Time for Some Healthcare New Year's Resolutions

It’s that time of year for many people to head off for a festive break before seeing out the year. It’s a time for reflection – on what has been good and bad about 2015 – and the chance to make pledges to do things better in 2016.

Healthcare has seen some real evolution this year. The value of patient engagement has started to be truly recognized by all the other stakeholders to elevate patient centricity above being another buzzword. In addition, the potential for big data to revolutionize management of wellness and disease is also becoming a reality as technology advances and allies with a growing focus on personalized healthcare, shifting everyone’s focus.

So what would I recommend as New Year’s Resolutions for different healthcare stakeholders?

Patients: become more active in your own health

At the vanguard of patient empowerment we are seeing individuals who are tracking their own health using all the tools now available to them. But more than that, they have the confidence to know their voice has at least equal weight versus others in staying healthy and treating any disease. They are no longer passive recipients of medical advice; they are proactive champions of the quantified self and challengers of traditional health system hierarchies. In 2016, more patients should move down this path and engage on even terms with the other stakeholders. It will benefit everyone.

Healthcare providers: accept your role has changed

In light of patient empowerment, healthcare providers – doctors, nurses and all others on the front line of medical intervention – should accept that the dynamic of their role has changed. Yes, time is extremely limited; yes, the hours are long; yes, resources are limited; and yes, there is a great deal of misinformation to contend with. But fighting it will not change the direction of travel. Instead, use your medical expertise and training to help guide patients though their journey and, in doing so, keep learning yourself. Your role is critical so don’t stand still in such as fast-changing environment.

Regulators: think beyond medicines

Regulatory approval for medical apps and engagement with new technology companies like 23andMe has shown that regulators, such as FDA and EMA, are accepting that controlling use of medicines is just one aspect of their role. Delivering the right outcomes often necessitates a mix of medicine, support and technology. In 2016, the regulators must continue to upskill around being able to assess which interventions will make a difference, traditional medicine or not.

Payers: broaden your view of outcomes

With all markets struggling with aging populations and limited budgets for their health systems, the payer – in whatever guise – is becoming ever more critical in determining patient access to medical interventions. But with great power comes great responsibility and the calculations behind which treatments are funded and which are not (which in some cases bluntly means who lives and who dies) cannot be simply on the basis of extra time versus cost. Payers must continue to assess their definition of good outcomes and adapt, listening to others, the models they use to distribute funding against them.

Technology companies: work more closely with pharma

Technology is cool and health technology is super cool. Everyone is talking, including me, about an Uber for pharma; the technology business that will disrupt healthcare so much it could render the pharmaceutical industry redundant. To some degree such disruptive thinking is good, as technology companies come in with a fresh perspective and consumer-focused mind-set that challenges the existing players in a good way. But the reality is that the pharmaceutical industry has years upon years of experience in countless disease areas and markets. So don’t seek to displace them, seek to work with them. In 2016, new technology companies in healthcare should seek that win-win with older, more experienced providers.

Pharma: begin with the end in mind

And finally to pharma. With suitable acknowledgement of a phrase made famous by the late Stephen Covey, the pharmaceutical industry should focus every effort in 2016 to begin with the end in mind, which should be healthier people, living longer and happier lives. Achieving that means taking  a more consumer-driven approach that, at every stage from early development to lifecycle management, looks to understand the real-world challenges and solutions. This means evolving R&D processes, more two-way commercial engagement and continuing to collaborate more with other parts of the solution – all of the above groups and more.

In 2016, individual companies and people adopting resolutions like these will shift the healthcare needle in the right direction. If enough of them do so, 2016 could be real tipping point for health.

Wishing all of you a very happy and prosperous New Year!

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