Defining themes of the future
Last night, I was at a graduate student class presentation at NYU on the future of media. The focus was on four scenarios around automation, surveillance, semantic web, and the rise of women as global catalysts. Thought-provoking as each scenario was, it got me thinking about the future of healthcare in exactly these terms — the role of automation from treatment decision support to robot-assisted surgery, the activation of remote tracking and monitoring of patient compliance and biometrics, peer-enabled learning and disease management for both physicians and patients, and the role of gender, race, and genetics in screening and treating diseases in the future. These are all central themes that will shape the future of healthcare.
Personalized data-driven interventions
It’s quite clear that the personal health tracking data that drives interventions will increasingly be the differentiating factor in care, given the increasingly generics-driven marketplace that most common disease conditions are facing. Innovation will begin to shift from compound to delivery — from biochemistry to technology — not just for pharmaceutical drugs, but across the spectrum of consumer products. And there’s ample evidence of this emerging theme. Whether it’s food delivery via Seamless, or car services like Uber, convenience is the new quality.
There are many examples within healthcare such as the new generation of insulin pumps that deliver the right dose of drug based on the blood glucose level constantly being monitored. It’s still our grandfathers’ insulin, just delivered smarter. Or the delivery of existing compounds from pain patches to extended delivery of oral patches (inside the cheek) for opioid addiction such as Bunavail. What often separates such emerging innovation is the delivery mechanism, or seemingly small yet unique differentiators that are valued by customers. The much anticipated Apple Watch has the “taptic” technology (a twist on haptic) which creates a tapping sensation on the wrist, thereby adding a unique yet valuable experience that is expected to be more discreet from buzzing, ringing, or flashing. This is the world accepting that a differentiated experience aka convenience as quality.
But does convenience by and of itself add value?
I imagine this question splits the world into traditionalists and futurists. But I think the question of the value of convenience in the context of healthcare boils down to one question: Does a more convenient drug delivery system lead to better outcomes? If the answer is yes, then convenience offers a quantifiable value by doing so — even if it is by making up for the foibles of human inconsistencies, especially when it comes to medication adherence.
On a more esoteric level, if the daily toll of taking care of our biological mechanics can be mitigated through technological innovation, then why not help humanity climb Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid to achieve our desire for self-actualization!