Healthcare economy

he 1 A Fortune 500 retail company is known for its innovative employee healthcare offerings. It surprised market observers by managing to keep its healthcare cost flat from 2005 to 2009. The company realized that 70% of its healthcare costs were the result of lifestyle patterns, and 74% of these costs could be attributed to four largely preventable chronic conditions: cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity. It encouraged its employees to adopt healthy lifestyles by reducing the annual premium (by US $780 for the individual and US $1,560 for the family) if an employee passed all the tests for preventable conditions. The company estimates that the U.S. can save $800 billion by adopting a similar approach.

Does the demand and consumption of healthcare affect the economy? Issues related to scarcity in healthrelated amenities, and the social causes of healthaffecting lifestyle and behavior might significantly alter the economics of the healthcare sector. Cost, inconsistent quality and accessibility are some of the key challenges in healthcare delivery across economies. The affordability of healthcare is affected by factors like rising elderly population living well beyond their earning years, and increased incidence of chronic diseases, among others. According to experts, 30% of the healthcare delivered in the U.S. is unnecessary. IT can minimize errors and redundant diagnostic tests and treatments, while ensuring better healthcare delivery through patient data analytics, evidence-based medication, paperless transactions, etc.

Current healthcare practices focus on symptoms and regard the patient as a passive recipient of service. Patient-centric care has to consider the patients' values, involve them in clinical decisions, offer information and ensure transparency and self-care. With IT integration, patients can be accorded personal attention through seamless communication and interactions with their care providers.

As healthcare costs rise, consumers are looking for healthy alternatives in everything they consume. Enterprises are promoting healthy work life, insurers and providers are offering programs that support wellness, prevention, and early detection. Prevention is another focus area. A significant portion of future healthcare spending will be on vaccines, genome sequencing and other means of preventing chronic conditions.

Several healthcare providers have enlisted social media to promote preventive healthcare. Bioinformatics and patient data analytics would play a critical role in improving prevention statistics. The shift from cure to prevention provides a huge opportunity for investing in wellness. The trend of considering healthcare across sectors such as manufacturing, retail, financial services, travel and tourism has already begun to transform established business models.

Our expertise in software and technology R&D was used in the initiative led by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to develop Genome Informatics on the tuberculosis bacterium. We aim to use similar expertise to coordinate between multiple players in the healthcare sector, thus enabling our clients to get maximum benefits from the major shifts in the sector.