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5 Need-To-Know Healthcare Trends We Heard About at The Economist’s Health Care Forum

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Forum panelists, including Jonathan Bush, debate Obamacare at The Economist’s Health Care Forum. Photo via @TheIdeasEconomy.

Much of the “healthcare crisis” you keep hearing about is a direct result of increasing costs, rapidly aging populations, chronic diseases and infectious disease outbreaks – and an emerging middle class demanding greater transparency and access to high-quality healthcare. In response to this crisis, technology and data have emerged as key drivers, fueling healthcare reforms like Obamacare and other large scale projects.

Technology and data-driven solutions were discussed at The Economist’s 2014 Health Care Forum, which met on September 17th in Boston. We attended the event, so thought we’d bring you the top 5 need-to-know topics on the minds of speakers and panelists:

1. Congress is taking a fresh look at regulating healthcare innovation. We’ll soon begin to see a conversation between policy makers and regulators about the pace of healthcare innovation, said Chip Davis, executive vice president of advocacy and member relations at Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). He was talking about efforts by Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, to discuss what the Congressman calls the 3Ds: the discovery, development and delivery of innovative medicine.

“You’re going to begin to see more and more focus on that because people are recognizing that it’s right to ask these questions about the regulatory framework in the context of how long it takes to bring health innovation to market,” Davis said.

2. Employers pay $7,000 per employee for medical errors. And that’s for all employees – not just those personally impacted by medical errors, according to Leah Binder, president and chief executive of The Leapfrog Group, a Washington-based nonprofit that drives safety, quality and affordability initiatives within healthcare organizations. No wonder healthcare costs are slowly crawling upwards.

3. Humana is investing in 50 safe playgrounds to improve community health. Bruce Broussard, chief executive of Humana, a Louisville, Ky.-based health insurance company, talked about partnering with churches on health literacy projects, which could have a dramatic impact on people’s health. Humana has also partnered with communities by investing in 50 playgrounds over the last few years. We’re interested to see how this one plays out.

4. Consumers might be willing to pay for healthcare innovation – but that’s a big maybe. Chris Gordon, manufacturing director at Bain Capital, a Boston-based global alternative investment firm, discussed the potential impact of the Apple Watch and home health monitor devices on healthcare innovation. Today, he says, consumers will pay $100 a month for cable, but they’re not very willing to hand over $50 for a co-pay on their annual doctor’s visit.

“For this consumer innovation to break through, it’s going to have to be the kind of stuff that’s interesting enough that people are actually willing to pay for it themselves,” Gordon said.

5. We’re re-defining high-quality healthcare around the world. Quality doesn’t always involve the most technology or the most intervention – rather, it’s about the appropriate balance of technology and intervention. The challenge is to not perceive this blend as “second-class medicine” around the world, said Peter Berman, professor of the practice of global health systems and economics at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

Aine Cryts

Aine Cryts

    Aine (“ONya”) Cryts is an on-staff contributing writer for MedTech Boston. She's a political scientist by education, a writer and marketer by trade. She has written for various healthcare technology publications and also served as marketing director at several healthcare software companies in the Boston area. Cryts is an avid volunteer, pet lover and long-distance runner. Story ideas are always welcome.

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