Future of Healthcare: Holistic, Personalized & Preventative

12th December 2016

George Sakoulas

Innovation in healthcare can have profound ripple effects throughout society which is why the acid-test of healthcare innovation is the impact it has on public health. The two major trends in healthcare innovation are shifts in focus from treatment to prevention and in business models from the treatment of illness to ‘most favourable outcomes’.

Treatments are ‘out’ and Outcomes are ‘in’

For as long as modern medicine has been practiced it has, for the most part, been based on a business model in which people pay money for the treatment of a symptom(s). In this sense, we pay on the basis of diagnosis, self or otherwise. The industry is geared towards providing the best services for professional diagnosis and products for treatment. However, the holistic view of the patient is often left to the patient and/or their family and friends with the internet acting as a supplementary self-diagnosis tool. If the ultimate goal is a positive impact on human society. then the ultimate aim of a more integrated healthcare industry, working better than the sum of its parts, is to end illness.

Enterprising and innovative private companies have already begun to venture into the realms of illness prevention and personalized healthcare. Pharmaceutical companies already look at whether genomic groups are more responsive to certain medication in treatment. Healthcare, on the other hand, is a heavily regulated industry so the funnel for innovation is narrow.

Preventative Healthcare

There are sensors available for monitoring every human bodily function from stress response to blood glucose levels, all in real time. Pharmaceuticals have access to genomic data through clinical trials which is a valuable asset to the industry. The value of data as a great integrator of processes and systems can not be understated. The plethora of data is already part of a major investment in preventative medicines like vaccines. Greater integration between smarter devices, healthcare and life science providers will enable more opportunities to grow. Diseases and illness detected early on will still need management and/or treatment; no matter how much healthcare advances humans will age and die. The threat to the pharmaceutical industry is therefore limited by the industry’s ability to adapt to the changing landscape and capitalize on opportunities to effectively prevent illness from happening.

Millennials VS Baby Boomers

With the largest generation of the US population being baby-boomers, an aging population has been a major driving force for healthcare. Does an athletic young person need a sensor to monitor their blood pressure in real time? Not as much as an elderly person suffering from high blood pressure but the option for a young person to monitor their biodata to improve their health and life expectancy exists because of an innovation in the treatment of elderly cardiovascular systems. Quality innovation will always ripple throughout society, regardless of the original source for the innovation.

Millennials recently overtook baby-boomers as the US’s largest generation and demographics are a powerful influence in market targeting. The generation most well represented amongst the general population have historically been treated as a primary market for most industries and healthcare is no exception, tho it has its niches.

“The industry is at the cusp of a golden era, in which we’re seeing a paradigm shift from developing and testing new treatments in mice that we hope will translate to humans, to a point where we now have the ability to directly study humans and thereby match the therapies to humans.” - Nadeem Sarwar, senior director and head of population research and of cardiovascular genetics at Pfizer

Newmarket equilibriums establishing themselves today will enable a generation of ‘millenial moms’ to demand the prevention of illness in their children. If this is the case then personalized medicine developed to prevent illness may be something future generations will grow to expect.

Personalized Healthcare

Personal health data is as individual as the individual themselves. The term ‘generic medicine’ is slightly paradoxical given the fact that every individual will react differently to treatment and medication. It’s false to even assume that because you belong to the same generation or share the same ethnic background with someone that you will both respond the same to ‘treatment’ or changes in your lifestyle. Add to this the fact that environmental factors affecting an individual are continually changing and maintaining good health becomes a more personal and fluid affair. Individually we are taking greater control over our environmental factors thanks to smart sensors in our homes, workplaces, and wearables and the volume and value of data will continue to grow. More personalized healthcare and value-based care models mean greater integration and collaboration between provider and user, which can be ‘automated’ where data is facilitating the integration. The purpose being to maximize the beneficial outcome of what patients have paid for.

"42% of all compounds - and 73% of oncology compounds - in the pipeline have the potential to be personalized medicines. Today, personalized medicines represent 13% of all approved medicines, and, according to the Tufts CSDD, 137 approved medicines have genomic information in their label." - Personalized Medicine Coalition (2015)

Personalized healthcare won’t be just a matter of handing over your personal data and paying for a ‘cure-all’ pill specially made just for you. With knowledge comes responsibility and with the knowledge of the outcome of our personal lifestyles requires us to take responsibility for our personal health. Knowing you have a high chance of liver cancer but you continue to drink heavily after work on Fridays will still cost you, perhaps cost you more, as part of personalizing your healthcare or preventative medicine. You may have to literally pay the price of smoking.

High Tech Holism

It seems counter-intuitive to suggest holistic medicine can be high-tech but the lines between holistic medicine and ‘traditional medical models’ will blur. Gone are the days of the hippy-dippy holistic medicine practitioner and in are the ‘always on’ health conscious, tech savvy consumers and suppliers of bespoke healthcare.

A more holistic approach in a well-integrated ecosystem for healthcare requires more accountability. Data is enabling a post-information revolution holistic view of our personal health and regulators may have to play catch up.

On the supply-side, the foundations for innovation into preventative personalized healthcare have already been laid and the timing for it seems just right. On the multinational scale, major pharmaceutical giants like Novartis are planning to test new clinical outcome based pricing models for prescriptions with hospital providers sharing risk and costs. GlaxoSmithKline has invested in shared value business models in the developing world. On smaller scales, sensor data is being fed into applications and opportunities exist for platforms to provide valuable insight into personal health.

So while ‘health dashboard’ notifications to have lunch from your digital nutritionist to optimize the workout your online fitness instructor recommends as a ‘stress-detox’ before your evening VR session with your therapist and nightly check-up scan with “Robo Doc” is not quite ‘an apple a day’ it will mean you won’t need a doctor and/or pharmacy as often, though the cost of doing so could be higher.


Link to the original article on Medium