Below, Sigal Atzmon, Founder & Global CEO of Medix, talks to CEO Today Magazine about the current status of the global healthcare landscape as well as emerging trends. She discusses why she is passionate about supporting a more effective, quality driven healthcare landscape, the emerging digital, big data revolution globally, and why she believes China will lead the way with AI in the healthcare space.
Global healthcare systems under considerable strain
There is a global shortage of 7.2m healthcare workers, a figure that will likely double by 2035. People are living longer but often with chronic diseases putting significant strain on healthcare systems around the world. More demanding patients are spending more on healthcare yet time-poor doctors, and a fragmented system, often lead to increases in misdiagnosis and overtreatment.
Though global healthcare access and quality has improved over the past twenty years, the inequalities in medical care have widened. In addition to gaps in the accessibility and quality of health across racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, unwarranted health variations also remain prevalent. These are variations in medical practice that cannot be explained by socio economic factors, patient needs or preferences, or the dictates of evidence-based medicine. Such variations exist between states & regions, within cities, neighboring hospitals, between public and private hospitals and doctors.
Unwarranted health variation is an acute problem on a global level, even among the world’s most advanced nations and affects patients, insurers, corporations, and governments alike, leading often to uncontrolled medical cost inflation, and making healthcare neither unsustainable nor affordable. Studies have shown that if unwarranted variation could be reduced, quality of medical care would rise dramatically and costs could be lowered by as much as 30%.
Healthcare ecosystems that must be developed
To overcome these challenges, healthcare ecosystems must be developed around the following:
Prevention is just as important as treatment: there should be a reorientation towards maximising health and proactive wellbeing at all ages
Harness and integrate technology to healthcare systems to improve accessibility and cost-effectiveness of healthcare
Implement personalised medical and disease management programmes to reduce variations while ensuring implementation of quality medical care within a holistic, multi-disciplinary approach
(1) Embrace preventative healthcare
Preventive healthcare must be embraced as part of a proactive lifestyle. This includes implementation of medical risk profiling tools and regular checkups for early diagnosis. Preventing, and catching such life-threatening diseases as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes at their earliest onset can make a huge difference to longevity and quality of life. The promotion of healthy lifestyles must be sustained and supported by governments, public bodies and private companies.
Should prevention and early diagnosis become more prevalent, communities as a whole would also benefit – by reducing demands on health systems and making healthcare services more accessible and affordable.
(2) Harness and integrate technology
Embracing and integrating technology within healthcare systems are key to addressing the burgeoning healthcare challenges. Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications are one of the potential solutions that companies and governments around the world feel might revolutionise healthcare systems by making them more efficient, cost-effective and accessible. AI is capturing funding support given its ability to analyse big data to find patterns, associations, insights and ultimately make predictions, based on algorithms. AI based chatbots, for instance, already triage patients by answering basic health queries and assessing symptoms. AI applications are also reviewing radiology and pathology images with a high level of accuracy.
While the US leads the world in AI, it lags behind other countries in applying AI innovations to healthcare as it is heavily burdened by a legacy infrastructure. China, however, is already driving AI innovations and applications to bridge their healthcare gaps. Backed by the Chinese Government and executed by private sector giants like Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, along with hundreds of digital-health and AI-focused start-ups, AI in China can meet the pressing requisite to offer accessibility, quality medical care and to reduce the burden of cost that the Chinese government and people cannot bear.
Capturing more data than all other nations put together, China has a significant advantage to work with AI. It can help doctors reach the right diagnosis faster, and also match the right treatment which will enhance productivity and provide secondary reviews to catch costly medical mistakes before they happen. Over the next two decades AI will radically change the healthcare landscape and thanks to China’s ability to accelerate this progress they will become the world’s AI leader in an industry that is expected to reach US$130 billion in 2025.
(3) Personalised case and disease management
A modern, advanced healthcare system should also incorporate a personalised, multi-disciplinary approach to care management. Traditional “delivery of care” models should be replaced by personalised medical management programs, centred around each patient’s individual conditions and needs.
When patients are faced with vasts amount of information, treatment suggestions and contradicting medical opinions, they need help navigating the maze of questions and doubts, while adhering to international medical guidelines throughout the entire process. Patients should be assigned dedicated medical case managers to review their diagnosis, possible treatment alternatives in an objective and clear way.
We are very positive about the future of healthcare and excited to be playing a significant role in a mission I am so passionate about. Medix, together with governments, global insurers and large corporates, is fully committed to developing and implementing solutions that would improve quality of medical care patients receive and flatten the inequality of care curve. This would mean a more responsible and accountable health care landscape for everyone, anywhere.