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The future of the patient-healthcare system relationship

How will we cure ourselves in twenty years? Design Futures can offer new healthcare models for the ageing population's needs.


23.02.23 - 7 mins read

Very early, the healthcare systems of advanced economies will no longer bear the pressure of the elderly requiring medical interventions for chronic diseases, not only in terms of access to care but also of dedicated investments and available resources. 

Technological progress, demographic changes and rising costs are some of the main transformation factors in the healthcare sector. How industry leaders respond to them will drastically impact the service's quality offered to the population and their health.

Their preparation will also depend on the strategies adopted in the early stages of the transformation process that are already underway.

In 2050, 16% of the world's population will be 65+ (7.8% in 2020)

The future of healthcare

Lately, an obvious scenario has emerged in the healthcare market. Patients must be intercepted first in the diagnostic and preventive phase, building trust in solutions intermediated by digital technology. This need, if correctly interpreted with the tools of Design Futures, allows us to outline some possible scenarios and find service models to respond to future challenges. The following ideas refer to a well-rounded idea of health, considering physical and mental well-being.

Digital tools, data and centrality of the patient

Different types of patient needs and their pathways will define future healthcare ecosystems. Their patient-centric nature will increase physical and digital touchpoints to support them in adopting virtuous behaviours in their daily lives and improve treatment outcomes.

Wearable devices will allow healthcare professionals to monitor vital signs accurately in real-time, making healthcare more accessible through new remote assistance such as telemedicine.

Greater access to personal data will allow people to take more informed opinions during all daily activities. Patients will thus become more independent and more aware of their role in promoting one's physical and mental health.

Proximity care or centres of excellence 

Rather than having district hospitals offering a wide range of assistance, treatments will be grouped and spread in multiple centres of excellence, public and private, with higher diagnostic and support capabilities.

For patients experiencing complex chronic conditions, the coordination between suppliers and the services provided, virtually and in person, at home or nearby, will become essential for end-to-end experiences.

Telemedicine will be the norm, allowing access to various professionals from anywhere at any time. Hospitals will no longer be able to grow and bear infrastructure costs and will move towards remote solutions to reach patients in their homes easily.

AI, robots, digital twins, big data and tailored cures

Advances in robotics, artificial intelligence, cognitive automation and digitisation will help healthcare professionals work more productively by redefining the organisation of who, what, where and how work gets done. Healthcare professionals will use patients' Digital representations to test drugs and treatments to reduce the cost of testing and the time to market new drugs.

AI ​​will enable the creation of tools capable of identifying patterns in vast amounts of data leading to more accurate predictions that will allow disease anticipation and implementation of possible solutions before they arise.

Treatments will thus be planned based on hyper-personalised insights and guided by data obtained in real-time. In addition, with genomics and new technologies, it will be possible to create specific and tailor-made drugs for treating severe diseases.

Six scenarios to guide the transformation

Those visions are the result of our collaborations with some health institutes and allow us to identify a series of actions, or rather, vast areas of intervention:

  1. To invest in senior care and support for older people to encourage healthy ageing.
  2. Consider mental health as important as physical health to reduce the negative effects of neglecting psychological well-being, especially in costs.
  3. To promote healthy lifestyles, diagnosis, early management of chronic diseases and more effective and sustainable cures.
  4. To address health inequalities through targeted interventions, expand access to care and promote health equity.
  5. To build consensus and trust around data and its confidentiality even when used in a sensitive field such as personal health.
  6. To enhance the data interoperability and the technological systems that employ them to overcome the current paradigm where the patient is the central connection between physicians, treatments, care, administration and the rest of health care services.

Why Design Futures?

Design Futures help organisations focus their vision towards ideal futures, envisioning their transition to becoming more resilient and ready to face a changing world.

Companies adopt methodologies and tools to read the market and anticipate changes that shift business models from product-centred to service-centred, from distance to proximity, and from exclusivity to inclusiveness. At Sketchin, we use them to help healthcare players respond to market challenges.

Using these tools to generate possible scenarios in a delicate and impactful sector like the healthcare system creates multiple benefits. It allows us to interpret signals and trends across the industry and society and identify the challenges that must be addressed.

The generality of these scenarios is understandable: policymakers whose approach and laws change from country to country drive the healthcare market, and there is no ordinary line. With Design Futures tools, we intercept sub-trend to create ecosystems where the regulatory component can be satisfied, generating solutions that offer the right compromise between what people want concerning their dynamic evolution and legislative feasibility. In this way, it is possible to look at the implications and help consider elements that are difficult to relate by following a more traditional process.

Designing forward over time allows us to see which change direction seems relevant, profitable, sustainable and ethical. These scenarios represent today's horizon: the future is not given but is progressively defined and built, starting from choices in the present.

Write to us to find out how Design Futures will help your organisation realise the potential of the future.