Getting the Math Right: Focusing Attention and Spend on Areas of Greatest Healthcare Impact 

Doug Given
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January has been a whirlwind of activity at Health2047—both at home and on the road. The first week of January, our team attended the Digital Health Summit at CES in Las Vegas, scouring the show floor for new innovations that could be leveraged to create the needed system-level change to US healthcare. Not surprisingly, we saw the speed, energy, and innovation at the fringes of the show floor, where tiny bands of entrepreneurs demonstrated virtual reality, augmented reality, and connected health solutions that could change not just the healthcare industry, but also adjacent industries like lifestyle, healthy living, and wellness. We also remarked on the high level of consumer engagement with products that gave them: 1) new insights into their own wellbeing; 2) the ability to measure progress and derive the incentives and currency for their efforts by monitoring their own trends; or 3) new ways to communicate with their doctors and healthcare providers. While it is clear that we’re still in the early stages of digital healthcare innovation, we were encouraged by the significant momentum we saw toward embracing behavioral change, understanding behavioral economics, and putting in place incentives for people to take greater accountability for their lives and welfare. There was not any system-level discourse at CES, but it was fun to see cool new technologies aimed at some of the existing white spaces in healthcare.

Three days after returning from CES, we publicly launched Health2047 at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco. We were delighted to receive such broad and positive media coverage, both from tier-1 business press and healthcare trade media. The rationale underlying the AMA’s decision to become Health2047’s founding partner—namely, to bridge the gap between the medical community and Silicon Valley that has existed for far too long—was not only accepted, but applauded by the reporters we briefed. We also hosted an open house at Health2047’s new innovation studio in San Francisco where the level of energy and the tremendous responsiveness of our guests was incredible. Joining me on the podium during the event was former HHS Secretary and three-time Utah Governor Mike Leavitt, who closed his remarks with this very salient point: “We are currently faced with an important choice: whether to fight change and die, accept change and survive, or lead change and prosper.” At Health2047, we intend to lead change and prosper.

In addition to the media launch and open house, we participated in a full slate of meetings with C-level executives at leading healthcare and technology companies across every major asset class with a role to play in healthcare innovation. As we build out our ecosystem in the coming months, we expect a number of these leaders to join us as Health2047 innovation partners. As for the content of the JPM conference sessions, Jamie Dimon and his team focused on several key themes:

  • the need to improve our healthcare system as we prepare for the future;
  • patient-centered strategies that include an engagement focus and leverage technology to accelerate healthcare’s transition from analog to digital by harvesting actionable information from data;
  • creating a bridge between Silicon Valley and healthcare to drive faster and more impactful cycles of innovation; and
  • making technology innovation scalable, affordable, and accessible.

While Mr. Dimon made the point that disease detection in cancer and Alzheimer’s has to be earlier, AMA CEO Dr. Jim Madara added that even greater impact would be derived from putting more emphasis on preventive efforts, in effect, putting “people first” rather than “patients first.”

One keynote address we found particularly notable was delivered jointly by Dr. Madara and Andy Slavitt, acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. To the surprise of the most important and thoughtful corporate leaders among tech and healthcare giants, these two leaders “leaned in” on the pressing need to innovate beyond the current healthcare state. They talked about topics like EHRs, and the ways that regulation was inadvertently blocking the innovation needed in healthcare. On both sides, there was clear recognition that there’s an opportunity to change our current trajectory and unleash a new wave of innovation to better support our aging population and better manage our country’s burgeoning chronic medical conditions.

As I think about these two industry events, here are my two key takeaways: First, leaders across government, technology and medicine are eager to break down old silos and work together to solve big healthcare issues; this is why the time is right for new business models—like Health2047—that are purpose-built to take a system-level approach to improving healthcare. We understand the need for a vibrant ecosystem of best-in-class partners to help us close the healthcare innovation gap, addressing the market’s fragmentation, complexity and regulatory friction. Second, there’s a growing body of evidence that social and behavioral determinants should be given greater weight, focus, and dollars than in years past. The math is simple. A person’s general health is typically determined by this breakdown: 10% medicine, 30% genetics, and 60% social/behavioral determinants. We have traditionally focused our time and spend on the 10%; it’s high time that we work together to address the real system-wide determinants of health: the social/behavioral factors that account for 60% of our general health.

By closing the healthcare innovation gap and the social/behavioral determinants gap, we can create a virtuous cycle that will improve healthcare and health outcomes for everyone. It’s a great time to be in the healthcare industry.

— Doug Given is Board Director at Health2047.

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