Jen Horonjeff, a affected person with an auto-immune illness, wore a hospital robe on stage throughout her panel on the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in Jan. 2020 to remind attendees to concentrate on sufferers.
Thousands of well being executives descended on San Francisco this week for the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference to pitch their corporations, forge offers and focus on the way forward for the $3.5 trillion well being sector.
Conversations unfolded in espresso outlets and bars, and at a slew of unofficial occasions, but additionally in public displays, the place executives talked up their companies.
Here are among the greatest themes up to now:
What is digital well being?
Some attendees felt the dearth of a transparent definition for “digital health” is perhaps hurting the sector.
Digital well being is broadly thought of the intersection of well being and expertise, however the time period is so over-used and over-hyped, it is not clear what it means.
Players within the area exhibit large variations in high quality and method. Some corporations are profitable over medical doctors by funding scientific research that present their options could make a distinction to sufferers. Some are getting their software program instruments cleared by federal regulators.
At the identical time, some wellness apps and instruments routinely outlined as “digital health” are in truth working on the fringes of the medical sector.
All of these merchandise are lumped collectively — and that might be drawback. American Medical Association CEO James Madara known as for higher curation of those apps in order that medical doctors know whether or not they can suggest these new applied sciences to their sufferers.
Big tech’s march
The convention was as soon as primarily full of biotech and well being care executives and traders. Now, among the largest Silicon Valley corporations, together with Google dad or mum firm Alphabet and Salesforce, host occasions to speak concerning the roles that expertise like synthetic intelligence and cloud computing play in healthcare.
Not everyone seems to be satisfied that these corporations will be profitable. Google’s relationship with the well being system Ascension was introduced up a number of instances. The Wall Street Journal reported that the two companies struck a deal that concerned some Google workers accessing sufferers’ protected well being data, with out asking for consent within the course of. Google’s vice chairman of well being David Feinberg addressed considerations about affected person privateness this week at Startup Health, a J.P. Morgan Health satellite tv for pc occasion. He mentioned there will be public well being advantages to giving tech corporations entry to well being information, and highlighted the company’s efforts to detect breast most cancers in mammograms for instance.
Other corporations mentioned they wish to transfer into healthcare with out competing with incumbents. Peter Lee, Microsoft’s company vice chairman of well being, instructed CNBC that Microsoft is forging partnerships with the medical business (it already has offers with drug makers and well being plans like Novartis, Humana and others), relatively than competing with incumbents. Lee mentioned many customers do not belief tech corporations to safeguard their delicate medical data.
Attendees requested most of the well being executives at J.P. Morgan to deal with subject of drug pricing, which is an increasingly important topic in Washington, D.C. Drug corporations kicked off the yr by raising the cost of many of their treatments by about 5 %.
Pharmaceutical corporations routinely identified on stage that it costs more than $2 billion to develop a new drug, and that the United States foots the bill for the majority of this R&D in comparison with different international locations. That’s true, however it’s additionally the case that sufferers are getting routinely bankrupted by medical debt — and so they aren’t in different elements of the world.
One new effort that received a number of buzz on the convention this yr is an formidable start-up that’s making an attempt to deal with the drug pricing drawback. EQRx, which is backed by a mixture of well being and tech traders together with Alphabet and ARCH Venture Partners, launched this week with a aim to undercut the value of medicine. The firm instructed CNBC that it goals to get 10 new medication authorized within the subsequent decade, however declined to specify its first set of targets.
The lack of variety
JPM doesn’t draw a very numerous crowd. The attendees are typically white, male and wearing and Patagonia vests. There are at all times tweets on the subject, which is placing extra concentrate on bringing new voices to panels and displays.
But these adjustments are occurring slowly, partially as a result of there is a lack of variety within the c-suite throughout all sectors — and health care is no exception.
Where are the sufferers?
One of the highlights of this yr’s convention concerned one affected person with an auto-immune illness, Jen Horonjeff, sporting a hospital robe on stage at her panel.
Horonjeff, who began the hashtag #askpatients and can also be a affected person advocate, famous in a tweet that she determined to put on the robe to “highlight the power imbalance between decision-makers and end users.” She famous that sufferers are sometimes “stripped of agency and blamed when they don’t comply.”
Horonjeff has a degree. Patients are sometimes invited, however hardly ever effectively represented at well being conferences. Their perspective is usually overshadowed in a sea of conversations about methods to make higher monetary returns within the sector.