2019 was a dynamic year for technology in healthcare globally: there were six digital health IPOs in the U.S., Google bought Fitbit, the German government introduced a law enabling digital therapeutics (i.e. apps) to be prescribed and reimbursed by payers, Novartis and Microsoft announced a collaboration to transform medicine with A.I., Pfizer launched China’s first pay-for-performance oncology deal (with Ibrance). The list goes on, but I’ll spare you.
When looking at this list, one is left to wonder: will all of this technology-enabled development truly result in improved healthcare or society as a whole? Or will it just add extra costs to the healthcare systems while not necessarily improving people’s lives?
Instead of trying to predict the future of healthcare, I will start this discussion by expressing my four wishes for the healthcare market in 2020:
1) Seeing more tangible examples of a real mindset shift in pharma: All too often, pharmaceutical companies have used digital technologies as tools to strengthen their traditional ways of doing business. I’m hoping to see more tangible examples of an actual mindset shift, such as LEO Pharma’s Open Innovation where any researcher can harness LEO’s assays and some partners are even given investigational LEO molecules. Taken a step further, I would love to see a CEO of a pharmaceutical company claiming: “we want to make our pills obsolete by ensuring people do not get sick in the first place”. This would help pharmaceutical companies regain the trust of society which should be the priority in today’s “trust economy”.
2) Developing a new narrative for doctors and HCPs: Physicians are often considered as the ones slowing down the adoption of digital health solutions. However, we should not forget that for them so far, technology has been more of a pain point than a help factor, with EHR systems failing to deliver on their promises. The current narrative for healthcare technology can easily be interpreted as a threat by physicians, and I cannot blame them. I hope we’ll see a different narrative in 2020, one that focuses on empowering physicians and other care providers to embrace technology that is built to improve their work. Technology designed to improve experiences at the point of care will speed-up adoption and create HCP advocates who see the benefit of technology in care delivery.
3) Scaling collaborative and integrated models of care: Kaiser Permanente in the US proves that integrating HCPs and payers can bring tremendous value to healthcare, with lower costs for better care. Germany has also started some initiatives such as “Gesundes Kinzigtal”, but it is still not enough. I hope that the roadblocks, which are preventing collaborative models to be scaled, will be addressed. For example, in the US, this is mainly due to a misalignment of incentives between the different health stakeholders. In Germany, a decentralized state, regions should pro-actively start collaborative care projects, which could in the end converge into one integrated care model for the whole country.
4) Putting sustainability on the health agenda: Sustainability has taken center stage in other industries and I hope that it will do the same in healthcare in 2020. Although climate change and sustainability are high up on the agenda of many industries and countries, healthcare stakeholders have not shown the same level of concern. Well, they should. As the not-for-profit organization “Health Care Without Harm Europe” stated in September 2019: “The health sector, whose mission is protecting and promoting health, makes a major contribution to the climate crisis — the greatest health threat of the 21st century — and therefore has an important role to play in resolving it.” According to the organization, healthcare’s climate footprint is equivalent to 4.4% of global net emissions. It’s now time to put this topic on the health agenda.
Happy New Year everyone. Let’s catch up in a year from now and see if 2020 has lived up to my expectations and put healthcare on the right track.
Thomas Hagemeijer is a consultant at TLGG Consulting in Berlin.