Healthcare: Putting the Patient First

As the rise of biotech industries merges with the United States hitting 10 million patents, the science has never been better for breakthroughs in life sciences and advancements in public health. On Tuesday, July 17, The Atlantic hosted the State of Care: Innovations and Access forum to discuss healthcare’s future.

Heather Bresch, CEO of Mylan, was most excited about innovations in personalized medicine. She noted that 80 percent of immunological diseases affect women more than men, and that we don’t know why. Heart disease was formerly considered something that only affected men, and now we know that it not only affects both sexes, but symptoms present themselves more subtly, and more frequently, in women.

Serving as a first-hand example of the importance of personalized medicine and care was Roxanne Watson, WomenHeart Champion and patient advocate. Celebrating the eighth anniversary of her heart transplant, Roxanne shared how her organ donor, an EMT and airplane mechanic, saved her and four others with his liver, kidneys, lungs and heart.

While waiting two years for “the call” that her heart had arrived, Roxanne spent six weeks in a hospital. She got to a point where she was 95 pounds and “couldn’t do anything that required breathing.” Recalling her experience she said, “When I got to the hospital I had nothing,” with as much as $41 in the bank. She was one of the lucky ones in that the nurse’s response to her was “our job is to save your life” — and that made all the difference.

“When we talk about patient-centered, we have to do more than talk about it. We have to make sure that our clinicians and everybody is aware of us in the [hospital] bed.” – Roxanne Watson

David Ricks, Chairman and CEO of Eli Lilly and Company highlighted some recent health breakthroughs, noting heart disease mortality has dropped 40 percent, largely due to patents. Other highlights spanned genetic discoveries, such as mapping the human genome, gene therapy for blindness, and breast cancer – which is less fatal thanks to modern therapies.

But all experts called for a fairer healthcare pricing system.

“The United States makes up only 5 percent of the population, and consumes 50 percent of the word’s prescription medication, and has some of the worst health outcomes.” – Heather Bresch

Ricks added that in the last 50 years, as a country we’ve paid 15 cents for every dollar on drugs as a percentage of healthcare spending, the same as in 1967 when Medicare was adopted.  The issue, he said, is that, we’re shifting costs from federal and private programs to consumers, with patients absorbing the bulk of out of pocket costs. To put things in perspective, Ricks added, “By 2050 what we spend on Alzheimer’s disease will be greater than the Pentagon’s budget.”

“Four times as much, on average, patients pay for drugs, versus other services in the healthcare system. Why are we doing that? When medicines are probably the most efficient and effective way to treat any disease.” –David Ricks

The solution? Price transparency and patient priority. Bresch defended that healthcare, “is not really care if we’re not putting the patient first.”

But among all of the discussion and debate on the current state of care, the future of care looks bright. Pharmaceutical competition, innovative patents, biotechnology, and big data are pushing us into the therapies of tomorrow. If we can figure out how to pair those with a patient-centered approach, we’ll empower the nation in navigating cost, and not only better care for disease, but eradicate it.

“This is the century where we’re going to conquer serious disease in a major way.” – David Ricks

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