5 things we learned from the 2016 UPS Healthcare Forum

Blue stethoscope placed on top of a laptop keyboard in a hospital.

From a revitalized healthcare economy to increased data and connectivity, when it comes to the state of healthcare, the only constant will be change.

Each year, the UPS Healthcare Forum brings together industry leaders and logistics experts to discuss the state of healthcare and healthcare logistics and wider issues affecting the industry – from innovation to legislation. The most recent forum was held in June.

The new health economy is here, and it's driven by consumers.

Here are the top five takeaways from the presentations and panel discussions:

1. The new health economy is here, and it's driven by consumers. Like it or not, there's a new health economy with rules based principally on changes in reimbursement, how the value of healthcare services is assessed, and the "consumerization" of the patient population. New technology enablers, new point-of-care venues and new products (especially those that connect via smartphones) are enabling patients to gain more insight into their conditions and make decisions for themselves outside the four walls of traditional care facilities. New opportunities, consequently, are everywhere.

2. Data and connectivity are changing everything. Healthcare is generating more data than ever before, and how that information is used and interacts is changing the face of the industry. And the data giants with the huge research budgets may be best placed to succeed with new products and services in this era. One analysis of basic services that are provided today in hospitals or clinical settings suggested that these new entrants could acquire about $65 billion in U.S. healthcare revenue by providing the traditional services differently – for example, consulting with doctors via face-to-face cellphone services.

3. Healthcare appears set to make a giant leap forward. The emergence of nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, gene editing, robotics and 3D printing may have put healthcare on the brink of a period of rapid advance. Scientists are already using organic nano-carriers to deliver chemotherapy drugs straight into brain tumors. Companies like IBM and Google are spending millions of dollars on artificial intelligence research. So-called "crisper" gene editing gives scientists a "word processor for genes," making it possible to copy, paste and insert genetic components with more ease and precision and at significantly lower cost. In robotics, scientists are testing fully autonomous robotic surgery. And in 3D printing, a California company can print liver tissue, so the effects of drugs on the organ can be assessed without human testing.

4. The rate of innovation has never been higher. Change and innovation are being driven most intensely by consumers who have those smartphones in their pocket and who bring the same expectations of transparency, ease of use and clarity around value from the world of apps to the world of healthcare. The entrepreneurs who may win in this space are those who understand that individuals are no longer just patients; they are also consumers. Plus, consumers in this space expect to be met on their terms – a new and challenging proposition for traditional healthcare companies. 

5. The Affordable Care Act poses challenges. Panelists from the pharmacy, medical device, medical supply and care provider sectors on the UPS Healthcare Forum's Leadership panel agreed that the Affordable Care Act has benefited American patients. However, continuing problems in recruiting the desired risk pool means not enough healthy people are coming into the exchange, so the population that has engaged is collectively a higher risk pool that needs more care – and is expensive to care for. Therefore, further challenges lie ahead, the panel agreed.


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