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Funding squeeze to force patient-focused healthcare

A report by the consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers' (PwC) Health Research Institute said the industry's response to the pressures would be to encourage people to take more responsibility for their own health.

New tools, technology and health information systems will be developed and deployed to give consumers the "power to take charge," it said.

"The burden of chronic disease is going to hit every country in the world -- developing or developed -- and the costs will rise for everyone," David Chin, director of the PwC institute, told Reuters in a telephone interview. "But there are new technologies that will help mitigate some of those costs."

The report, which drew on a survey of almost 600 government and health industry leaders in more than 20 countries, said there was a growing recognition that if the patient is left out of the equation, it will become impossible for health systems to adequately manage care, consumption and spending.

"The overarching challenge for incumbent health systems will be to shift their internal focus from a siloed bureaucratic healthcare infrastructure to one that puts the patient at the center ... and engages them to be active stakeholders in their health and the health system," it said.

Chin said mobile technologies and the internet would emerge as some of the most important tools. He noted that in a separate survey of around 3,500 consumers in 7 countries, PwC found that the internet was now cited by patients as their first source of healthcare information, ranking above doctors and hospitals.

Chin saw the potential in the next decade for increasing use of mobile monitoring systems -- for example to track blood sugar levels in diabetes patients and report them back to a doctor or clinic -- and said health information would increasingly be disseminated via social-network types sites on the internet.

"Of course the advantage to an insurance company or (healthcare) delivery system is that is costs less to deliver care over the internet," said China. "You're able to reach a wider audience for a lot less money."

"We're optimistic that the combination of a personalized approach and better technology will improve the health of the population, and start addressing the cost issue," he said.

The report, entitled HealthCast: The Customization of Diagnosis, Care and Cure, highlighted the following findings from its survey of government and health industry leaders.

* Some 76 percent think lack of knowledge and access to health information keeps patient from managing their health, and 74 percent believe patients don't understand the health information and choices available to them.

* Growth of the internet, social media, mobile communication and merging of information technology with healthcare are expected to give consumers unprecedented access and knowledge.

* Nearly three quarters of health leaders expect health funding and financing in their countries to be redistributed from treating sickness in acute settings to keeping people well outside hospitals, nursing homes and doctors' clinics.

* Some 45 percent of health leaders expect personalized medicine to be a factor, with new diagnostic tools and the development of targeted drugs for specific genotypes making it possible to customize patient diagnosis and treatment.

-Kate Kelland

Added Tuesday, April 6th, 2010 by Reuters

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  • Health IT
  • Heath Disparity