Toward Smarter Healthcare

A few weeks ago over coffee, Caroline Popper (Popper & Co) and I had a fascinating conversation about the path toward “Smarter Healthcare”.  This post is the first in a series of four that arise from that conversation and are informed by our careers working in healthcare strategy and product development over the course of a few decades.   This is about a radical transformation in our industry.  Starting now.

Healthcare delivery, worldwide, can no longer absorb incremental improvement at increased overall cost.  In our view, preeminence in our industry must acknowledge and incorporate three interrelated elements: these are:

i. integration of emerging biology insights that allow new understanding of disease;

ii. adoption of new technologies and connected technology platforms to both generate and apply the new biological insights; and

iii. the ability to leverage technology and biology at scale cost-effectively and responsive to the rise of the consumer in the healthcare marketplace.

Emerging biology insights are enabled by new technologies facilitating research, and ultimately enabling a truly new generation of clinical diagnostics.  “Next Gen” is an over-used descriptor: here however we stand on the threshold of knowing so much more that a radical redefinition of disease is possible and even necessary. New understandings allow providers to tailor therapy based upon evidence, and to streamline and target drug discovery and clinical trial work.

Winning solutions will meet patients as collaborators in their own health management, and will allow effective (more customized, more personalized and more precise) therapies without adding cost to the system.  These solutions will rely on technologies that provide exquisitely personal results often enabled by crowd-sourced information from enormous data sets.  Patients will increasingly be involved in directing or making choices about their own care, benefiting from newfound familiarity with consumer electronics and widespread access to information, as well as product design that is finally driven by usability and by delighting the patient.  Proprietary technology platforms will need to be developed, refined and protected with these factors in mind in order to maximize both performance and ease of use.

“Radical” is in our view a reasonable descriptor for the transformation we are experiencing in the healthcare marketplace….driven in significant part by the patient-as-consumer. Even in the regulated healthcare markets in which we work, we are seeing the lead decision maker (buyer of diagnostics and therapies) evolve from the provider to the payer and further to the consumer.  For developers of new solutions, uncertainties in regulatory approval pathways are actually being eclipsed by uncertainty about who will pay for the solution and what price their market(s) will bear.  Competitors are producing solutions that please the consumer and cost less. Discussions of “value-based care” should not lose sight of consideration of “value” to whom.

From our perspective, this is definitely the “walk and chew gum” era of healthcare: maximize performance AND ease of use: improve quality and outcome AND reduce overall cost.  Stay tuned for more details about the impacts of biology insights, technologies, and the changing marketplace as we move toward “smarter healthcare”.  We will publish on these factors over the next several weeks and welcome your comments.


Jenny Regan

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