Connected Health: 4 Trends Shaping The Future Of Digitized Healthcare

Stephan Schindewolf

Traditional approaches to healthcare are being disrupted by connected patients – those who actively seek Web-based medical support and information, and who tend to be knowledgeable and outspoken about their well being. Meanwhile, an aging population means that chronic diseases now contribute to more than 70% of deaths and account for the lion’s share of our healthcare costs. And one of the main drivers of those rising costs: Chronically ill patients often fail to take medications as prescribed, leading to increased morbidity and death.

In the face of so many complex factors, it’s not enough to put more money into the system. We must reimagine healthcare entirely – rethinking our processes and aligning them with the real, personalized needs of each patient.

What does the future of digital healthcare look like?

Healthcare’s ongoing technology-driven transformation offers many opportunities for both established organizations and new players. At SAP, we see four big-picture trends shaping the future of consumer-centric healthcare services: patient-centric value chains, virtualized care, the Internet of Things, and access to actionable insights.

1. Patient-centric value chains           

Just as Apple and Spotify now center the music experience around the consumer, healthcare providers are beginning to use digital technologies to center services around the patient, bridging time and distance between clinicians and consumers. For chronic diseases such as diabetes, there are now dozens, if not hundreds, of consumer health support apps. But many people quickly stop using these mobile health solutions. The reason? Most healthcare apps can’t share data with people, such as trusted physicians, who matter most. It’s still harder than it should be for doctors to access direct, meaningful feedback that can lessen pain or improve health – and that makes these apps far less valuable than they could be.

Healthcare businesses, from insurers to life science companies, are looking into new ways to make care more patient-centric. For example, an insurer’s self-service portal might make it easy for a patient to describe symptoms and conditions directly to his or her doctor, while a pharmaceutical company’s mobile app could use e-diaries to improve patient monitoring during a clinical trial.

2. Virtualized care venues  

Healthcare consumers want virtual access to reliable, personalized information, diagnosis, and treatment. To meet their needs, insurers and providers must develop functional, accessible interaction channels, delivery models, and virtual care venues. A digital healthcare network can allow patients and providers to collaborate virtually. Without leaving their home or office, they can work together to create health plans and set goals, receive services, and monitor progress in real time.

3. The Internet of Things

Digitally connected everyday items – the Internet of Things – allow for ongoing monitoring and reporting of healthcare data. A proliferation of customer-owned medical devices, apps, and Internet-connected wearables is rapidly increasing the amount of available medical data. It’s also helping healthcare providers identify and respond to patients’ needs in real time. Fitness trackers will continue to evolve, creating a multi-billion-dollar business whose massive data output helps people track exercise and improve health. More specialized devices that track illness and monitor vital signs – for example, smartphone-based electrocardiograms that can be used anywhere at any time – can help improve patients’ quality of life, extend healthy lifespans, and reduce treatment costs. As technology advances, wearables are expected to continue increasing in both scope and impact.

4. Actionable insights

Researchers can further improve patient outcomes and identify high-risk populations through sophisticated data analysis. Pharmaceutical R&D labs can use clinical trial data to measure drug efficacy, while providers will increasingly use statistics to determine prevention programs’ effectiveness. Suppose a biopharma company develops a drug that slows progression of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RR-MS). To evaluate its effect on patients, the company could register a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial and use an mHealth solution to collect patient feedback. The trial data could then be anonymized and aggregated into a clinical data warehouse, allowing researchers to visualize and holistically analyze the data and endpoints, determining the efficacy of the new drug.

What’s ahead

Connected care and digital health management will support caregivers, patients, and consumers; help drive behavioral change; and ultimately lead to better-managed healthcare.

SAP Health Engagement is a new, flexible platform that supports digital health management and connected care in a scalable, compliant environment. It allows customers to create new patient engagement scenarios, build healthcare apps, manage critical data and programs, and ultimately draw conclusions that can better patient outcomes and improve lives.

Learn more about how SAP Health Engagement and SAP Foundation for Health support the future of digitized healthcare with a sophisticated platform and advanced analytic solutions that securely bring together mission-critical biomedical data to advance healthcare, by visiting SAP Personalized Medicine, or continue the discussion on Twitter @SAP_Healthcare.


Stephan Schindewolf

About Stephan Schindewolf

Stephan Schindewolf is chief product expert, responsible for product management of new healthcare products such as the SAP Foundation for Health and SAP Health Engagement at SAP. Before starting to work for SAP in January 1998, he worked in various positions at Hewlett-Packard on product data management and computer-aided design solutions. He holds an MS in mechanical engineering from the University of Karlsruhe, Germany.