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A data-driven future – health innovation in the digital age

April 23, 2015

The nature of innovation in health is rapidly changing. With the demand for more quality care and better patient satisfaction weighed against reduced expenses, the success of today’s innovations in health is measured in a new way. It is not gauged solely by the “novelty” of the invention, but increasingly, its worth is calculated by various outcomes and the experiences that patients and healthcare professionals (HCPs) evidence when exposed to a (novel) treatment.

Around 20 years ago ‘healthcare’ was generally characterized as the act of pure medical intervention and the related diagnosis process. Nowadays the ever-widening role of healthcare extends to prevention and the continuous self-management of a person/patient along the individual’s lifetime journey. In this respect, “patient-centricity” as a trend in health is the perfect reflection of the general trend towards more customer-centricity in the world of the consumer.

Here, new technologies and mobile applications are having a ground-breaking impact on the traditional health market as we know it, opening healthcare to stakeholders that had no role to play in this industry a few years ago. Think of wearables with sensor techniques or even digital tatoos that will provide accurate real-time health (big) data. Or open-source software framework that promises to revolutionize medical studies by connecting researchers globally to design apps. This means that companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft, as well as a multitude of smaller newcomers, are driving innovation in health by digital forces, from hardware development and data storage/collection to new analytics.

And think of the new direct digital communication methods that bring the healthcare professional to the patient’s home, virtually. In emerging markets, this digitalized communication opens up new markets and increases the number of patients receiving care who had previously been cut off from medical surveillance/treatment. In the industrialized markets, however, these new technologies will contribute to a shift away from traditional, personal forms of communication between HCPs and patients.

The move is towards electronic health record (EHR) system tailored specifically for the management and monitoring of patients in various diseases. These systems allow for data integration and exchange between clinics, laboratories, radiology departments, pharmacies and record archives. Some of them also include automated government reporting and compliance procedures.

Effectively, it is not only patients who will benefit on an individual level; there will also be an impact on the broader world through more efficiently connected care points. But while mining such a wealth of data could help solve previously unsolvable problems, it will also create new challenges around personal data control. It might even include individual rights, and could possibly result in a redefinition of roles and responsibilities.

As these trends continue, we see new challenges arising: How can traditional market players ensure that they are not left behind in times of change? How can they implement the new dynamics into their business model? What information sources should they use to help maintain a business place? Can untapped data sources be used here and how can you then merge these with other sources, creating new meaning? Will the patient start executing close control over disease information where physicians formerly reigned? And will the new insights generated change our way we see and judge traditional medication; e.g., the products of the pharma companies? Are the latter running the risk of being reduced in public opinion to a “substance-provider only” status, while the new power lies in the hands of those generating data and developing the hard- and software? Pharma has successfully started to occupy territory “beyond the pill” but will need to move ahead in this.

Being a player in the health market you might seek guidance for moving in the right direction – using inspirations and trends that come from outside our comfort zone, involving all stakeholder groups, traditional and new. GfK has developed a benefit framework and integrated approach that can help you navigate in a structured way and explore opportunities in the changing health landscape. The underlying Innovation Roadmap helps you develop your pipeline and services and the way you want to be seen in the new digital world of health – and provide you with the blueprint for how to activate.

It’s time to rethink, redefine and potentially reposition healthcare – based on emerging new opportunities.

For further information, please contact Jan Guse at or Heike Tombrink at

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