Disruptive Entrants Changing Health IT Economy

The makers of remote sensors and computers will have an eye toward faster, cheaper discoveries and proven value for cost-conscious purchasers.

Technological advances, empowered consumers, disruptive new entrants and rising demand by an aging population are ushering in a new era in health care, according to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

In what the company calls the New Health Economy, the mere collection of data will be replaced with lightning-fast analysis delivered directly to a care team that anticipates problems before they arise.

The report predicted individuals would be co-creators of their health decisions, spending more of their discretionary dollars on tools that help them live well.

"For decades, American consumers, policymakers, business leaders and healthcare professionals have experienced repeated, costly, contradictions in our $2.8 trillion fragmented system of care," the report said. "Put simply, we have not gotten our money's worth."

In reality, the revenue opportunity in the New Health Economy is much greater than $2.8 trillion, though many more players will be fighting for their share.

In one survey by PwC's Health Research Institute (HRI), consumers indicated they are willing to spend collectively up to $13.6 billion a year of their own money on medical products such as health-related video games and ratings services.

At the same time, HRI estimates the ancillary health market of products and services such as personal trainers, mobile apps and vitamins generates an additional $267 billion.

Meanwhile, drug companies are pursuing relationships with universities, patient groups, and the makers of remote sensors and computers all with an eye toward faster, cheaper discoveries and proven value for cost-conscious purchasers.

"The lines are already blurred," the report noted. Health systems are securing insurance licenses, it said. "A telephone giant advertises its role in treating sick children in India and the Philippines. And drugstores are pushing deeper into care delivery."

The report highlights the efforts of the nationwide drugstore chain Walgreens, which sells immunizations, infusion therapy, cholesterol screening and counseling for chronic conditions.

The company posts prices publicly and tracks the habits of 74 million customers through a rewards program. It has also formed a partnership with a lab business, aligned with nearly 200 well-known health systems, bought an online prescription company and expanded internationally through two major alliances.

"Next-generation health companies will need different skill sets and investments. Core competencies must evolve to take advantage of technological advances, delivering better clinical outcomes and improving the overall customer experience," the report noted. "Organizations must have the courage and agility to fail frequently on their way to success, perhaps via pilots, incubators, crowd sourcing or computer modeling."