In different occasions, we have discussed the current crisis of national healthcare systems around the world. While talking about this, we have also argued in favour of a new approach towards health based on prevention and innovation.
In the following four posts, we are going to bring these issues together by talking about the benefits that innovative design can provide to healthcare. We believe this series provides a good opportunity for the spa and wellness industries to increase their awareness of the ongoing challenges and opportunities the market currently offers.
Our series of posts has been shaped around a recent paper published by Lekshmy Parameswaran and Jeroen Raijmakers entitled People-focused Innovation in Healthcare. This paper focuses on the innovative channels that Philips Design, one of the largest design organisations in the world, has been using to implement effective solutions for today’s changing healthcare system.
In our upcoming posts, we will take a closer look at these solutions. For now, we will start this discussion with a preview of the complexity of the world we live in and the current crisis of healthcare systems across the globe.
To a certain extent, the crisis of healthcare systems is a consequence of the dramatic changes we are witnessing nowadays. We live in a world where the disintegration of social structures and the loss of power from traditional institutions have created an unpredictable future.
In front of this uncertainty, we have found in technology a source of comfort that has also empowered our expectations for getting ‘quick-fix’ solutions in any field of our life. However, technology is also a force that is playing against us today. As stated by Parameswaran and Raijmakers, “technology might liberate us through timesaving solutions, but our bodies are beginning to show signs of the stresses and strains of such a lifestyle”.
Today, the real problem relies in the fact that we are trying to adapt ourselves to a hectic environment without a clear idea of our priorities, something that affects the way we care for ourselves. This is why we are adopting an unhealthy lifestyle defined by overconsumption, poor diet, lack of physical exercise, insufficient sleep and lots of stress.
The economic and human impact of unhealthy lifestyles is evident. In a 2004 IHC report, healthcare consultant Paul Roberts stated that “an estimated 13.4 million working days a year in the UK are lost to stress, anxiety and depression, and 12.3 million to back and upper limb problems”. In addition to these kinds of issues, we are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases as we get older. This alarming situation plays a major role in the current crisis of our healthcare systems.
According to Parameswaran and Raijmakers, our healthcare systems are now at a breaking point. As the population grows larger and people continue to develop chronic diseases, our healthcare systems won’t be able to cope with the increasing demand and costs of services.
Even worse, healthcare providers compete in a way that they shift costs to one another limiting the services they offer. A kind of competition that, according to Michael E. Porter and Elizabeth Olmsted Tesiberg, authors of the book Redefining Healthcare, “does not create value for patients, but erodes quality, fosters inefficiency, creates excess capacity and drives up administrative costs”.
Likewise, hospitals continue to struggle for revenue while heavily competing with other actors of the healthcare landscape and adjusting to tougher financial and legal constraints. All this produces a fragmented healthcare environment where very often people feel anxious about their most important health-related decisions.
In the middle of this crisis, the spa and wellness industries have shown their interest to join the health field. In order to do this right, it is important to understand first the nature of the healthcare problem. We believe the picture we described above is a good way to start a discussion about the innovative options that can be used to deal with the current crisis. In the upcoming posts we will further explore this in detail.