the virtual world.
Is this an awe-inspiring or fear-inducing future scenario? What does the future of healthcare mean for basic human aspects like life, death, nature, freedom, privacy and ethics? Is technology transforming us into gods who are able to edit and change nature? Technological progress in healthcare is what we all want, but these new capabilities are catapulting us into an era in which science fiction becomes a reality. Humans will reach the age of 180 and beyond. What is the meaning of life if we cheat death? Just imagine!
But what about the near future?
The biggest challenge is how we as a society respond to all the new possibilities in healthcare – possibilities that will change the essence of being human. When we can predict and even influence nature and human development, we will be changing human life. How will we deal with the revelation of the new unknown?
The big question of this era is: ethics or innovative health technology, which comes first? There are now four cryogenic facilities on this planet, where the richest people in the world can have their bodies cryogenically preserved until medical science is able to revive and resurrect them. Algorithms that cannot be understood by patients or their doctors are having an enormous impact on medical decisions.
These are just two examples of technological progress and innovation within healthcare that are already raising ethical questions. Because technology doesn’t police itself, it requires human intervention in the form of attention, discussion and new regulations.
The list of ethical issues will grow by the hour in today’s fast-changing world of technology and science. Public awareness and ethical debate will need to begin, and we all need to be prepared for what’s to come. The biggest risk is failing to keep up with all the technological advancements. The biggest challenge is to create real human progress for everyone and to make a clear distinction between how we can technologically and scientifically evolve and the way we want to evolve. What do we need to live as humanly and healthfully as possible, in a way that is meaningful, economically secure and even fulfilling? What is our definition of enhanced and better living?
How to prepare for the future?
No one can predict the future; organizations must actively explore various possible futures to anticipate what disruptions are coming. We give you eight take-aways to prepare you for the future:
- Put customers in control of their own data and enable them to utilize it their way.
- Put digital ethics and data responsibility at the heart of your business.
- Use technology to empower patients and practitioners in healthcare, not to make them obsolete.
- Do not overestimate the impact of technology and do not underestimate the power of human contact in healthcare.
- Transform healthcare silos into platforms and move from people serving the healthcare structure toward networks serving patients.
- Prepare for a smart, digital world of prediction and prevention.
- Digitization isn’t a goal in healthcare; it is a supportive solution.
- Use technology to empower patients and give them control over their lives and healthcare solutions.