The world of healthcare is changing. By 2040, specialist surgeons will use remote robots to operate on patients in different continents; babies will have their DNA sequenced before they are even born; and patients will be able to generate new blood inside their own bodies without the need for a blood donor.
These are just some of the findings of a new report commissioned by international healthcare specialists, Allianz Care, to help them prepare for the longer-term needs of their customers. The report looks at how medical science and healthcare delivery will be transformed globally in the next 20 years. Allianz Care is the international health brand of Allianz Partners and a leading provider of international health insurance.
The Future Health, Care & Wellbeing Report
Authored by internationally renowned futurologist, Ray Hammond, it presents likely future developments and trends in healthcare between now and 2040. Commenting on what healthcare will look like in 2040, Ray Hammond said:
“Healthcare is one of the few arenas in which every one of us has a stake. The next 20 years will witness profound change in healthcare, all the more notable given that medical science and healthcare delivery tend to be conservative, slow-moving sectors that are highly resistant to change. The annual global market is currently estimated to be worth around $8.1 trillion, with annual global spending on healthcare forecast to rise to $18.28 trillion by 2040. With that in mind, we have a collective responsibility to ourselves and to the next generation to determine what that change will look like and the impact it will have on all of us.”
The report identifies five key trends which, collectively, will revolutionize the healthcare landscape. These include: personalized medicine; stem-cell medicine; nano-scale medicine; gene therapy and editing; and digital health.
The key healthcare predictions for 2040 are:
- Health information from traditional annual physical check-ups and other tests previously only available in a surgery or lab will be replaced by data from sensors on/around our ‘smart’ bodies (including in our clothing and, eventually, skin and blood). This will be immediately accessible to us, in real time.
- A new field of ‘predictive medical data mining’ will provide early warnings of physiological trouble ahead or indications of disease as it develops. Physicians will have 24/7 real-time reports of their patients’ wellbeing and will be alerted to any change in patients’ data that requires urgent attention
- Stem-cell medicine will be a powerful tool in mainstream medicine. For example, replacement human organs for transplant will be grown on demand from stem cells in the lab, with minimal risk of rejection
- Nano-medicine (in its infancy in 2019) may eventually outperform all other branches of medical science, as scientists create ‘designer drugs’ that are far more powerful than today’s drugs
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) ‘chatbots’ equipped with deep learning algorithms could relieve emergency room personnel of tending to large numbers of walk-in patients with non-emergencies (e.g. sore throats, UTIs)
Ultimately, this report will help insurers anticipate the benefits and potential challenges of the evolving healthcare environment, from a customer perspective. It not only provides insight, but it will also help spark ideas and debate to proactively plan for the future.
The future of health insurance
The report makes clear that in the future, insurance business models will need to change. Currently, one of the primary purposes of insurance is that an individual is covered for the unexpected. But in the future, health issues will be identified, and often addressed at birth. Health will no longer be an unknown quantity. Insurance premiums, which used to pay for health events that ‘might happen’, may evolve into a fund which is there to pay for treatment following unexpected accidents, and to access the latest technology to treat conditions which can’t be dealt with at birth. Health plans will most likely be completely tailored to each person. Plus, as the number of deaths due to unexpected or incurable illnesses decreases, populations grow and people live longer, the sheer number of people in the world will bring its own challenges in terms of making sure that everyone can get prompt access to care. This is where digital tools, robotics and artificial intelligence can really help.
There will also be a significant shift with regards to where health information sits. Currently it’s primarily with doctors and hospitals. In the future, people will have much greater access to their own health data via in-body/device technology. However, future customers will need support interpreting that information and navigating the international healthcare system. They’ll also want data to back up decisions about which consultants they see and where to locate them. The role of the insurer will be to use their expertise and global network to make that process as easy as possible, while giving them access to the right care at the best rates.
For additional information about Allianz Care and how they are shaping the future of international healthcare, read the full ‘Future Health, Care & Wellbeing’ report, which was launched in July as part of ‘The World in 2040‘ futurology series.