Telcos in healthcare: Winning in a long game, Babylon, and the impact of 5G

Executive Briefing Service, Growing Enterprise Revenues

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Insights on the role for telcos in healthcare, the main lessons learned to date, and the impact of 5G on healthcare and telcos within it. From the TELUS Carrier Health Summit, Toronto, May 2019.

Introduction: telcos in healthcare

This is a summary of some of the learnings from another fascinating session at the TELUS Carrier Health Summit in Toronto, May 22nd 2019. This is an annual gathering that was hosted by TELUS Global Solutions for telcos and their partners in healthcare.

Of the hosts, Fawad Shaikh, VP TELUS Global Solutions, said it ran this years’ session because it wants “to develop an alliance of like-minded telcos in health”. David Thomas, VP TELUS Health Solutions, added that “healthcare has to be delivered locally, which is a real plus for telcos. Yet we all need to gain global scale to compete, so it is a great opportunity for non-competitive collaboration.”

About sixty people from telcos and health tech companies were there this year, and the audience was global, with representatives from Latin America, N America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australasia.

STL Partners presented its research on nine telco healthcare studies, and caught up with participants, including Dr Ali Parsa, CEO and founder of Babylon Health, and Mairi Johnson, its Global Partnerships Director.

Healthcare: the problem to be solved

Healthcare is one of our favourite examples of the drive behind the Coordination Age. The explanation is simple:

The problem with healthcare in most economies is not that there isn’t great medicine and healthcare professionals. It’s getting it all delivered to the patients at the right time and at a cost that’s affordable.

This is fundamentally a coordination problem: bringing the right assets (whether physical or digital – a nurse, a treatment, or the patients’ records) together for the patient. Then maintaining the order throughout the patients’ treatment, and indeed, their lives.

All healthcare systems face multiple mounting pressures: growing and ageing populations, greater costs, skills challenges, and more pressure on funding from other sources to name a few.

There’s money in health

It’s also an area of HUGE expenditure. PWC’s Tara McCarville shared figures showing that:

  • Global healthcare spend is forecast to grow from $9.7 Trillion in 2014, to $18 Trillion in 2040, growing at 21% CAGR over the next 5 years.
  • Even so, it’s perhaps surprising that 84% of Fortune 50 companies are engaged in healthcare in some way.

Given this, it’s less surprising to note that the big tech players are seriously engaged in digital health too, with Amazon’s recent tie up with JP Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway to create the Haven Group being the most eye-catching. Others between CVS and Aetna, and Sanofi and Click Therapies involve less broadly familiar names, but are weighty nonetheless.

From a government perspective the numbers are big too. In the UK for example, which is one of the EU’s lower healthcare spenders per capita, the NHS’s annual bill is currently £154 billion, and it’s forecast to rise to £188 billion in 15 years (to 2033).

A 5% tax rise?

Without borrowing, this would lead to something like a 5% increase in overall taxation. Over 98% of UK tax funding is from ‘general taxation and national insurance’ – so mainly income tax, VAT and ongoing employment contributions.  In other words, people would have to pay.

Despite the UK’s love of the NHS, a permanent 5% tax rise would draw many concerned breaths from both politicians and the public. The need to find better solutions is genuinely pressing.

(NB Try out this calculator made by the Institute of Fiscal Studies if you fancy yourself as a policy guru. To fund healthcare, would you raise taxes, cut pensions, defence, or education?)

Figure 2: The Institute of Fiscal Studies’ (IFS) Health Budget Calculator

IFS NHS Budget Calculator
Meeting the NHS’s future funding needs would mean a 5% UK tax rise

Source: https://explore.ifs.org.uk/tools/nhs_funding/tool NB At £154bn, the Health spending category is already bigger than all those above.

The rest of the report contains:

  • The road to Babylon – one of the ways ahead?
  • Some telcos are scared by health, others are serious about it
  • 5G, Healthcare – or both?
  • Conclusions: telcos in healthcare – making a long game a good one

And includes the following figures:

  • Figure 1: How to succeed in telco health – key learnings from the Summit
  • Figure 2: The Institute of Fiscal Studies’ (IFS) Health Budget Calculator
  • Figure 3: Babyl has particular strength in Rwanda’s rural areas
  • Figure 4: A flavour of Babylon’s UK online offering
  • Figure 5: Pros and cons of telcos in healthcare
  • Figure 6: Telstra’s National Cervical Cancer Screening programme benefits
  • Figure 7: Telcos face a serious choice in Capex / Opex investments