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U.S. Healthcare is a Global Outlier, and Not in a Good Way

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Historically, the United States has spent more money than any other country on healthcare.

In the late 1990s, for example, the U.S. spent roughly 13% of GDP on healthcare, compared to about a 9.5% average for all high income countries.

However, in recent years, the difference has become more stark. Last year, as Obamacare continued to roll out, costs in the U.S. reached an all-time high of 17.5% of GDP. That’s over $3 trillion spent on healthcare annually, and the rate of spending is expected accelerate over the next decade.

High Costs, High Benefit?

With all that money being poured into healthcare, surely the U.S. must be getting better care in contrast to other high income countries.

At least, that’s what one would think.

Today’s chart comes to us from economist Max Roser (h/t @NinjaEconomics) and it shows the extreme divergence of the U.S. healthcare system using two simple stats: life expectancy vs. health expenditures per capita.

U.S. Healthcare is a Global Outlier, and Not in a Good Way

The Divergence of U.S. Healthcare

As you can see, Americans are spending more money – but they are not receiving results using the most basic metric of life expectancy. The divergence starts just before 1980, and it widens all the way to 2014.

It’s worth noting that the 2015 statistics are not plotted on this chart. However, given that healthcare spend was 17.5% of GDP in 2015, the divergence is likely to continue to widen. U.S. spending is now closing in on $10,000 per person.

Perhaps the most concerning revelation from this data?

Not only is U.S. healthcare spending wildly inefficient, but it’s also relatively ineffective. It would be one thing to spend more money and get the same results, but according to the above data that is not true. In fact, Americans on average will have shorter lives people in other high income countries.

Life expectancy in the U.S. has nearly flatlined, and it hasn’t yet crossed the 80 year threshold. Meanwhile, Chileans, Greeks, and Israelis are all outliving their American counterparts for a fraction of the associated costs.

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Healthcare

Visualizing the Healthtech Revolution

From artificial intelligence to the Internet of Things, advances in healthtech are pushing the boundaries of the modern healthcare industry.

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Imagine being a patient in the early 19th century, when all ailments were considered “humors” to be ejected from the body. To restore balance, various techniques such as diets, natural herbs, or bloodletting with leeches were used – the only “technology” available at the time.

Even when the basic structure of modern medicine came into place, the average life expectancy was just 34 years old in 1913. A patient from that era would surely be amazed by the leaps and bounds that healthcare has undergone since then, thanks to the influence of technology.

The Healthtech Revolution

Today’s infographic dives into some of the technological advances that are pushing the boundaries of modern healthcare, and what this could mean for the sector.

The HealthTech Revolution

What is Healthtech?

Healthcare technology, or healthtech, is the use of technology to better treat patients. Many such inventions have been credited for saving countless human lives since the 1800s.

Medicines, devices, procedures, and even organizational systems contribute to expanding life expectancy and improvements in quality of life.

From Fiction to Reality

Breakthroughs such as robotic arms, 3D bio-printed organs, and virtual reality for pain relief are being developed in the medical sector, drawing influences from the big screen.

Technologies that were once the staple of science fiction movies are rapidly becoming realities.

— Jeroen Tas, Chief Innovation Officer, Philips

But there’s a less tactile application of technology from science fiction that will arguably have an even bigger impact on healthcare: artificial intelligence (AI).

By recognizing patterns in behavior and creating their own logic, machine learning algorithms are set to transform various aspects of healthcare ranging from the automation of mundane tasks to the creation of entirely new drugs.

Healthcare at our Fingertips

Healthcare is also getting more mobile and connected, putting the Internet of Things (IoT) and mobile health (mHealth) at center stage as sources of potential disruption.

These technologies can help in everything from offering patients a convenient way to book appointments and pay bills online, to allowing doctors to use electronic health records to access and share information.

Wearable devices and smartphone apps are spiking in adoption as they unlock the option to monitor and manage individual health anytime, anywhere. This is creating an explosion in personal health data, which consumers are willing to share with their doctor if it will benefit them or others.

