To create the future patients want, we must connect our healthcare ecosystem

May 10, 2024 | Article | 10-minute read

To create the future patients want, we must connect our healthcare ecosystem

What’s holding us back from achieving the promise of connected health? The results of our 2024 ZS Future of Health Report point to the fragmented nature of our own healthcare ecosystem.


To bridge the gaps and mend points of friction, we must act now—and focus on effectively and measurably moving three levers: evidence, engagement and experiences.


When we apply these three levers across our ecosystem, we see opportunities for healthcare players of all sizes to give people the care they deserve, create the experiences people want and help build a healthcare system that is connected, equitable and human centric

Find the insights and evidence hidden within real patient journeys

If we can understand the real patient journey for one person, then we can understand it for an entire population. The story reveals itself within the data—we just need the right lens to discover it and the right tools to turn it into evidence. 


Patient health data


Patient health data has so much value when we can shine a light on where care gaps exist, what causes those gaps and whether the gaps are linked to issues that are within our power to solve. Cleansed claims data, in concert with population data sets, lab and genetic data, behavioral and patient-reported insights can give us a much clearer picture of where patients are experiencing gaps or friction.


When we see these healthcare challenges clearly—including health equity barriers, disease burden, comorbidities and disease progression—we can find the best opportunities to address them. Though the approaches may vary, we can start to close care gaps, improve support programs and find physicians and their patients who need specific therapies.

What to do next

Harness the power of real-world insights and population data.

Why it matters

Real-world data reveals where and how we can close gaps to improve health outcomes.

Predictive data


Understanding the stories hidden in healthcare data does more than help us map a patient’s past care. It also helps us predict and anticipate future events so we can act in ways that help people manage disease progression, identify those who may be untreated or under-treated and ease healthcare journeys.


To improve health outcomes in a measurable way, begin by planning interventions around real-world data and identified risks. For patients, this can lead to less friction, better care and an opportunity to finally own their healthcare data collected at every touch point. And the healthcare system will have a real shot at finally putting the patient at the center.

What to do next

Use data to anticipate future events and elevate the standard of care.

Why it matters

Foreseeing addressable or avoidable events can spotlight opportunities to help people manage disease progression and offer better care for chronic disease, cancer or rare disease.

Redesign for engagement where it matters most

Patients in healthcare markets around the world struggle to access the care they need due to friction or inconvenience—there is no perfect system. Issues like transportation barriers, affordability and access to specialists can have an outsized impact on health outcomes, which is why companies in every corner of the healthcare ecosystem invest in programs and solutions to address them. But the reality is that these programs are not as successful as they need to be, and patients are still slipping through the cracks. 


Holistic patient programs


For patient support programs to succeed, they need to be sustainable, accessible, affordable and equitable. And they need to be measurably effective at improving outcomes and managing risk. Programs that achieve this will justify their heavy cost of investment and have a lasting and measurable impact on patients’ health outcomes.


By thinking holistically about how to give people and their care partners agency, choice and the tools to stay engaged in their healthcare journey, we can radically transform health outcomes for healthcare’s most prevalent conditions.

What to do next

Create sustainable patient engagement programs, including direct-to-patient programs that support patients across friction points in their journey—from first symptom to diagnosis, treatment and beyond.

Why it matters

Direct-to-patient programs can address the full life cycle around a chronic condition like diabetes, kidney disease or obesity to keep people engaged in activities to better manage their health.

Bridge clinical care experiences with real world data

Healthcare is no longer something that is happening only in the hospital or a physician’s office—it’s happening everywhere. This means that the healthcare ecosystem must raise the standard of care by rethinking the ways it connects with patients, caretakers, physicians and research teams at every step in the journey—from prevention to clinical studies and post-treatment care. Making clinical trial participation easier and more inclusive is a great place to start, but there’s more work to do when it comes to generating real-world evidence when patients begin therapy and supporting them outside of the clinical or hospital setting.


Clinical evidence 


Compliant digital platforms and solutions can help clinical teams streamline study enrollment, remove access barriers for underserved patient populations and take some friction out of participation in clinical settings or at home. Better clinical evidence also means companies can generate the real-world data they need to put life-changing treatments and digital health products in people’s hands faster, create solutions that work in different settings and advance through milestones efficiently to avoid funding or adoption pitfalls. But for true innovation to take flight, it must expand beyond the realm of the clinical development setting, escape the four walls of the hospital, enter the four walls of the patient’s home and engage with the world outside.


Real-world evidence


Making each interaction personally meaningful and supporting people in the moments that matter will require companies to deliver truly connected solutions across the digital health universe. Today’s devices generate a deluge of data that does not result in one true picture of an individual’s health that a clinician can potentially act on. Instead, we need to harness and connect this data, starting with the monitoring devices people use during clinical trials all the way through their entire treatment journey. When we do this, we’ll finally have the information we need to make clinical trials less trying, therapies more effective and prevention more successful. And in doing so, we will finally open the door to the clinical world that keeps many people from participating in studies, getting the care they deserve and unlocking breakthroughs that can improve outcomes for individuals and communities around the world.

What to do next

Harness the power of digital health innovation to optimize clinical trials, reimagine the delivery of clinical care and connect healthcare experiences at every turn.

Why it matters

sleep apnea case study highlights how digital health innovation can transform patient outcomes by connecting data and experiences from the clinical world and the real world.

Read the ZS case study to see how Signifier Medical achieved market access for a life-changing new sleep apnea therapy.

Let’s create the healthcare ecosystem of the future

Building a healthcare ecosystem that is connected, equitable and human centric will require rigor, focus and a principled approach. But those who choose to look through the lenses of evidence, engagement and experiences will find what they need to create the future healthcare system people want, need and deserve.

About the 2024 Future of Health Survey


This survey was conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of ZS from August 7 to September 3, 2023. It represents a balanced sample of 9,500 adult (individuals aged 18 and up) healthcare consumers and 1,055 primary care providers (PCPs) from the U.S., U.K., Germany, Sweden, Japan and China. It also includes 304 specialists from the U.S. Healthcare provider participants were all licensed medical doctors with specialties in family, general, internal medicine, cardiology, oncology and neurology.


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