In the past, doctors were viewed as healthcare authorities, the ones with all the knowledge and power to provide care. Patients were much less familiar with assessing their own symptoms, or preventing illness; they simply paid their family doctor a visit and trusted that this is where they would find their solution.
Today, the doctor's waiting room looks totally different. It is less crowded and it is much less obvious why people are there. Why is this? Here are just three reasons:
- Society is much more health literate when it comes to understanding health and illness
- Patients are more engaged and proactive in their healthcare
- Pharma and the healthcare industry have advanced the prevention, treatment, and management of medical conditions.
Subsequently, not only are visits to the doctor avoided via proactive Google searches and better disease management thanks to life-enhancing medications, visits tend to be reserved for more serious conditions where doctor’s insights are essential. This is further preventing the spread of contagious diseases.
The future waiting room
In the future, the waiting room scenario may become outdated altogether, with many GP tasks already being aided by data analytics and artificial intelligence in a computer-aided medicine revolution. Indeed, patients are starting to monitor their own health and symptoms using smartphones, which is changing the face of diagnosis. Patients also Skype their doctors when required, and there has even been surgery via Skype.
These innovative technologies not only aim to improve patient outcomes and decrease the cost and time needed for providing care, but they also embrace the current trend of patient empowerment and engagement. Pharma is a key player in this healthcare transformation; they are collecting data and identifying gaps in healthcare, including trends in prevalence and incidence of disease. These invaluable data analytics provide a solid foundation for research and development that will result in better disease prevention and care for patients.
A notable example of this is the partnership between Boehringer-Ingelheim and Propeller Health. Together, the companies have developed “smart” inhalers, which collect and transmit data on patient adherence and the self-management of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This information is being utilised to design and produce better therapeutics for patients and to enhance adherence to treatment.
Pharma’s role in transforming health
The pharma industry has faced a devaluation of its reputation due to rising healthcare costs, financial scandals with specific drug companies, and lack of transparency behind R&D processes, pricing, and reimbursement strategies. However, let’s not forget that pharma has played an essential role in transforming the healthcare landscape. In the 1980s, HIV/AIDS was a global pandemic with people dying every day due to lack of proper medication. If pharma companies like Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb hadn’t developed effective medications to treat AIDS, this disease would never have been transformed from an epidemic to a chronic, treatable disease. Similar can be said of cancer, which is now more often a chronic disease than the end of the road.
Technology, big data, and artificial intelligence will not make doctors obsolete, but may improve efficiencies if done correct. Diagnosis can be achieved better, faster, and safer by computer programs and smart technologies, many of which are now being introduced and developed by pharma and medical device companies. Targeted medicine will also provide patients with improved healthcare outcomes that could further decrease GP visits and hospital admissions.
Pharma’s continued collaborations with medical technology firms has the potential to further improve patient outcomes, as drugs combined with telehealth provide comprehensive care for the patient in their own home. For instance, Novartis’ proposal to combine heart failure medication with a home-based patient monitoring system could decrease the need for visiting a doctor or hospital, while also improving patient health.
People imagined that by 2030 we will have flying cars; we might not be able to achieve that vision, but the doctor’s office of the future will be almost empty, or maybe even non-existent, due to pharmaceutical and technological advancements, which will allow us to take even more charge over our own health and well-being. Such a future might not be too far away.