McCleary et al. (2006) opined on the basis of current and emerging trends in healthcare that entrepreneurial opportunities exist across the continuum of care. Moore and Coddington (1999) described key drivers that will energise continued entrepreneurial activity and transformation in the healthcare industry. These drivers include:
1. Growth in new knowledge: Advances in medical knowledge and technological innovation in the areas of pharmaceuticals, bioengineering, genetics and information sciences technology will lead to exponential increase in new knowledge.
2. Changes in customer perceptions: Consumerism continues to grow in the healthcare industry as well-informed individuals increase their expectations of goods and services provided (Fottler and Ford 2002). More individuals value their autonomy and look for alternative solutions. While consumer empowerment will continue to influence traditional models of service delivery that favour reliance on expertise and professional dominance, direct to consumer marketing and access to information through the Internet are producing a consumer movement that directly challenges the dominance of professionals.
3. Changes in industry and market structure: The impetus behind many of the changes in industry and market structure can be linked to modifications in the financing of healthcare delivery and organisational responses to perceived environmental threats, including prospective payment, managed care, integrated delivery systems, mergers, the conversion of not-for-profit hospitals into investor-owned entities and other forms of consolidation.
4. Population ageing. This is expected to have significant implications for healthcare delivery. Long-term care for the elderly is now or will soon become an important issue for many countries (Feder et al. 2000).
5. Process improvement. Although healthcare generates large revenues, these funds do not appear to influence the speed at which process improvements are made, especially when compared to the speed at which similar improvements are made in other industries (Berwick 2002).
6. System incongruities. Discrepancies between consumer expectations and service delivery will produce new opportunities for entrepreneurs who seek to address system incongruities that were either overlooked or not pursued. We are already beginning to see greater emphasis on mass customisation in healthcare. For example, Lanser (2000, p. 17) suggested, ‘Mass customization in health care involves the use of flexible processes and organizational structures to produce customised products and services at the price of standardized, mass-produced alternatives. ’