|Part 5 of our Capital Group series, ‘a guide to the world in 2030’ centres around health care innovation.
According to equity portfolio manager, Rich Wolf
Star Trek depicted a far-off future where space explorers travelled the galaxies equipped with cutting edge technology such as the tricorder, a hand-held medical device that scanned a person’s vital signs, issued a diagnosis and prescribed treatment in minutes. While I don’t think we’ll have tricorders, I suspect that by 2030 many of us will have devices that will analyse blood, do cardiology monitoring and even remotely check our breathing while we sleep, some of which are already available.
We are already experiencing a massive wave of innovation across the health care sector that will drive new opportunity for companies, potentially reduce overall costs and, most importantly, improve outcomes for patients. Breakthroughs in diagnostics may lead to earlier detection of illnesses, or in some cases treat disease before it progresses. Genetic testing equipment maker Illumina and research and manufacturing company Thermo Fisher Scientific are providing services to a host of drug developers. One of the most exciting things is the liquid biopsy, whereby a sample of your blood can be used to identify cancer at its earliest stages.
Much of the recent focus has been on the pandemic and vaccine development. These are very important, but we have also been looking over the horizon, trying to determine how health care will transform itself and how we can invest in those shifts.
Whilst Wolf’s predictions for 2030 look past a COVID world we can’t but help take a moment to reflect on what the pandemic has meant for healthcare innovation – Life and business will never be the same for this sector; everything from how patients see their doctors and get treated to how hospitals use tools and share information is forever altered.
The value of healthcare infrastructure
Approximately 18 months ago, healthcare systems around the world were overwhelmed by an unknown virus and without the resources to deal with it. Communities confronted a variety of unprecedented shortages: Healthcare workers across the country and globe were scrambling for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); hospitals were running out of supplies, beds and the human resources to treat Covid infected patients; medication supplies were dwindling and in some countries, crematoriums were being overrun.
Similarly, 12 months later, as vaccines are being fast-tracked, distribution to communities became the new challenge. Many countries were forced to harness military resources for distribution, enable new digital platforms to track vaccine roll-out and contact tracing, and policy experts to coordinate between local and federal jurisdictions.
The healthcare industry continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic with innovation and grit. Many organisations pivoted to allow nonessential workers to work remotely. They erected field hospitals in parking lots and converted nonclinical spaces into auxiliary ICUs. Physicians turned to virtual visits to continue providing care (telehealth platforms). They sought out alternative suppliers for essential PPE. In a turbulent environment, a host of ingenious solutions surfaced to help bolster the healthcare system itself.
We now live in a world where providing tools patients need to understand and manage their own health and sharing data with trusted partners and expanding access to care is the norm.
From digital vaccine passports, to contact tracing, and now, more recently, harnessing big data to navigate the vaccine distribution process, the pandemic has reiterated how critical the role of technology is in healthcare.
The silver lining here (if there is such a thing) is the innovation COVID has spawned: what was learned, how it was implemented, and now, how it can be sustained going forward.