‘Healthcare will go through extreme transformation. There are many problems that haven’t yet been solved and there are now more companies than ever that are seeing the opportunities to solve them from a tech standpoint,’ says Jeff Melton, SVP, Global Technology & Platforms at MSLGROUP. Melton cites the example of Apple’s ResearchKit, launched in March 2015. This open source software framework is designed for medical and health research to assist doctors and scientists gather data from participants using iPhone apps. It has the potential to transform an iPhone into a powerful tool for medical research and, by launch in March 2015, it had already has already partnered specialists in asthma, cancer, cardiovascular health and Parkinson’s Disease. ‘Partnering these four incredibly reputable establishments will show how Apple devices can serve as research tools to gather data to solve problems,’ predicts Melton.
But healthcare’s transformation won’t begin and end with Apple. Other players such as Google, Microsoft and IBM are all keen to enter the global healthcare industry – worth $3.8 trillion, according to Plunkett Research – with software that could disrupt conventional healthcare practices. What’s more, they’re jostling with thousands of startups, particularly from Asia.
Bronwen Andrews, MSLGROUP’s head of EMEA business development and healthcare says: ‘Asia didn’t used to be a player in healthcare, but now there is a huge amount of innovation in healthcare in that region. South Korea in particular is a big player. That country has a huge government initiative encouraging research and development within Asia and many companies there have been enjoying double digit growth over the last five years.’
Yet disruption brings with it certain issues, particularly in a sector as sensitive as health. Firstly, there’s a need to balance the new and the next with respect for processes that keep us safe. Secondly, concerns over privacy are perhaps even more prominent in healthcare than in finance. ‘Disruptive companies are fast moving companies,’ says Andrews. Yet how those newer companies fit into ways of working that are trusted by patients is challenging, particularly when it’s a company with no proven track record in Europe or North America.
She says: ‘These companies don’t want to wait around. They want partners who are their eyes and ears in the market who can offer speed and strategy. We can be influential in helping them to navigate new markets.’