Health Ideas Aspen 2022

30 June 2022
Posted by: Danny Flamberg

I had the great privilege to attend Aspen Ideas Health last week at the Aspen Institute. Allow me to share some of the ideas presented. I hope you find this brief recap interesting or useful.

The crowd was a mix of senior and mid-level professionals from government, academia, medicine (practitioners, researchers, and institutions), educators, journalists, and communicators. Current and former heads of HHS, FDA, CDC, and White House COVID taskforce participated in panel discussions.

Three Big Themes

Underlying the sessions were three dominant concerns that were woven throughout.

  • Health diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) was discussed and defined at length as were many ideas for remedying the situation.
  • The complexity of our healthcare system was also a recurring theme because there are so many players and layers connected and disconnected, many with their own priorities and agendas. Getting something significant changed or done requires incredible political, scientific, technological, cultural, and regulatory alignment over time.
  • There is a constant tension between the need for privacy and the need to gather and process vast amounts of data to support the development of predictive and performance medical care. Balancing these goals was a major topic.

Ideas That Caught my Attention

Meet Patients Where They Are. Inclusion, diagnosis, and treatment require patients with trust in the healthcare system, willing to show up and share information with doctors and other HCPs. This is not a given or a universal practice since attitudes about and behavior toward medical treatment are impacted by culture, geography, education, income, personal or family experience, and racism. Leveraging or overcoming these perspectives is critical to improve access to care and promote better public health.

Bringing this idea to life requires direct conversation with distinct populations and segments to understand their needs and build programs to address them. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Different groups have different needs ranging from addressing seniors, the diabetes epidemic or super-serving the lower income crowd. In Philadelphia, Tulsa, and Baltimore health advocates intercepted patients at times and places that are part of their normal routine. They reached challenged populations by placing trained health workers in laundromats, barber shops and grocery stores and activating people through word-of-mouth messaging with information about and access to practitioners skilled in addressing the disease profile for each area.

Rebuilding the Doctor-Patient Relationship

COVID disrupted everything, especially the expectations of doctors, HCPs and patients. By exposing gaps and bias in the healthcare system and interrupting treatment for many of the leading causes of death (heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and obesity) access to and attitudes about care have significantly changed. Patients want HCPs to show up (in-person and via telemed), listen, react, and be available when needed. They want clear explanations, respectful interactions and a relationship that goes beyond clinical transactions.

HCPs want to do more medicine and less paperwork. They want to reclaim information authority from “Dr. Google” and spend more time with patients. Both sides seem to want similar things, though the competitive marketplace among institutions and the deciding role of payers and insurance companies define the status quo operationally even though patient satisfaction is becoming a key performance indicator (KPI) of institutional success.

Future Therapies & Medical Research

Immunology, RNA-DNA, and precision medicine are the positive assets coming out of the pandemic. There is growing consensus that the gene system can be used to fight and potentially cure cancer and that virtually any gene can be targeted. The speed of the RNA-based COVID vaccines has energized the search for more precise ways to target selected cells and specific pathways, the medical equivalent of a cruise missile.

There is similar heightened interest in brain science and brain mapping. Researchers are looking at ways to stimulate specific areas of the brain during surgery or by using implants. Experiments are underway to treat depression and Parkinson’s disease.

Information Issues

There was a lot of talk about misinformation and disinformation coming out of the pandemic.

A lack of government synchronization combined with conflicting political agendas and anti-vax advocates muddied the waters and potentially caused deaths that could have been avoided. Both the FDA Commissioner, the former White House COVID leader, and the CDC Administrator admitted mistakes and inconsistencies in sharing information. This is complicated by the different authorities, missions, and legal requirements assigned to each government agency.

Everyone agreed better communication and alignment is needed. No one proposed a plan.

Digital Health and Advanced Technology

Devices powered by artificial intelligence (AI) or refined using machine learning (ML) came up a lot. Researchers are working on devices, wearables, apps and implants that collect, monitor, transmit and assess data from inside and outside our bodies. Focus is on integrated systems within the body. Each lane has its unique technical, operational, privacy and economic challenges. There is little interoperability among existing digital health tools.

According to one panelist, most of the new technology in the pipeline isn’t relevant to treatment needs and can’t be integrated into existing IT systems, like EMRs. This is a risky arena driven by venture capitalists who are seeking out new pain points and new audiences.

Conclusion

As I reflect on where the healthcare industry is headed and the many opportunities to drive change, LiveWorld is addressing many of these issues in the healthcare, pharma, and hospital arenas.

  •  We are building online communities to meet patients where they are and to facilitate more frequent and more meaningful on-going connections.
  • We have recognized the scramble for COVID treatment information and the need for continuous HCP peer-to-peer engagement by identifying emerging digital opinion leaders (DOLs) and understanding the social media capabilities of private groups and physician-only communities.
  • We are combatting misinformation and disinformation by conducting first party research, trafficking genuine compliant clinical data, and identifying credible sources.

Reach out to the author, Danny Flamberg, VP Strategy – HCP, LiveWorld, to learn more about digital and social agency services for the healthcare and pharma industry. danny@liveworld.com

###
Author: Danny Flamberg, VP, HCP Strategy, LiveWorld