Disruption of existing working practices is being seen in many sectors of the economy. So far, there has been relatively little impact on the healthcare sector. We think that is about to change.
The healthcare sector has become progressively more important in all economies around the world in recent years.
In the US, the sector has become the largest employer, with more people employed in it than in manufacturing or retail trade.
US healthcare spending amounts to 17% of GDP, almost twice the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average.
In 1960, such spending was just 5% of GDP. Growing healthcare spending, partly as a result of ageing populations with longer life expectancy, and partly because of costly advances in medical devices and biotechnology, is an issue in advanced and emerging economies alike.
Although many perceive the US healthcare sector as one with relatively little public sector involvement, spending is broadly equally split between the private and public sectors.
Public sector provision covers four health insurance programmes. Medicare, which provides health insurance for those who are aged 65; Medicaid (which helps with medical costs for people with limited income and resources); the Children's Health Insurance programme; and marketplace subsidies under the Affordable Care Act ('Obamacare').
In total, spending on these amounted to $1trn in 2016, more than a quarter of federal government spending.
Over the past 20 years, price inflation for medical care and hospital services in the US has run well ahead of general price increases. Furthermore, there is a mounting concern that many of the services provided are not strictly necessary.
The US National Academy of Medicine estimates that the US healthcare system wastes $765bn per year (a quarter of all the money spent) on unnecessary or needlessly expensive care.
In 2015, an investigation by an independent research firm found that since 1980, the number of CT scans had grown from fewer than three million to more than 80 million, with a third of them judged unnecessary.
Warren Buffet regards such high levels of healthcare spending as a serious impediment to US companies' competitiveness in world markets.