Healthcare providers must evolve to survive as the industry is expected to experience dramatic, innovation-led change over the next five years, experts have said, with smaller operators likely to struggle to survive.
Warnings have been sounded at a forum on personalised health and the future of medicine at the World Government Summit in Dubai this week.
Data and genetic sequencing to predict illnesses and disease will help drive healthcare budgets, with smaller clinics most at risk from decline.
“One thing that’s very clear is that we will not be able to meet the demand from health of the world’s population in the future, so the need for change is very obvious,” said Soumitra Dutta, professor of operations, technology and information management at Cornell University SC Johnson College of Business.
“It may not be necessarily to provide more doctors, but to manage the way healthcare is delivered.
“Data sharing and data mining will be very important in the future, the question will be how that data is interpreted and understood.
“People will also need to be educated so they can make sense of the new information they have at their disposal.”
Technology will help governments better understand the health needs of their respective countries and as more data gets generated, medicine will become more precise.
Tech companies like Amazon and Google are also predicted to have more impact in healthcare, due to the increased demand for telecare, where patients are treated remotely, and data analysis.
“I anticipate healthcare provision to change from the current model, where it will become cheaper for most people,” said Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, chairman and managing director of VPS Healthcare.
“Innovation is therefore the crux on which the entire system could either evolve or collapse.
“In healthcare, it can take six months for medical bills to be repaid under the current insurance model in the UAE.
“This will evolve as new technologies develop, but ultimately healthcare needs to be cost effective and accessible.”
Innovation is viewed as imperative to progress to address critical issues such as improving the quality of treatments, reducing cost, increasing the efficiency and providing remote healthcare access.
While larger providers such as NMC Hospitals and VPS Healthcare are expected to flourish, other clinics may have to join forces in order to offer insurers a viable alternative.
With more than 2,500 clinical providers operating within Dubai alone, it is not unusual to see clinics, small hospitals or individual doctors working at just 30 to 40 per cent of capacity, and struggle to maintain a viable, quality assured practice.
Speaking in Skype interview with The National last week, Mark Adams of The Healthcare Network, a new business model for the healthcare industry combining providers and insurers, said: "This is reducing revenue, hitting cash flow, increasing competition and reducing numbers of patients.
“At some time in the future insurers will no longer deal with clinics they do not consider to be relevant.
“The insurance industry knows very well the kind of practises that are continuing.
“They benchmark every medical procedure against different providers so they already know which clinics are over-treating and over-claiming.”
Increasing regulations, larger insurers providing big corporate arrangements with taxation schemes through specific providers, increasing doctors and nurses’ salaries and the switch towards mandatory health insurance with delays of 3-4 more months to get paid and claims rejections as high as 15 per cent are all factors putting strain on smaller providers.
The Healthcare Network will initially work with 50 clinics in Dubai.
It will work closely with independent operators, helping them to access the highest standards of finance, HR, procurement, licensing and insurance revenue management support that many could not afford independently.
“When insurance companies factor their choice into fewer providers, the ethics and behaviours become very much a part of the purchasing decision,” Mr Adams said.
“If a larger healthcare group wants to have a long term relationship with an insurance provider, things like referral fees will dwindle and branded versus cheaper generic medicines should become more common.
“Providers will have to be operating in a more transparent and ethical way than is currently the case.”
More from the World Government Summit:
At the Dubai Summit, Anuradha Acharya, chief executive at Ocimum Biosolutions, Inc said: “In five years from now I believe patients will be able to have more control over their healthcare than is currently the case.
“A lot of technologies coming through will help reduce the cost of delivering healthcare, such as reducing the need to physically go and visit a doctor.
“In the next two years we are anticipating that a full genome sequencing test will cost under $100.
“That will make it very cost effective and make it easier for governments and planners to predict what kind of load they are expecting on a health sector by predicting what illnesses and disease is likely to be more common.”