Whitepaper - Digital health ecosystem smoothes the way for the shift from treatment to prevention

Posted by Jenni Armstrong on 13 June 2016

The final module of Squared Online sees Squares work in groups to create a whitepaper that sells their ideas on how a major digital trend will affect an industry. From the whitepapers submitted, three are identified as the most viable, persuasive and creative.

Here's one of those top-performing whitepapers from Group 29 of the August 2015 cohort. It takes a look at the impact of data on the medical sector, offering a strategy that put the patient at the centre of the health ecosystem.

Executive summary

The concept of real time body sensors and intelligent medicine is no longer science fiction but a real
possibility. People already access technology to monitor their health, and these technologies will only
become better and cheaper in the future. The development of a digital health ecosystem1 that embraces
current and future technology is essential to fully benefit from the technological developments happening around us every day.

The ultimate ecosystem will unite individuals and the medical industry, a transformation that will cut
healthcare costs as a consequence of the reduction in preventable chronic diseases worldwide. The
ecosystem gives room for the addition of two new roles to the healthcare process: patient and healthcare
data analysts. These roles would work collaboratively with healthcare professionals to put the patient at the centre of the system, ensuring patients receive improved treatment whilst at the same time adding a dimension of prevention.

However, widespread adoption is required for this paradigm shift to take place, and there are many
challenges to overcome including regulatory procedures, IT infrastructure costs, organisational change,
and worldwide education. With the global number of over 60s predicted to hit 1.4 billion by 2030 and 2.1 billion by 20502, and a colossal 80% of chronic diseases being preventable3, it's time to take action.


Aug15health1.jpg75%4 of budget in the healthcare industry goes towards the treatment of chronic diseases. According to National Health Council figures, nearly 133 million5 Americans at present have a chronic disease, a number that's increasing annually. 

Chronic diseases, such as heart disease, strokes, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes, are by far the leading cause of mortality in the world, representing 60%6 of all deaths. Yet they are also among the most preventable.7

The medical sector is undergoing a dramatic change at breathtaking speed caused by the rapid
development of technology. Digital trends will revolutionise the health sector globally over the next few
years. This whitepaper explores one of the most viable digital trends in the medical sector: virtual
healthcare; in particular the shift from treatment to prevention, and how it has influenced - and will
continue to influence - the medical industry in the years ahead.

This trend sees the potential of the healthcare expert working together with the patient. Patients will feel
empowered by taking care of their health, understanding and managing it better, thus resulting in the
prevention of chronic diseases.

The purpose of this whitepaper is to provide advice and recommendations for the leaders of the medical
industry and to help them make relevant decisions.

Problem definition

Imagine a world where you can control your health in real time, and the health data of your choice is
transferred in real time to physicians, clinics and research departments. You can be alerted when data
is out of the norm, make appointments, and access and share your current and historical health data with the click of a mouse. You're contacted by research departments from all over the world to benefit from the latest research, or participate on a patient study.

Aug15health2.jpgUnfortunately, people do not presently have a digital overview of their current or historical health data. They go to their local physician and share as much as they can remember, or at best bring copies of prior test results. Some follow healthy eating or fitness trends or use personal data recording platforms like wearables, yet even these measures are at present not integrated with local healthcare record systems. Even then, proactive individuals may eventually get a disease that could have been prevented or at least postponed8.

The problem remains that users who currently do use digital technology to take positive steps to prevent illness are doing so in personal silos.

Several organisations (for example Apple's HealthKit service, Google and Samsung Electronics9) already partially follow the trend, offering platforms that enable patients to manage their personal health record (PHR) and share data with physicians and clinics. But these innovations do not go far enough to fulfil the increasing need for prevention. Big data storage technology, a connected world and data protection solutions could make it possible to extend such a platform to a realtime digital healthcare ecosystem, predicting the unknown before it happens. Patients would be able to monitor their own vital signs and link to a healthcare record system by the use of technology, such as apps, wearables and other devices.


A personalised health dashboard will address this disconnect. Usable on multiple devices, it will be easy
to read and use, provide secure login and be connected to individuals’ local healthcare systems -with the
potential to connect with wider health networks nationally, or even globally.

It will connect with smart devices such as wearables and sensors and highlight
abnormal statistics, medication actions and health screening alerts with the functionality to reorder
prescriptions or to book appointments. Live chat will allow users to get advice from experts such as
pharmacists, nurses or general practitioners, and virtual ‘house calls’ would be just a click away. Using
advanced analytics, visualisations and tools to support decisions, the dashboard will also provide added
value through healthy lifestyle videos, blogs and recipes, all with the potential to be tailored to the
individual's needs.


