'Change the healthcare business model,' argues McKinsey analyst

eHealth Week, patient data
Stefan Biesdorf, Partner, McKinsey & Co, Germany, said: “Claims data is not as complete as electronic medical record data, but it is there and available".

Why is digitisation of healthcare systems lagging behind other industries so much? It could be the wrong business model. Healthcare, analysts say, should leverage its most valuable asset, data, to make eHealth ends meet.

[Valletta, MALTA] The barriers to digitisation of healthcare have often been described as requiring high technical needs to be fulfilled to bring digital health solutions into the market. There is a reluctance of healthcare systems to invest significantly in digital health as a result of disappointing experiences in the past. Furthermore, individual healthcare providers are often not particularly eager to digitise, since there is no incentive that makes the necessary investments attractive to them.

So what to do? In his Thursday morning keynote lecture at eHealthWeek 2017, analyst Stefan Biesdorf from McKinsey in Munich suggested a radical shift in the business model to make digital, patient-centered healthcare work. Similar to Facebook, Biesdorf argued that healthcare systems should act as platforms that do not necessarily pay innovative solution providers with money, but with data.

Biesdorf’s suggestion is that public healthcare systems, like the ones that dominate in Europe, build and manage digital ecosystems that make patient data – within a clearly defined regulatory framework – accessible to third party solution providers. To make it easier in the beginning, this process should start not with electronic medical record data, but with claims data. “Claims data is not as complete as electronic medical record data, but it is there and available,” he said.

Third party solution providers would use the data to develop their applications, but – like third party application providers on Facebook – they would not be paid upfront but only after they have shown that their solution works. In healthcare, “works” would mean that the patient likes and uses it, and that it creates value by reducing costs or improving outcome or both.

This concept would only work with patient involvement, Biesdorf emphasised: “The patient needs to be in control. There has to be a patient portal where he can see who wants to access the data.” Health systems and regulators, in this model, would provide the technical platform, and they would be in charge of defining the regulatory boundary conditions to make data sharing possible without compromising privacy. 

The analyst doesn’t think that healthcare systems have an alternative to this somewhat radical concept. In the end, they will be competing with big digital platform providers that strive to make ever more data accessible: “Ownership of patient data is a huge competitive advantage that health systems still have. They need to think about how to leverage this now. If they don’t, someone else will do.”