Digital platforms are disrupting the global healthcare sector

21 December 2020 Consultancy.eu
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As healthcare takes on unprecedented digital transformation, platforms are set to take centre stage in the sector over the next five years. A new Roland Berger study elaborates.

The strategy and management consultancy surveyed more than 500 healthcare experts around the world to portray the digital healthcare landscape. The latest report builds on a similar study last year, allowing for a comparison and an assessment of Covid-19’s presumably lasting impact.

The central finding is that healthcare is going digital. By 2025, digital healthcare will touch €1 trillion – 12% of the entire sector. With infection risks abound under the Covid-19 paradigm, people are more weary than ever of visiting a doctor/hospital, or even a pharmacy. Much like with shopping or business, consumers are choosing to go online where they can.

Different types of healthcare platforms

Feeding these demands are platforms – digital applications that facilitate various links in the healthcare process. Platforms can be used for making doctor’s appointments, for instance, or getting drugs delivered. Many also facilitate online consultations, negating the need for a physical visit altogether.

By 2025, such service-focused platforms are expected to take centre stage in the healthcare sector, with nearly 60% of healthcare experts predicting that they will play a major role. Other platforms are emerging in a more specialised capacity, catering to special illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular conditions, among others.

Such is the allure of platforms that some healthcare experts predict the rise of consumer-focused applications, powered by tech giants such as Amazon and Apple. With the resources at their disposal, such big players could offer integrated applications that connect all stakeholders in the healthcare ecosystem.

The global healthcare platform landscape

A handful of Chinese big names are already leading the way in this space. Platforms such as WeDoctor, Ping An Good Doctor and Chunyu Yisheng have been far-reaching in their capacity to connect doctors, patients, hospitals, insurers and a variety of other stakeholders in a single place, delivering an integrated healthcare experience.

Outside of this elite club, however, hundreds of platforms have emerged around the world that are successful, but limited in the scope of healthcare services they offer. Alongside a survey with healthcare experts, Roland Berger’s study featured a qualitative analysis of the top 100 platforms around the world – a list that includes big names such as Fitbit, Kaiser Permanente, Babylon Health, Ada, AliHealth and several others.

The key finding from this analysis is that the disruptive power of the vast majority of platforms lies in very limited areas – mostly outpatient services such as early diagnostics and consultations. Backing these findings up, half or less of Roland Berger’s survey respondents expect platforms to make inroads into other segments such as inpatient hospital care or health insurance.

Platforms largely focus on outpatient services

Yet, integration is crucial, both across online services and between he online and offline sphere, and platforms are expected to make this realisation. “As many as 84 percent of respondents expect to see growth of platforms that combine virtual and real-world services,” noted Senior Parnter at Roland Berger Germany Peter Choueiri.

“For example, patients may choose to access a video consultation via a diagnostic platform, but if this is insufficient for a valid diagnosis they will need to be transferred to a specialist for a physical examination. Ensuring that this transition is smooth will be critical.”

As the digital transformation of healthcare continues, platforms will gradually expand their offerings to meet the demands of an increasingly discerning and risk-averse consumer. “Healthcare platforms are set to become part of the next normal, acting as both gatekeeper and driver of future health markets,” concluded Choueiri.