Individual stakeholders would control which data (if any) they wanted to share with a wider network, such as healthcare providers, pharmacists, or clinical research groups and trials.


In our visualisation (shown below), the digital healthcare ecosystem has the individual user at its core –
clinicians and researchers depend entirely on end user participation to provide a patient-centric and empowering digital solution that will shift the focus of healthcare from treatment to prevention.


Early education is critical in ensuring patient adoption: governments should educate school children about
the benefits of making healthy lifestyle choices, and teach them how they can use digital technologies to
monitor and improve their daily activity. Physicians may need be closely consulted during the process - while a recent survey13 of clinicians highlights an improvement in English doctors’ adoption of electronic health records, it also shows that 47% find the current systems difficult to use.

With chronic diseases continuing to be a global problem, the medical industry must work together to
create a collective digital healthcare ecosystem that will place individual data at the centre of a much wider
network. Consultation with all end users is essential to create a user friendly digital healthcare ecosystem that will enable the human race to work together to dramatically reduce the number of preventative illnesses worldwide.

Benefits, risks and challenges

The ultimate benefit will be the shortand longterm prevention of chronic diseases. While there will be a
cost implication for building the ecosystem, both healthcare providers and patients will make huge savings
on treatment costs because prevention is much cheaper than treatment14. With the help of universal
real time health data, the healthcare industry can more quickly gain accurate insights into human
physiology. In turn, the pharmaceutical industry will have faster access to data, enabling them to run more
accurate clinical trials and create products better tailored to individuals’ needs15. Healthcare will become easier, more convenient, 24/7, web-enabled and personalised, empowering patients to be engaged with their own health in a way that has never been possible before.

But with progress comes risk. Security and privacy are the main risks that will require a universal
programme to assess and improve information security at all levels. Getting patients more involved and
reducing facetoface contact will inevitably bring ambiguity, potentially opening up legal cases. There is
also a risk that one company will have the monopoly on the ultimate digital interface.

Faced with the choice of doing nothing at all or taking action, this expanding ageing population alone is
clear reason for taking these risks: With the population of those aged 60 years and over predicted to
increase by 56% between 2015 and 203016, the cost of treating chronic illnesses will become

The entire industry will have to work together to overcome the many challenges it will face, from end user
and provider adoption, to the monetisation of our health. Organisational mindsets will have to undergo
significant change in many countries. As a first step the IT infrastructure will have to be significantly
upgraded so data can be integrated, and this will be an ongoing concern. Government regulations and
policies may vary from country to country, so while the ideal digital ecosystem requires worldwide
collaboration, the end results will almost certainly end up working to an extent in isolation from one


Aug15health4.jpgThe digital healthcare transformation is already in progress but the industry can still shape this change. It’s imperative to work collaboratively with as many stakeholders as possible, leveraging data to control costs and optimise patient healthcare outcomes, with the ultimate goal of dramatically improving the health of global populations.

You can read more student whitepapers here

Find out more about Squared Online: you can give us a ring on +44 (0) 20 7173 5938, or download the brochure to read about the course and the Squared experience.

  1. http://news.utexas.edu/2015/09/29/engineersdevelopnewmethodformakingwearableelectronics
  2. http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/pdf/ageing/WPA2015_Report.pdf
  3. http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/89/4/11030411/en/
  4. http://www.forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2014/04/03/virtualhealthcarevisitswillrevolutionizetheindustryifweletit
  5. http://www.forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2014/04/03/virtualhealthcarevisitswillrevolutionizetheindustryifweletit
  6. http://www.who.int/chp/chronic_disease_report/full_report.pdf
  7. http://www.who.int/chp/chronic_disease_report/full_report.pdf
  8. http://www.who.int/chp/chronic_disease_report/part1/en/index11.html
  9. http://www.reuters.com/article/usapplehospitalsexclusiveidUSKBN0L90G920150205
  10. http://keltonglobal.com/inthemedia/majorityofconsumerswillsharehealthdata
  11. http://mobihealthnews.com/46009/ihsabout4mpatientswilluseremotepatientmonitoringtechnologiesby2020
  12. https://www.tractica.com/research/homehealthtechnologies/
  13. https://www.accenture.com/gben/insightaccenturedoctorssurvey2015healthcareitpainprogress.aspx
  14. http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/89/4/11030411/en/
  15. http://www.mckinsey.com/industries/pharmaceuticalsandmedicalproducts/ourinsights/howbigdatacanrevolutionizepharmaceuticalrandd
  16. http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/pdf/ageing/WPA2015_Report.pdf

Topics: Digital trends, Whitepaper, Squared Network