Thoughts, Experiences and Comments from an “Outside” Point of View @ WMIF

I walked into a large room greeted by kind physicians, biotechnologist, pharmaceutical business owners, and leaders in their respective healthcare fields, munching on snacks and chatting about the future of healthcare. I think to myself “is this really happening? Pharma and healthcare practitioners sitting and chatting eye to eye, trying to solve healthcare issues?” From my experiences in this industry these two are not supposed to get along. That these two parties should be at each other’s necks, fighting for the attention of payers, and each defining what it means to truly solve patient needs or address patient care. Not only was it strange, but I learned more about the ecosystem of this event and why things change in the face of meeting face to face – it isn’t about the work you do and how you do it, it’s about the impact made.  In this case, the impact made to patients and how our healthcare system needs more collaboration to sustain healthcare in the future.

Throughout the World Medical Innovation Forum (WMIF) event, participants heard from several leaders from the healthcare and life sciences industry talking about the future of health. As this was MGH’s premier event and one of Boston’s strongest providers, the topics were great and the panelists just as much. But what was really apparent was the need for collaboration, and that persisted starting from Day 1. There were two back two back panels that made that clear. Post a discussion on central nervous system (CNS) therapies and ending the night with a thoughtful chat from CVS leaders and Wall Street Analysts on how PBMs play an important role in owning more connections in the patient-care continuum. One example made was how CVS not only owns the PBM piece of the healthcare provider equation but also acts a place for diagnosis and treatment through Minute-Clinics, and that there’s plans to expand their role in the healthcare space. This is especially true with the onset engagement of the CVS app. Fascinating stuff.

If the ambition is providing wider access to care through their retail locations paired with digital scheduling (their app is widely recognized and used) and use Minute-Clinics for a wider selection of services, CVS is addressing a very strong patient need – one I would say has been been true for years. In one way this could be seen as taking business away from hospitals, but in actuality CVS is solving a critical gap in quick-access healthcare for more minor healthcare needs. In fact, what CVS is doing is alleviating the strain on healthcare systems, and sparked the collaboration connection. Healthcare system needs were further highlighted in the next panel on aging. The message was clear: Hospitals need help.

Some examples were already in the making, for example triaging more critically injured patients to a hospital for equipment, larger physical wounds, cancer treatment, etc. and patients for more minor needs to a Minute-Clinic, etc. Having these options to optimize health are needed, and only come out of true collaboration with parties. It was clear to see in the room: our healthcare system needs more access-points to care due to future health needs of Americans. And what was further explored and noted is that healthcare workers are starting to face the consequences.

The panel with the President of Mass Gen. Hospital, David Brown, and the Secretary of Health Massachusetts, Kate Walsh, widely acknowledge the issue: the U.S. is facing a shortage of healthcare workers, and hospitals are getting over-run. At first this was a COVID-19 related issue but has persisted even in face of a vaccines, boosters, etc. That is due to effects of long-COVID but also the exacerbation of an already existing problem – an aging population. Most adults in the U.S. are living longer, and our country’s annual birth-rate has declined over the past 10 years. With an aging population, comes more frequent healthcare needs – and a wide recognition of adults taking better care of themselves.

The issue of an aging population was something I was looking into 5 years ago, prior to the pandemic, as part of my work as a podcaster in digital health, connection to the startup space and professional life in the healthcare world. Finally, this issue was being brought to the forefront by policymakers and healthcare participants. This included the need to look critically at-home health as a potential solution. Some of the things discussed included: digital technology to support healthcare at home, apps to triage needs to appropriate providers, and wider selection of options to circumvent needs. These topics were now front and center of the healthcare continuum discussion today.

It was rewarding to see years of research and work in the making become the spotlight topic – because it’s true. How will our healthcare system endure with the level of need that will be experienced by majority of Americans? This was the feeling that led to the snacking where participants started ideating and chatting on topics to solve patient needs. Including myself.

I found myself with a better understanding of the room and the imparting feeling after the conference ended: we need better collaboration in the healthcare system. WMIF certainly noted the importance.

Final Thoughts:

Pharma, healthcare, payers, institutions and all players in between need to cooperate for the future of the healthcare system to succeed. From the view of someone who worked closely in the healthcare space and frequently connected with startups addressing issues in health through digital technologies, there’s still work left to do. We don’t know what pandemic might loom in the future, we don’t know how long humanity will live (increasing average lifespans year over year), and we don’t know what other diseases the next concern for global populations may be to prevent. What was certainly learned from the prior pandemic is that collaboration creates ease and ultimately benefits patients and their outcomes. And it will be needed for the current needs across the healthcare system, the aging population and future issues mentioned that we don’t know about.

Why don’t we continue more of that collaboration….

It makes me question to all of us as participants in our healthcare system: How will you contribute to patient needs? What can you do to improve patient lives? It’s clear that collaboration can lead to better outcomes. Maybe that is a call to a distant friend working in biotech, or a call to your local health agency to offer a comment…or even an idea. 🙂

I’m optimistic to see changes to the healthcare and driven to return to the space that always kept me up problem-solving day after day.

Until next time…

IB / Massnext News Team

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