JPM 2018 Takeaways You Need to Know

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JPM 2018 Takeaways You Need to Know


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Author: Nick Au, HTF Director of Partnerships 

The annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco is the biggest gathering of investors, entrepreneurs, and other healthcare and life sciences professionals in the nation. Through intense networking and speaker sessions throughout the week from both the main conference and the events ongoing around it, the meeting sets the tone for what is yet to come for healthcare. Investment in the healthcare industry is hot, opportunities for innovation remain wide, and there’s no sign of this changing anytime soon.

There are a plethora of takeaways from the activities that occurred during JPM. But what insights are really going to shape our perspectives and allow us to take action as forward-thinking innovators and industry leaders?

Let’s start the main themes.  These ideas aren’t new, but anyone who attended JPM 2018 would likely have at least some familiarity by now to the following points:

  • Big data in healthcare is a big deal. Healthcare is set to undergo transformational changes through greater access to healthcare data and the technology to take action with it. Data transparency in healthcare has made available more data today about payers, providers, and patients than we know what to do with, often unstructured and fragmented from different sources.  It’s as if someone unlocked an old file cabinet and said  “Here’s everything you need. Figure out what it means and tell me what to do later.”  The challenge will be how to derive insights and make informed decisions from the big data we have.  Are we gathering data from the right sources? Are we asking the right questions? Is the data even correct? Thinking along these lines (and beyond) about healthcare data will be essential to attaining outcomes that matter and continue to improve the technology we used to achieve them.
  • Healthcare continues to pursue value.  The U.S. healthcare system has been slowly shifting towards a value-based care model, which is about incentivizing payment models that favor a reduction in costs and better outcomes rather than by the volume at which it’s delivered. In other words, it’s about how the system can get the most bang-for-the-buck.  What value means to each industry segment may vary and not only involves restructuring organization to adapt to these changes but also that new technologies and treatments will be heavily evaluated to understand the value they propose. This keeps the bar high for innovators to make sure that they don’t just have a product looking for a problem, but that it’s the right product for the right problem.  
  • Consumers want more engagement with their health. With improved access to technology, the next generation of patients is thinking more broadly about their own health. From wearables to mobile apps to personalized genetic testing, there are more tools available now to personalize care and technology around the patient. This doesn’t just create better opportunities for patient-centered care, but also patient-driven care that allows more inclusion of patient perspectives in shared-decision making as they become increasingly engaged with their health.

Aside from the above topics that have taken mainstream focus at JPM 2018, there were interesting points brought up by side panels and networking discussions.  These have received less prominent attention for the week, but are equally important trends to pay attention to:

  1. China grows its presence in U.S. healthcare and life sciences.  The WuXi Global Forum 2018 during JPM had over 2000 attendees filling the meeting room, with a strong presence of overseas visitors from China. The excited attendees I met generally fell into two categories: 1) they were interested in making investments from China to the U.S. market, particularly pharmaceuticals or health technology products, or 2) they were looking to introduce new products from the U.S. to China.  We can see evidence of China’s openness to international innovation by recent reform that occurred within the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA). As mentioned by the conference speaker Jim Greenwood, President and CEO of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), the CFDA grew its reviewing staff 5-fold from 120 members in 2015 to 600 in 2016 and dramatically reshaped its guidelines to favor faster approvals.  The opportunity is certainly bigger than ever for entrepreneurs identify the right partners from China.
  2. Digitizing the pharma industry. With heavy competition between drugs, pharma companies are looking for other avenues to stay ahead.  One such strategy is evaluating what technologies can bring value to the company by reducing R&D costs, accelerating the drug development process, or enhancing their current product offerings. These technologies could include those that improve medication adherence or ones that package a drug with a tech product, like a mobile app or wearable.  Pharma will likely continue to seek more partnerships with tech companies that can help them grow in this area.  The commercial incentives are there and tech companies seeking successful partnerships will need to think along the lines of pharma by providing data through efforts like a clinical trial to back up the value their products bring.
  3. Innovation in behavioral health is on the rise. Senseless tragedies appearing in the media this past year have caused us to re-evaluate how our care model is addressing mental health concerns.  Whether it’s depression, anxiety, PTSD, substance abuse, or ADHD, the conclusions have not changed: individuals suffering from mental health issues remain stigmatized by society and their ability to access to mental health resources is inadequate. Companies like Meru Health, Spire, Devee Health, WeConnect, Karuna Labs, Limbix, Realiteer face the challenging task of developing solutions that create measurable, positive outcomes through a change in human behavior and we can expect to see more of this in 2018.  Also, we can look forward to seeing more initiatives that raise awareness of behavioral health, such the San Francisco Bay Area initiative on depression that our partners at 2-Minute Mind Check are working on.

Overall, JPM 2018 has given attendees great insights into the state of healthcare. There is undoubtedly much to look forward to in seeing how big data helps define value in the system and enhances patient engagement. We as innovators and entrepreneurs will have more than enough to keep us busy.

Let’s come together for health.

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