The Coming Healthtech Boom

Artificial intelligence, IoT, and mHealth are contributing to rapidly expanding healthtech sector, and each are expected to experience rapid growth by 2025:

Healthcare segmentCurrent*Projected (2025E)CAGR
Artificial Intelligence$2.1 billion$36.1 billion50.2%
Global IoT$120.2 billion$543.3 billion20.2%
Global mHealth$4.16 billion$111.8 billion44.2%
*2018E for AI, 2017 for IoT, 2016 for mHealth.

While healthtech won’t replace your doctor anytime soon, but it will certainly change your experience with healthcare – both on the front-end and behind the scenes.

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5 Ways Technology is Transforming the Healthcare Industry

How are emerging technologies like nanomedicine or AI shaping the future of the healthcare industry? See five ways, in this infographic.

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5 Ways Tech is Transforming the Healthcare Industry

Whether it’s information-sharing between patients and doctors or aiding in a high-risk surgery, it’s clear that dynamic applications of technology are well underway in disrupting the healthcare industry.

TECH AT OUR FINGERTIPS

Today’s infographic from the Online Medical Care highlights healthcare areas where tech is breaking barriers. Here are five ways that technology is impacting the sector, ranging from AI to nanomedicine:

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence will have a dramatic impact on many industries, and healthcare is no exception.

A large share of healthcare executives are already applying artificial intelligence in their operations, with data showing plans to increase budgets last year.

Healthcare uses of AIAdoption (2017)Adoption (2018E)
Clinical decision support46%59%
Population health33%46%
Disease management29%42%
Re-admissions33%41%
Medical costs / health plan21%38%
Patient safety and quality25%33%
Supply chain management13%21%
Cancer care4%12%

As the technology becomes more developed and widespread, it’s expected that AI could help diagnose strokes, eye disease, heart disease, skin cancer, and other conditions.

Virtual Healthcare

Also known as telehealth or telemedicine, virtual healthcare allows patients and doctors to touch base remotely using technology such as video conferencing or mobile apps. Many patients are also becoming comfortable using wearable technology to monitor any changes in their health – and sharing that data with their physicians.

Convenience, ease of use, and travel times to their closest doctor are main reasons why patients choose virtual care. On the flip side, many are concerned about the quality of care, or fear a loss of a personal connection with a doctor.

If all patients chose virtual healthcare over face-to-face visits, it could save the U.S. health system $7 billion annually – while the time savings would “free up” the equivalent of 37,000 doctors.

Nanomedicine

Nanomedicine is rapidly evolving field which controls individual atoms and molecules at the extremely minute “nanoscale” of 1 to 100 nanometers. To put that into perspective, a single newspaper sheet is about 100,000 nm thick.

Nanomedicine is mainly used to effectively diagnose, treat, and prevent various diseases. Compared to conventional medicines, it’s much better at precise targeting and delivery systems, paving the way towards combating complex conditions such as cancer.

The global nanomedicine market could be worth over $350 billion by 2025.

Virtual Reality

Although it’s normally been associated with entertainment, virtual reality is making waves in healthcare as well. The multi-sensory, immersive experience that VR provides can benefit both physicians and patients:

  • Healthcare worker training
    VR can be used to train surgeons in a realistic and low-risk simulated environment.
  • Physical and mental health
    VR offers therapeutic potential and rehabilitation for acute pain and anxiety disorders.

VR is thus considered a cost-effective and efficient tool for both teaching and treatment, and the VR healthcare services market is expected to grow from $8.9 million in 2017 to an expected $285 million in 2022.

3D Printing

3D printing has come a long way since its debut, especially in its uses in the healthcare industry. The technology offers faster prototypes, creating everything from personalized prosthetics to “poly-pills” at a fraction of the cost.

The customizable aspect of 3D printing is revolutionizing organ transplants and tissue repair, and it’s even able to produce realistic skin for burn victims.

Robot-Assisted Surgery

Last but certainly not least, robotic surgery is sweeping through hospitals. It allows doctors to perform delicate and complex procedures that might be otherwise impossible.

Typically, surgeons control a device with a camera and mechanical arms, giving them a high-def view of the surgical site. According to the Mayo Clinic, this method generally:

  • Enhances precision, flexibility, and control
  • Comes with fewer complications such as infections
  • Results in less obvious scars as it is minimally invasive

While technological adoption into the medical field doesn’t come without challenges, the value is clear – and we’ve barely scratched the surface of tech-driven possibilities in the healthcare industry.

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