4 minute read 24 Apr 2017
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How health care can crack the engaged aging code through technology

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.

4 minute read 24 Apr 2017
Related topics Disruption Aging

A convergence of technological advancements and trends are already underway that could help make the concept of "healthy aging" a reality.

They’ve been killers for years: heart attack, cancer, stroke and neurological disorders. But they are becoming increasingly common as the world’s population ages and becomes more sedentary. For governments and organizations across the health care system, the escalating costs of these chronic diseases threaten their existence as well.

It’s estimated that before 2020, the global population aged 65 and over will outnumber children under the age of five, something that has never happened before. Meanwhile, over the next 30 years, the number of people over 65 will triple to 1.5 billion. The costs associated with treating this rapidly aging population are staggering. The World Economic Forum projects that treat chronic, non-communicable disorders could cost an estimated US$47 trillion from 2010 to 2030.

By some estimates, as a society, we spend approximately 50 times more on managing diseases reactively than we do on preventing them. For years, we have exposed our bodies to a host of insults and stress to a point where our cells can no longer maintain optimal function. It is at this point that age-related diseases manifest.

EY believes the goal should be to delay the functional decline and extend our health spans using transformative technologies. In our article, How will new technologies make age-related diseases a thing of the past?, we delve into the integral role new technologies will play in the shift from disease management to disease prevention.

In the near term, this may mean leveraging sensors and IoT technologies in smart phones and wearables to monitor and manage known diseases. Longer term, we will need to deploy genetic and regenerative medicine and improve analytic and human behavior to treat people before they get sick.

These are good goals. However, we also believe that the real shift to wellness will come when we have made such strides in pre-emptive efforts, when they are so entrenched in our day-to-day lives that we no longer think of them as preventative. Wellness will simply become part of our everyday routine.

So, how do we do that? Although there is no one magic bullet, we believe a convergence of technological advancements and trends are already underway that could help bring the concept of "healthy aging" to a reality.

  • New forms of data integration — As costs of genomic sequencing continue to rapidly decline, there is an opportunity to pursue large-scale mapping and identification of new biomarkers for risks of diseases associated with aging. Combining and integrating this genomic data with other forms of "real world" data, including that generated by wearables and behavioral data derived from social media and patient advocacy sites, will help usher in a new era of precision medicine approaches for identifying disease risks before they manifest.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) — Deep learning, a branch of AI which I've written about before, is poised to be a critical tool for helping to shift from disease management to disease prediction and in identifying the best means to drive behavioral change. Once strictly the realm of science fiction, AI deep learning algorithms are already being successfully applied by a number of health start-ups exploring the science of longevity. 
  • Next-gen sensors — The use of sensors in phones and wearables is already paying health and economic dividends in the monitoring of diseases associated with aging but that should only be the tip of the iceberg. Next-gen sensors will be both smaller and "always on." This will reduce the need for the consumer to interact with it regularly, which will improve the collection of biological and environmental data needed to take the science of behavioral change to the next level.

To be successful, these technological advancements will need to be inherently linked with the current trend in health care of "P-medicine" or medical care that is personalized, precise, preventative, predictive, pharmaco-therapeutic and participatory.

At its core, this trend is about driving greater communication and collaboration between physicians, consumers and other stakeholders with the goal of addressing health challenges before they occur, an obvious and essential component in making the shift from disease management to wellness a reality.

Regulatory bodies globally will also need to keep pace with changes in how data is being generated. This should include adopting standards to measure safety and value from new forms of data generated by consumers and from AI systems.

There is no question that this shift from disease management to disease prevention will disrupt business models of nearly all health care delivery and biopharmaceutical companies. However, with that disruption will also come new opportunities to stake out early leadership positions in the health care system of tomorrow, particularly through the formation and funding of creative partnerships with other players. Critical to identifying those partnerships will be finding opportunities to engage with and identify shared objectives with other organizations that may possess the technological assets and expertise your own organization may lack.

Watch the video below for more information on Engaged aging  Engaged Aging and managing society priorities

Summary

The shift from disease management to disease prevention will disrupt business models of nearly all health care companies. However, with that disruption will also come new opportunities in the health care system of tomorrow. 

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.

Related topics Disruption Aging