Health care IT companies prospect exciting potential of disease management, shows Frost & Sullivan study

London 03 September 2003Significant opportunities are emerging for health care IT companies within general health care provision and more particularly in disease management. Developments in IT are proving to be as critical as medical advances in spurring the growth of evidence-based medicine. Mainstream applications of health care IT companies focus on offering clinical information systems (CIS) and hospital information systems (HIS). In addition, there are several niche areas of which the "disease management service sector" is the most prominent.

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Small, flexible and innovative organisations are expected to be the early beneficiaries of emerging opportunities in the disease management service sector. In the United States, the IT route is being adopted by many pioneering companies that are offering the information provision, patient monitoring, communication facilities and data collection essential for disease management.

"By transforming themselves from occupying a sub-contractor role to being perceived as disease management enablers, these companies appear to have gained the lions' share of opportunities in raising care quality. They are the only company type currently able to provide the right input", believes Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Gordon Blackwell.

The congruence between IT and disease management techniques is well established. Successful disease management depends on a disease-specific information system that manages care programmes across the health care continuum, enables home monitoring, monitors self-care procedures, and ensures effective communication/information exchanges among patients, caregivers, and health care providers.

"The IT sector is now emphasising that it is no longer sufficient to have clinical programmes producing health improvement and reducing costs. Rather it is essential to provide the necessary integration and connectivity to give real-time information and data to all the stakeholders in a programme", added Mr. Blackwell. The emphasis is therefore on achieving integration within hospitals and then community-wide systems.

While this is a positive development, the continued neglect of elderly and functionally limited home-based patients requiring disease management remains disquieting. The marginalisation of these potential user groups compels technology designers to address the constraints related to old age and functional inexperience.

Today, both specialised, single-disease as well as multiple disease management service companies are active on the market. Rare diseases, such as haemophilia, offer prospects for specialisation. However, the trend favours multiple disease management providers. This stems from the fact that chronic conditions often involve overlapping diseases.

"Multiple disease companies can deliver a co-ordinated campaign against multiple and overlapping chronic conditions thereby cutting the administrative costs associated with managing a medley of programmes", stated Mr. Blackwell. "They provide the benefits of one-stop shopping with only one contact point."

While traditional disease management appears to have proven cost-effective in the United States, there is little proof of the cost-effectiveness or even potential long-term cost reduction accrued from the use of the Internet in disease management. Despite this, leading health care consultancies estimate the United States market for IT-based disease management services expanded from $68 million in 1997 to $500 million in 2000, projecting $10 billion in revenues by 2010.

In Europe, the multiplicity of health systems and languages has underlined a fragmented IT sector. In this scenario, medical product companies active in IT are likely to have the best prospects for ascendancy. Most health care specialist companies in the IT sector are small. They will therefore have to achieve rapid growth or enter into acquisition programmes, to be able to compete effectively.

Clinical information systems, with the ability to provide computer-assisted diagnosis are expected to anchor health care systems of the future. This will present the company supplying the software with the opportunity to supply and/or control the supply of all the essential compatible hardware and other products.

"This will require organisations with very considerable resources, and the need for corporate mass will mean that the end-point of the development is likely to be a small number, perhaps five or six, global giants in the area that will dominate the health care marketplace", concluded Mr. Blackwell. The study on disease management is available at the price of 9950 euro and can be ordered by contacting Mrs. Katja Feick of Frost & Sullivan.


Leslie Versweyveld

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