The Future of Healthcare: An Interview with Health Futurist Jeff Bauer

Special thanks to our friend Ellen Hoenig of AdvanceMarketWoRx for providing us with the following interview…

For those of you like me who were unable to attend the Digital Pharma West (DP West) Conference June 27-30, 2011 (#digpharm), you missed a fascinating presentation by Jeff Bauer, Ph.D., a health futurist and medical economist, called Forecasting the Future of Health Care: Challenges & Opportunities.

Fortunately, I had a chance to speak with Jeff and delve into his presentation and insights. Trained as a meteorologist, an economist and a medical professor, he is uniquely qualified to “forecast-not predict” the future of healthcare… Here are five key takeaways we’d all be wise to integrate into our thinking: 1. Pharma: Stop trying to predict the future of healthcare; best to use forecasting tools. Why? Forecasting doesn’t assume continuation of historic relationships and importantly, it projects multiple outcomes with different odds of occuring. This empowers strategy to influence different outcomes…simultaneously…and not focus responsive action on the one predicted outcome which in the end is likely not to happen. Using a forecasted approach enables customer solutions for different problems and less one- size- fits- all solutions. “The healthcare market is going to be organized in a lot of different ways, and not by one single payer, for example.” Best to consider and juggle multiple scenarios…


2. The clinical paradigm is shifting from one-size-fits-all to highly personalized-predictive molecular medicine. This will support the continued move from the blockbuster to increased poly-pharmacy…and also spur a major shift from ‘surgical corrections to health problems’ to ‘pharmaceutical management of health problems’. According to Jeff, “We’re moving from the one-size-fits-all disease. It used to be that if you had lung cancer, HIV, or any other disease, it was thought that you had the same disease as anyone else with the particular diagnosis. Now we’re learning that there are remarkable differences…As recently as 10 years ago, each cancer was thought to be a single disease that pathologists would stage I-IV. Now we know that for breast cancer, for example, there are five or six, maybe even eight or 10 different genetic sets of instructions embedded at the level of proteins within the malignant cell and so on…each with a potentially different ideal treatment…Instead of there being 30 different cancers of the organ systems, we’re now looking at hundreds of different cancers at the cellular level, which affect different organs differently…In other words, we’ve gone from looking for the block buster, the 30 blockbusters that would cure the cancers of the different organs to now looking for hundreds of orphan drugs…We’re learning that each and every isease is pretty complex.”

3. Healthcare will become remarkably diverse. On-going changes in the American population (cultural, racial and ethnic diversification) are changing the health problems that providers will be expected to treat. Jeff’s slide of Cancer Rates among Asian Americans is telling. For example, while Caucasian Americans have low rates of liver and stomach cancer, prevalence is significantly higher among Korean and Vietnamese Americans. New disease patterns will increase the relative importance of pharmaceutical therapy.


4. The healthcare future is digital data systems. The database for effective healthcare will shift from paper records to integrated, multi-platform networks of digital data. Jeff’s point: “Don’t just sell the drug, but help organize the community… The future is not just having the drug and then letting the patient and the doctor work it out, it’s having the website, organizing the patient groups, educating the families that have the pre-condition, supporting social networks to help with not just the marketing, but the management of the disease…” Other implications:

  • Communications and information technologies will be the necessary foundation of good medical practice.
  • Looking forward, telemedicine (virtual visits) will replace a substantial portion of hands-on care.
  • Digital information systems will enable real-time comparative effectiveness research (CER).
  • E-health and social media tools will enhance patient-provider interactions and improve patient behavior.

5. The complexities of health care economics and reform are such that no single stakeholder can solve its problems by itself. It will take creative partnerships of providers, payers, purchasers, and vendors to build successful new business models.

  • All medical enterprises must adopt better ways of doing business by replacing traditional operations with efficient and effective production processes…Jeff’s point: with economic constraints in place for healthcare’s foreseeable future, the goal for all providers of healthcare must be: Doing it right all the time, as inexpensively as possible!
  • Use the digital tools of pharmaceutical marketing to promote efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare. Look to actively pursue appropriate integration of marketing and clinical information exchanges. Promote marketing’s potential contributions to clinical practice improvement efforts (Phase IV completion, adherence, appropriate use).
  • Pharma should be accountable for improving the medical marketplace and delivery system within the new economic reality of fixed resources. This will take collaboration to help ensure that healthcare is provided correctly all the time, as inexpensively as possible…doing more with less.

By: Ellen Hoenig, AdvanceMarketWoRx

CATEGORY: Healthcare
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