The COVID-19 crisis will have a strong, long-term influence on healthcare. The pandemic has pushed national healthcare systems and their staff to the limit and exposed the challenges of a sector heavily relying on traditional stakeholders and characterised by specific regulations that highly impact how these stakeholders innovate. At the same time, new opportunities have emerged.

In order to provide a better understanding of these emerging opportunities, Luxinnovation has published the report “Digitalisation of the health sector: Market trends”. It identified 5 digitalisation market trends that are expected to drive recovery strategies and, eventually, profoundly transform current healthcare ecosystems.

Trend 1: Shifting from disease treatment to prevention and health management

Sara Bouchon, Director Market Intelligence, LuxinnovationThe focus of healthcare systems is expected to shift from curing diseases to promoting wellness and preventing ill health. “Digitalisation offers a wealth of opportunities to collect health-related data via different devices that many of us are already using,” says Sara Bouchon, Director Market Intelligence at Luxinnovation. “This data can be used to encourage people to take charge of their own health and wellbeing and to take preventive actions to avoid health problems.” Data can also be used to analyse social, economic and environmental factors that have a positive or negative impact on public health.

The trend to detect and prevent diseases as early as possible will be a key evolution of the healthcare system in the future. Luxinnovation predicts the adoption of a predictive, preventative, personalised and participatory medicine (P4 medicine) based on biomarker testing, close monitoring, deep statistical analysis and patient health coaching.

Trend 2: Setting up a customer-centric care delivery

In the near future, customers are expected to be put at the very centre of healthcare delivery and be increasingly involved in the decision-making about their own health. “The opportunities offered by digitalisation and data will be the backbone of the future customer-centric care delivery systems,” Dr Bouchon points out, who expects care to be delivered via a range of physical and virtual channels. Digital technologies such as telemedicine, mobile health apps for chronic disease monitoring and wireless biometric sensors pave the way for a “health system without walls” that includes both digital solutions and face-to-face care.

Trend 3: Implementing a personalised care journey

Jean-Philippe Arié, Luxembourg HealthTech Cluster Manager, LuxinnovationAccording to Luxinnovation’s analysis, the interventions and treatments of tomorrow will gradually become more personalised and precise. At the same time, they will become less invasive, less complex and cheaper. “The availability of digital data and the increasing computing power that enables data analytics and artificial intelligence completely transform the way diagnostics are done,” explains Jean-Philippe Arié, Luxembourg HealthTech Cluster Manager at Luxinnovation. “Artificial intelligence can be used to analyse medical imagery and make quick diagnostics. Once that is done, the use of data will make it possible to provide personalised medicine with treatments targeted to the characteristics of each individual patient. Smart, connected medical devices will be used to deliver treatments and monitor therapies.”

Trend 4: Building resilient healthcare systems

The COVID-19 crisis has clearly highlighted the needs to rebuild resilient health ecosystems and their two main pillars, care providers and pharmaceutical companies. On the hospital side, digital technologies can improve the efficiency of administrative procedures, for example, thereby allowing staff to spend more time with patients. The digitalisation of the pharma industry will have strong impact on the way medical trials are performed, and the adoption of smart manufacturing processes will strongly impact the production of drugs and medical devices.

“COVID has also raised our awareness of how dependent we are on international supply chains, not least in the medical field,” says Dr Bouchon, referring notably to the lack of mask, disinfectants and other medical supplies at the start of the pandemic. By connecting manufacturers, distributors and healthcare providers with digital technologies and facilitating communication across entire supply chains, they could become more efficient, resilient and integrated, and less fragmented.

Trend 5: Creating a collaborative, compliant and innovative environment

“One of the main lessons learnt from COVID-19 is the importance of cooperation in the healthcare ecosystem, and of also including non-traditional healthcare players such as digital companies,” Dr Arié underlines. “It has also highlighted the need for innovation – and the challenges related to that. The amount of data now available, as well as the growing role of non-traditional players, calls for a new innovation paradigm and enhanced collaboration among the stakeholders. It also questions the current intellectual property regime and regulations that do not sufficiently address digital aspects. If we are going to capture all the opportunities brought by digitalisation in the healthcare sector, we will need to think differently in the future.”