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What I Learned at The Global Leaders in Healthcare Forum
I recently participated in the Second Annual Global Leaders in Healthcare Forum, held January 11 in San Francisco. As a healthcare blogger, author, and cardiologist, my role was to moderate a conversation focused on cardiology. My professional focus has always been the care of my patients and keeping up with the latest medical research that impacts my practice of cardiology, although recent changes in the delivery and economics of healthcare have compelled me to expand my horizons to include a greater understanding of the business end of things. That is why I was fascinated by the opportunity to participate in a conference that attracted over 350 senior executives in the industry, and that focused on the business, finance, and technology of global healthcare innovations.
The wide range of participants included past and present CEOs of major pharmaceutical companies, international leaders from both established and start-up biotech research groups, academic luminaries, and major players in the financial world whose job it is to invest in healthcare innovations. Discussions ranged from the challenges of delivering basic healthcare to impoverished third world countries to the economics of investment in cutting-edge pharmaceutical research to technological advances in nursing home care.
There is no doubt that our current uncertain political and economic climate is having something of a chilling effect on healthcare innovation. While there is no shortage of brilliant and dedicated researchers, funding for their work is becoming harder to come by. Investors are leery of jumping in and taking a risk on an unproven treatment or technology, and are demanding more “bang for the buck.” Although I and most of my physician colleagues don’t always realize it, all medical innovations require a host of individuals and companies that are willing to take a chance on something unproven.
Also discussed was the tremendous cost and challenges of delivering basic healthcare in this country. Rates of largely preventable chronic diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, lung disease, and arthritis, continue to soar. Obesity, fast food, and a sedentary way of life are major contributors. As a country, we have to find ways to both educate and motivate people to make healthy changes for their own well-being, and for the health of our healthcare system.
Although no one had a simple solution to the problems we face, the interactions, conversations, and thought-provoking discussions have helped to define new directions that may create important inroads into the issues that will impact all of us. It is heartening to realize that innovation and collaboration are alive and well.
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