How do we deliver healthcare in the future?

Tomorrow's digitized care-intensive home will involve a lot more actors and resources than today, with higher demands on coordination. With the needs of the individual in mind, the development of supply and logistics will have to ensure that medicines, medical tools and consumables are the delivered to the right place, at the right time.

The care-smart home of next generation's elderly becomes increasingly important when the reduced number of retirement homes in Sweden is to be prioritized for the elderly with special needs. The future's healthcare efforts will be carried out in the individual's own housing, a since long focus in Sweden’s elder policy. The residence principle - to live at home for as long as possible - has resulted in a nation-wide wave of shutdowns within elderly care. Since 1994, nearly 40,000 places have disappeared in special accommodation for the elderly. In addition to this reduction, care centers in somatic hospital care have been reduced by approximately 12 percent during the last 10 years. At the same time, the proportion of elderly in Sweden increases. We live longer and get sick and fragile at a higher age than before. And more people with disabilities and one or more chronic diagnoses are reaching a higher age than before. 

In order to meet the need for healthcare in home environment, the Swedish health and medical care needs to be developed. The Swedish government’s research about care at home is on the way and the results will be presented in spring 2019. Collaboration between existing actors, such as municipalities and county councils, will be an important factor. New services, new technology, smarter information management and significantly better distribution and logistics are also important factors for care at home to work.

Supply and logistics are areas that will change in the increasingly smart society. Above all, it sets new demands for solutions and principles for optimizing distribution.

A digitized network community with a functioning health and medical care at home places new demands. An efficient and secure logistics is becoming increasingly important for overall functioning. Tomorrow's care-intensive home environments will involve far more actors and resources than today, where new types of control towers will be central for coordinating everything. With the individual's needs in mind, supply and logistics will have to allow for planned health and care activities, where medicines, aids, medical devices and consumables need to be accessible at all time.

Supply chains in conversion

The development of future healthcare demands developed supply chains which, among others, will include:

  • Increased differentiation and complexity in supply chains – more distribution channels, adaptation to product requirements, legislation, cost optimization, quality and customer requirements.
  • Increasing consumer power – home care, person-centered care, self-tests, social media and networks.
  • Building local / specific capabilities – new markets and needs that require new solutions and / or collaborations.
  • Increased transparency and traceability – security, optimization, control and follow-up.
  • Supply chain flexibility – from package solutions to tailor made custom solutions.

This tangible transformation takes place in a coherent environment where sustainability becomes an even more important issue. Infrastructure and urban planning are also important elements in this context, as well as the development of the sharing economy.

Six key trends that driva development in the supply chain

Among a number of driving forces, these are the six technology-based key trends that catalyze the change:

  1. Manufacturing and delivery on demand. All links in the order-provider chain are getting more clever solutions. Obviously, this expansion of online retailers will set the demands even higher on distribution and logistics. In retrospect, the range will be expanded with various DIY products, diagnostics kits and digital assistants of various kinds.
  2. Internet of Thingsis gaining importance in the systems of supply. IoT will provide control for minimizing shortcoming and flow stoppages as well as traceability and transparency.
  3. Augmented realityis gaining popularity, AR can contribute to the efficiency of the supply chain. Using advanced AR technology, for example, by adding computer vision and object recognition, information about the surrounding reality of the user is both interactive and digitally manipulable. Information about the environment and its objects are transferred to the real world.
  4. Robotization and automationare naturally disruptive, not least in distribution and logistics. The global dragons determine the agenda for this development and, at best, it is for other actors to adapt to what they formulate. Everything else simply becomes too slow and expensive to handle in the increasingly tougher competition in the increasingly integrated ecosystems.
  5. Data analysisin constant improvement is a factor that holds much of the four driving forces above together. The continuous improvement is a about getting better forecasts for everything between storage and delivery to an individual accommodation, including coordination between different actors throughout the supply system.
  6. Freeform productionis increasingly applied and is a manufacturing technique in which three-dimensional objects are made up of layers. 3D printing is a common term for this. The possibility of personalization is increasingly developed with the new technological advances. Manufacturing of certain drugs is already possible in this way, and the same applies to aids such as orthoses that protect and support the motor system. With free molding, storage can be reduced, and more flexibility is created for delivery on request.

In the future of healthcare, where the patient is in full focus, coordination between all healthcare providers is required. Then logistic solutions can be a support if they are developed for the complex systems that care consists of. The logistics actors ability to partner and develop the supply system will be crucial for care at home-development and distribution of, among other things, hospital resources to the home.

However, in the future healthcare landscape, not only medical resources need to be distributed to the home, health promotion will be even more important than before. It is about making the home the primary instance for all health phases of life in the future health and medical care landscape.