The futures of equitable and personalised healthcare
Design and innovation have the opportunity to shape the world that you want to live in—including the future of healthcare in America. Though great strides have been made to improve the experience and care of patients, medically disenfranchised communities have historically been victimised by the healthcare industry. The inclusion of all voices is key to an innovative, equitable, and personalised future. And this is where design thinking comes in; it combines the power of multidisciplinary teams and diverse voices to address these hopes for the future.
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Futures, also known as speculative foresight, is a framework for innovation. Our team used this framework to imagine equitable and personalised futures for people interacting with the American healthcare industry nearly 50 years into the future. The solutions, which focussed on technological innovation and the need for inclusion, seek to combine Futures methodology with the dimensions of the Triple Aim developed by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement:
→ Improve the patient experience of care
→ Improve the health of populations
→ Reduce the per capita cost of care
These dimensions are important to consider given the current and historical inequities in American healthcare. ‘While half (49%) of the U.S. general population feels all patients are treated fairly and equally, medically disenfranchised patients don’t agree. Based on a recent study, only 27% Black, 27% Latinx, 34% LGBTQ+, and 23% of low socio-economic status agree that all patients are treated fairly.’
In fact, health isn’t defined by just doctor visits and access to prescriptions. ‘U.S. studies estimated that clinical care impacts only 20 percent of county-level variation in health outcomes, while social determinants of health affect as much as 50 percent.’ These social determinants of health include everything from education access to economic stability, your neighbourhood, and more.
Read on for a walk-through of the process the team of creatives and strategists used to explore the unknown, find signals, define scenarios, and craft speculative concepts.
By reviewing scholarly documents, news articles, and other sources, the team identified constants, variables, and trends that represent both constraints and opportunities for equitable and personalised healthcare innovation. These drivers of change are key to providing context when imaging what the future can plausibly hold.
Drivers of change in the healthcare industry
Conditions that aren’t likely to change in the next 50 years.
+ Ethics will remain a key part of medical practices
+ People will need clean air, water, and nutritious food
+ Virus, disease, and accidents will harm us
+ Healthcare leaders will influence trends and innovations
+ People will require care
+ Differences in ability will exist
+ Society will continue to evolve
Factors or conditions that may change over 50 years.
+ Society’s attitude towards aging people
+ Rate of aging may change
+ Birth rate may continue decreasing
+ Community migration due to climate change
+ Healthcare affordability and infrastructure
+ Availability of healthcare expertise
+ Perceptions of personal identity may change
+ Public health perceptions
Current phenomena we might expect to continue in the future.
+ Improvements to population health
+ Efforts to improving patient experiences
+ Prioritising reducing the cost of care
+ Inclusion of new voices in healthcare
+ Community health awareness
+ Diverse representation in clinical studies
+ Holistic health and determinants
+ Telemedicine and remote care
+ Multi-stakeholder collaboration
The constants show that healthcare will continue to be a priority in the future, and the variables confirm that the world is constantly changing, meaning that while these futures are possible, they aren't guaranteed. The trends are focused on both human and techno-centric ideas reminding us that we need a future that:
- Embraces technology to improve the healthcare experience and ensures technology doesn't perpetuate today's inequities.
NEAR TERM – 2030
Retail health for better access & affordability
Today, some people live in areas close to quality healthcare. In other places, access to transportation—public or personal—is necessary to receive care. For example, in rural areas, it takes nearly 26 minutes on average to drive to a hospital while those in urban areas can reach a hospital in an average of 16.5 minutes. Travelling for care becomes increasingly difficult for those with limited mobility, who care for small children, or those concerned about the cost of travel.
How might you leverage partnerships to create a more accessible and inclusive healthcare system?
In 2030, the healthcare ecosystem will promote strong partnerships to scale retail health solutions more easily. Our team imagines partnerships with local grocers, dollar stores, and even public transit areas like bus stations will turn these places into hubs for everyday health. This could include health provider consultations, telehealth access points for those without internet connected devices, and biometric or routine health screenings. Healthcare will not be exclusively found in hospitals and clinics but imbedded into the places that people visit as part of their regular routines.
Improve experience of care: With more people able to easily access care and be treated within their own communities, trust in the healthcare system may grow over time.
DISRUPTIVE – 2050
Living healthy lives in harmony with technology
With the creation of new medical technology, even more health data is likely to be generated. But, in a recent survey by the American Medical Association, nearly 75% of patients today expressed concern. In the future, trusting not only the technology used to treat patients, but its use of people’s data is imperative for improved health outcomes.
How might you build future healthcare technology that users can trust is safe and secure?
In the future, robotic caregivers and assistants will support healthier lives. To instill trust, people will more easily be able to grant, deny, or rescind access to their health data so they always know who—and what robots—have access. Educational programs will teach students from an early age how to interact with and design this technology. This allows the robotics to be created by the communities they serve locally. They may even include features like adjustable voices, faces, and language to better reflect the communities they serve.
Improve population health: Affordable robotics deployed at the community level will increase health outcomes for those that lack ability to reach centralised healthcare.
HOLISTIC – 2070
A connected health city
Healthcare can be a personal—and sometimes isolating—pursuit. This can be compounded by healthcare professionals that are knowingly or unknowingly discriminatory or unfamiliar with your community and life experiences. In fact, in a recent survey of 714 practicing U.S. physicians surveyed nationwide, only 40.7% were very confident about their ability to provide equal quality care to patients with a disability.
How might you strengthen community networks to improve collective health and wellbeing?
In 2070, society will better value the connection between humans, other living things, and the environment. Policy makers, community organisers, and others will view access to clean air, water, and nutritious food as a basic human right. In this future, places like health centres will provide complimentary healthcare services, offer gathering opportunities, spaces to share art, and other collective needs that address people’s holistic experience with health. This knowledge sharing creates a sense of community as well as improved education and health outcomes.
Improve the experience of care: The definition of healthcare has the potential to broaden and become integrated our policies, our communities, and our way of life. By building healthy and diverse communities, the experience of care is less isolating and more empowering.
The future of equitable and personalised healthcare is heavily dependent on ensuring access to care, strong community health, and trustworthy products and services. Guided by the Triple Aim, we believe that health services are transforming now and will continue to accelerate in the future. But the future of health innovation requires a balancing act between humans and the integration of technology that benefits the patient.
Interested in exploring other futures with us? Get in touch for an exploratory discussion. We’ll help you frame problems, discuss forecasting research, and reveal potential paths forward.