Health trends and predictions for 2018

By Dr Sneh Khemka, MBChB, MRCOphth, (Hon) MFPH, President of Population Health for Aetna International
Looking to the new year, Dr Sneh Khemka, MBChB, MRCOphth, (Hon) MFPH, President of Population Health for Aetna International discusses how these key tre...

Looking to the new year, Dr Sneh Khemka, MBChB, MRCOphth, (Hon) MFPH, President of Population Health for Aetna International discusses how these key trends and new technologies will reshape the healthcare sector in 2018.

Global healthcare trends

Trend 1 – Burgeoning global middle class.

The world’s middle class is growing (in particular across the Middle East and Asia), providing the backbone of a revolution in healthcare demands. This class has new expectations from their healthcare system, demanding of digital, more convenient and more sophisticated access, meaning challenges in how to deliver.

Trend 2 – The change in global disease patterns.

Partly as a result of this emerging middle class, there is an increase in lifestyle related diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, as opposed to infection-related diseases such as TB. This is putting a huge strain on local healthcare systems, with people living longer and needing more expensive and longer-term treatment.

Trend 3 – Impending and current antibiotic and opioid crises.

While world news is finally attuned to the global antibiotic crisis, the opioid crisis is also sweeping developed countries as we increasingly see addiction to prescription medications. Both are equally critical global crises in their own right, and need to be urgently addressed.

Trend 4 – The ticking time bomb of undiagnosed diabetes.

Obesity rates have fuelled a time bomb of undiagnosed diabetes around the world. To meet this crisis, healthcare systems will need to acknowledge this simmering epidemic, currently manifesting as pre-diabetes and as metabolic syndrome, both of which most people are unaware they have.  

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Trend 5 – Mental healthcare as a growing issue in developing markets.

In developed economies, there is acceptance and awareness of mental health issues and systems to cope with them. However in developing economies, healthcare providers will need to work with governments to overcome social taboos and understand what effect mental health has on other conditions, as well as productivity in the economy.

Trend 6 – Global disparity of healthcare leads to unwarranted variation.

There is polarity in the quality of healthcare provision and access around the world. 70% of people in the world have too little access to healthcare, yet 5% of people have too much access. America spends 19% of its GDP on healthcare, indicating far too many and unnecessary services provided to people; while developing nations are often less than 3% of GDP – so how to address the inequalities?


Trend 1 - Technology is on the frontline of patient care.

Technology is fundamental to most healthcare systems around the world. However while technology has advanced in healthcare, affordability has not. We are seeing increasingly expensive demands for enhanced solutions. This raises ethical questions of how, and at what cost, we should extend life using technology - it is not easy to determine where technological intervention should end and where the human life cycle should kick in.

 Trend 2 – The data revolution is changing healthcare into a data-driven industry.

Healthcare has access to a wealth of data from wearable devices like Fitbit, to online analytics available on Google. Using this data, doctors can see what factors keep people healthy, rather than what makes them unhealthy. For example, aggregated data from online search engines are now the best predictor of a viral epidemic. Data and technology also makes it easier for healthcare professionals to diagnose, treat and cure - programmes such as IBM Watson can search through 15 million journals to inform doctors about rare diseases and treatments.


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