In the same way that clinical discoveries have been stumbled upon by chance (such as penicillin1), by engaging outsiders to invent new solutions (Louis Pasteur, founder of microbiology, was a chemist2) or even by observing other effective systems (like biotech’s use of biomimicry, taken inspiration from nature3), so too has healthcare at a system-level looked to other sectors to develop novel solutions to solve its institutional challenges. We’re exploring the ways unconventional partners have helped tackle persistent problems in healthcare.


  • Health systems have their own chronic illnesses that have plagued them for ages – from empowering patients to make better health choices, creating more customer-centric experiences in care, to applying non-clinical interventions to contribute to better health.
  • Broadening the tent to include other non-clinical providers will introduce new expertise, capabilities, and learning to help improve healthcare delivery; for a sector that is traditionally scientific and academic – the need to welcome new ideas will benefit patients with more customer-centric, effective, and efficient care systems.
  • Innovative health systems are adopting technology to help break the cycle of these healthcare problems and unlock value.
The challenge:

Empowering people to ‘own their health’ and make the right health and lifestyle actions in daily life

The partners:

Aetna and Apple under “Attain by Aetna” app

The approach:

The win-win of a healthier lifestyle, with rewards4

Aetna, one of the US’ largest health insurers (a CVS Health business), sought to empower its plan members by linking in the technology of the Apple Watch to measure health goals, with the Attain app that provides the feedback, information, and rewards to incentivize better health. Built on “four main pillars”, including achievement of activity goals (ranging from steps taken to other activities such as swimming and yoga), the maintenance of everyday health (with weekly challenges and rewards), the personalization of health (built to integrate their members’ health history and insights with the watch’s sensor data to provide nudges – such as for lab tests, flu shots, or medication refills), and the ability to earn rewards for achieving their goals (including earning the watch itself). Apple’s user-friendly, engaging technology built with Aetna and CVS’ expertise and insights on its members have helped create a platform to provide that digital nudge in daily life.

The outcomes:

In its initial collaboration with Apple in 2016, 90 percent of participants reported health benefits from the use of their Apple Watch. In the two years since its launch, 200,000 participating members have earned 8.7 billion points, across 20.7 million daily goals attained. Impressively, during the pandemic, users saw an 11 percent average increase in exercise minutes.5

The challenge:

Providing a highly customer-centric experience to improve diagnoses, reduce errors, and costs

The partners:

Pediatric hospitals, Royal Philips, and the Walt Disney Company

The approach:

Dr. Mouse in the pediatric diagnostic house6

Getting an MRI can be a difficult experience for people of any age, but especially for children – where clinical settings can be intimidating or trigger anxiety, machines that offer the patient little personal space, can project significant noise as the imaging occurs, and require patient compliance with instructions to ensure a clear, usable image. Philips, a global manufacturer of diagnostic imaging equipment has taken its patient-centric offering a step further for its youngest patients with the launch of its Philips Ambient Experience, where they have partnered with the Walt Disney Company and their roster of characters to provide familiarity, comfort, and guidance to avoid imaging errors and provide a better experience for children. Experiences include turning the MRI table into a magic carpet ride alongside Aladdin and Jasmine to navigating cityscapes alongside Spiderman; the storytelling and interaction helping follow directions, minimize unnecessary motion, and provide an overall more relaxing experience.

The outcomes:

Its pilot studies are underway in Europe, with results that are expected in the coming months. However, Disney appears committed to greater participation in pediatric health, committing to an additional $100M to reimagine the patient journey for children in hospitals as part of its Social Purpose program.7

The challenge:

Bringing together clinical and non-clinical contributors to better health outcomes

The partners:

Health systems and community and recreational agencies, and the Elemental platform

The approach:

A visit to the museum - Doctor’s orders (social prescribing)

It’s estimated 20 percent of visits to GPs are primarily for social, rather than medical issues8 in the UK, which strains an already burdened primary care system while not getting patients assistance for their true underlying challenge. There is a growing movement recognizing the linkages between non-clinical factors contributing to health outcomes, and the need to shift paradigms from patients who are defined by clinical diagnoses, and instead of the person holistically – including their health, social, and environmental contexts.

Social prescribing, a community development approach to health and wellbeing is not a new concept, however, administrative, budgetary, and communication siloes between health, social, cultural, and recreational programs have often prevented this referral and linkage from happening. Elemental, a startup founded by two longtime community development workers who built a digital platform to break down those barriers and create more seamless referrals. A key to their success was their ability to bring everyone to the table – clinical, community, and patient representatives helped shape services, pathways, and to define outcomes. Their platform allows GPs, nurses and supporting social prescribing link workers to build personalized plans for their patients, linking them to programs supporting physical activity, diet and nutrition, mental health, social support and community activities, debt and benefits advice, housing support, and employability. This can be through connecting patients with gardening clubs, prescribing visits to museums, or linking them to housing assistance. Not only does the digital platform create a better user experience for providers and patients, but it also supports greater scaling of the program, the gathering of data on evidence-based outcomes from patients, and better continuity in management of patients.

The outcomes:

As of May 2021, Elemental has enabled referrals by nearly 11,000 healthcare providers and social workers, connecting over 93,000 patients to 148,000 sessions and 439,000 visits8. In case studies, such as a clinical commissioning group in the UK which used the platform to plug into care for cancer, long-COVID, and other programs and enabled 6,500 referrals, demonstrated improvement in health and wellbeing among 70 percent of patients, and improvement in mental health and social isolation measures.9

Key takeaways:

  • Healthcare has much to gain from adjacent sectors with their expertise and experience; as indicated in our Healthcare CEO Future Pulse report, healthcare is perceived to lag behind other sectors in its patient-centricity, technology adoption, and ability to perform efficiently. Partner sectors can augment healthcare’s capabilities by acting as a direct provider or configuring their offerings for health contexts.
  • Health leaders should consider broadening their perspective – away from just patients defined by their clinical diagnoses, into more ‘people-centric’ approaches that include an expanded understanding of social, housing, and employment circumstances. To accommodate this, cooperation through technology, incentives, and governance are also required.
  • As populations become more digitally savvy and connected, technology is becoming the constant touchpoint in people’s lives; these touchpoints and interfaces can be used as opportunities to get a more holistic understanding of consumer behaviors and interactions to better measure, intervene, and guide people and their providers in their health and wellness. This means that greater cross-sector and platform collaboration will benefit the quality of care.


Throughout this website, “we”, “KPMG”, “us” and “our” refers to the global organization or to one or more of the member firms of KPMG International Limited (“KPMG International”), each of which is a separate legal entity.

1 Gaynes, R. (2017). The discovery of Penicillin—New insights after more than 75 years of clinical use. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 23(5): 849–853.

2 Institut Pasteur. (2021 August 19). Our history.

3 Johansen, A. (2021 February 18). Blog: Nature reveals solutions for supporting public health. The Biomimicry Institute.

4 CVS Health. (2019 January 29). Aetna announces Attain, a personalized well-being experience that combines health history with Apple Watch information to empower better health. [Media release].

5 Attain by Aetna. (2021). Cheers to two years of Attain.

6 Royal Phillips. (2021 March 3). Philips and Disney join forces to improve the healthcare experience of children. [Media release].

7 Ibid

8 Torjesen, I. (2016 March 10). Social prescribing could help alleviate pressure on GPs
BMJ 2016; 352 doi:

9 Elemental. (2021). Resources and Events – Case Studies, West Lancashire Council for Voluntary Services continues to expand social prescribing services.