5 minute read 25 Mar 2019
Mature woman intently looking at computer displays. The screens are depicting  MRI scans.

Five ways the power of data will improve health outcomes

By Pamela Spence

EY Global Health Sciences and Wellness Industry Leader and Life Sciences Industry Leader

Ambassador for outcomes-based performance and healthy aging. Advocate for women.

5 minute read 25 Mar 2019

A data-centric approach to health care promises to deliver interventions more proactively, leading to better outcomes and a shift to prevention. 

Data is the driving force underpinning the Fourth Industrial Revolution; in health care, the goal is to use data to achieve better, more personalized health outcomes and ultimately, a shift towards prevention rather than treatment.

Five trends are leading the rise of a new, data-centric approach to health care. An organization’s ability to generate value depends on how effectively it can unlock the power of data and generate insights by connecting, combining and securely sharing data at greater scale than ever before.

1. Data will be better connected, combined and shared across the health ecosystem

Data are being democratized and that means every health company is now a data company. The goal must be to use these data to drive actions that lead to improved health outcomes – better clinical outcomes, more efficient care delivery or lower health care costs.

Today, health data are split between too many organizations to achieve usable insights. No single company has access to the totality of relevant data that could improve health outcomes. Companies equate data with intellectual property; they treat them as a proprietary asset and resist wider disclosure. Limitations imposed by regulatory frameworks also discourage data sharing. Ultimately stakeholders can work around these barriers, but only if they can minimize risk and realize mutual benefits from their data collaborations.

2. Nanomedicine, sensors and artificial intelligence will be recognized as the nervous system driving innovation

Technologies such as nanomedicine, sensors and artificial intelligence (AI) make it possible to decouple data collection from the traditional health care visit and process massive amounts of health data in real time. As such, they represent a new “nervous system” for receiving and transmitting health data that makes it possible to deliver convenient care anytime, anywhere.

It’s not just about which organization develops the best-in-class nanodevices, connected devices or algorithms. The organizations that succeed will be the ones that best adapt their business models to these technologies, with an emphasis on interoperability and turning data into actions and economic results.

AI approvals


FDA approvals for AI use in imaging were granted in 2017 and 2018.

No single company, government agency or public health entity has access to the totality of relevant data that could improve health outcomes.

3. A "digital backbone" will emerge across the industry … but who will own it?

At present, the health industry has no universal digital standards and the variety and volume of data being generated is huge. There’s also no single infrastructure that fuses all the available health data. Without this, holistic and consumer-oriented change will be impossible. 

While a comprehensive infrastructure has yet to emerge, more limited “digital backbones” have started to appear. These initial efforts are, for now, only point solutions.

To transform health care, data need an infrastructure that is both broader and more flexible. To achieve scale, the optimal digital backbone will need to combine open source platforms, application program interfaces and storage architecture. It must be accessible to multiple collaborators and designed for the patient-consumer.

To avoid ceding value in the future, health and life sciences organizations need to consider how their products and services will align with the emerging data infrastructure. This may mean identifying the right digital backbone developers to work with – or being bold and making the first move to build that infrastructure.

Unused data

50 petabytes

of data were generated, on average, by each hospital in 2018; less than 3% were put to use.

4. The patient-consumer will demand increasing power and influence over other stakeholders

Newly empowered patient-consumers are driving much of the change we see in health care. Patients have increased expectations around their health care experience, shaped by the growth of customer-centric, convenient digital platforms that make it easy to shop, travel or bank on an individual’s own terms. The EY Future of Health Survey 2018 suggests that “consumers expect a modernized physician-patient interaction and are already comfortable utilizing digital technologies in health.”

Fulfilling the increased expectations of the patient-consumer can only be achieved with a more data-driven approach to health. Organizations across the health ecosystem must learn to use data in ways that give patient-consumers seamless, convenient approaches to manage their own care. Accessible, brand-agnostic platforms (see trend #3) will be an essential enabler so that proactive health management can become as easy as paying a bill online or ordering a ride to the airport.

High adoption


of US patients would use technology to interact with care providers.

5. Therapeutic focus and the adoption of specialized business models will position companies to outperform

As argued in EY’s Progressions 2018 – Life Sciences 4.0: Securing value through data-driven platforms, all health sciences and wellness organizations must identify what differentiates them, and optimize their operations around this core expertise. As they refine their growth strategies, health sciences and wellness organizations will increasingly adopt one of four business models:

1.  Breakthrough innovator: developer or provider of best-in-class products and services that command high prices

2.  Disease manager: developer or provider of products and solutions that manage chronic conditions, with a focus on customer experience, convenience and maximum adherence

3.  Lifestyle manager: developer or provider of products and services aimed at overall health and wellness maintenance and disease prevention, marketed directly to the consumer

4.  Efficient producer: developer or provider of lower-cost commodity products and services that offer the same outcomes as more expensive alternatives, with a high-volume, low-margin revenue model

Each of these business models depends on a different kind of data expertise. For instance, Breakthrough innovators must use data to deliver the best results for rigorously identified patient sub-groups, while Disease managers must use data capabilities to offer personalized tools that empower individuals to take control of health conditions outside the medical setting. Lifestyle managers, meanwhile, must capture and use data to support overall health goals via consumer channels, while Efficient producers should focus on using data to optimize back-end processes linked to product manufacturing and the supply chain.

Business model focus is the starting point for knowing which products, services and capabilities to prioritize – and which data are needed to deliver future value for your organization. The choice confronting all stakeholders will not be whether to invest in a data strategy, but which of these data strategies provides a clear path to future growth.

Listen to a summary of “Unlocking the power of data to improve health outcomes: five trends to watch” audiobook.

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Five trends are leading the rise of a new, data-centric approach to health care. Companies should take bold decisive actions to make them fit for the continuously changing future.

About this article

By Pamela Spence

EY Global Health Sciences and Wellness Industry Leader and Life Sciences Industry Leader

Ambassador for outcomes-based performance and healthy aging. Advocate for women.