smart and together

Pills from a printer

Advances in today’s healthcare sector are paving the way for some exciting possibilities. Will computers one day replace doctors? Will tablets be produced by 3D printers? How can the PHOENIX group build on these concepts? To address these questions, Dr Tobias Bucher and Florian Eder from Corporate Business Innovation are keeping a keen eye on precisely these areas.

BUCHER Although our work centres on the key trends in the healthcare industry, other social and technological developments are having an ever-growing impact on our business. People today are concerned more now than ever about their well-being while, at the same time, are living longer. As the demand for medical services grows, doctors’ surgeries and hospitals in many places are disappearing. We need to start thinking about how digital resources can benefit these regions. Ideas abound. For example, one day there may be intelligent programmes that can diagnose illnesses with great accuracy and then follow up by recommending the most effective drugs for treatment.

EDER Despite this, we are convinced that patients will still want to have direct contact with health experts in the future. The question is whether these experts will always need to be doctors. Pharmacists, for example, could use digital technology to provide a range of more complex medical services than they offer today.

BUCHER Pharmacists in the past have often limited themselves to simple services, such as taking a patient’s blood pressure when requested. It is conceivable that in the future they will also perform ECGs, give vaccinations, take blood samples or provide allergy tests – and maybe even offer more advanced procedures. Digital assistants could support them by guiding and monitoring their work at every step.

EDER These possibilities will open up new fields of services for pharmacists. Patients themselves are also playing an increasingly pivotal role in the changes occurring in the healthcare sector. They are no longer reliant solely on doctors for medical advice and are instead accessing more and more health information from the Internet. They are also collecting their own health data using apps and wearable technology – a trend that is set to continue. When these data are analysed, they can provide important information about the health of the owner.

BUCHER It takes a qualified person, however, to monitor this type of analysis, and a pharmacy would be an ideal place to do this. These kinds of diagnoses based on a comprehensive pool of data could provide a useful addition to the traditional doctor visit, given the rising cost pressures in the healthcare system.

More than just technology. Establishing a start-up culture. Tapping the collective creativity of highly diverse employees. Responding to sudden changes: The Corporate Business Innovation division explores innovative approaches to actively shape the future of healthcare.

EDER This is also true when you take into account patients’ higher expectations and desire for more advice and care that is tailored to their needs. This trend towards personalisation is also evident in the healthcare sector.

BUCHER For example, this is the reason we are taking a careful look at 3D printing. For some time now, 3D printers have been able to custom-print not only plastic and metal components but also food – and even pharmaceuticals! This possibility opens up an interesting area of activity for pharmacies.

EDER Pharmacists already learn how to custom-manufacture pharmaceuticals when they are in training. 3D printing, which offers patients more convenience and safety along with a higher degree of personalisation, may even be able to turn around the long-term trend of mass production of standard products.

BUCHER 3D printing may also benefit people with chronic conditions who need varying doses of drugs. The elderly, for example, could order tablets that are formed to make swallowing easier, and children would be much more willing to take a drug that looked, and maybe even tasted, like a jelly baby.

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