Saving the Health System Through Partnerships

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7th April

On Thursday 30th March, the second annual Mobilising Business conference took place at Imperial College Business School. This year’s topic, Acting on Future Healthcare, comes at a time when not only the NHS is facing problems, but when health systems globally are facing intense pressure to improve their quality of care whilst simultaneously reducing costs. Co-chair, Professor James Barlow (Chair in Technology and Innovation Management here at Imperial Business School), cited two main questions as overarching themes for the day: how are big companies innovating to help meet the big challenges that all health systems are facing? How can we deliver more, and better, healthcare affordably? 

A vast array of topics from a dynamic body of speakers engaged delegates throughout the day. Leading academics in the field from Harvard, Oxford and Imperial joined industry leaders including KPMG, the World Health Organisation, the NHS, IBM, Nestle, ARUP and Four Seasons Healthcare to discuss vital solutions for the challenges facing the future of healthcare. Topics included ‘The global health challenge – needs, demands, cost and access’, ‘Harnessing innovation for sustainable global health’ and ‘Funding innovation.’

Dr. Mark Britnell, Chairman and Partner of the Global Health Practice at KPMG, discussed the huge misalignments we face in the healthcare industry and the need to challenge the prevailing political conscious in order to overcome this. Whilst we have made extraordinary gains in the longevity of life, millions still face unnecessary suffering and death. He pointed towards the findings from the WEF report, which claims that better-aligned healthcare spend and policy could add four years to population expectancy. Whilst there is no such thing as a perfect health system, innovation in business models is integral to gain the full benefits from the resources we already have. Better global cooperation is of the utmost importance, perhaps looking toward more successful systems in place in Israel, Singapore and Turkey. Dr. Britnell ended his keynote by suggesting that universities and businesses need to come together, on a global scale, to find a healthcare system that works.

Throughout the day, many speakers noted the desperate need for disruptive innovation within the industry. Notably, in a conversation between Wendy Belluomini of IBM and Frank Lehmann of Nestle, it was discussed that both companies have the potential to change the landscape of healthcare innovation in the future. IBM Research is focusing on bringing AI technologies to the workplace in order to help individuals to become more productive and time efficient. Nestle cites nutrition as an emerging science, and with more investment now than ever, it’s a huge opportunity for new technology to come into play. This, in turn, raised the question of what can be done in the healthcare system not to cure illnesses but to prevent them. Frank Lehmann noted that instead of fighting obesity, the healthcare and food industries should be working together to prevent obesity.

The afternoon breakout session on shaping new models of care allowed delegates to engage in stimulating conversation centering on various issues that were raised throughout the day. There was lots of talk surrounding the rigidity of the system, harking back to misaligned incentives discussed earlier in the day, as well as KPIs not linking to payment systems. One group raised the issue that the healthcare system doesn’t currently challenge users over having bad health; over 30% of the population are obese or overweight, yet a 1950s business model is in place where they assume that the problem will be solved by someone else. Suggested solutions to this problem include the need to empower patients; to implement a system that is designed around the users. This is also true of user data; there’s masses of big data out there and even more challenges when using this data. Users need to be involved in the use of their data, especially the sceptical over 60s.

The healthcare industry moves faster than almost any other. Professor Barlow noted that advances in medicine are thought to double every five years, and although technology enables change, it’s only part of the picture. There is an archaic model which businesses are running against; and a sustainable system that deals with misalignment is crucial to develop new thinking surrounding service delivery. Co-chair Dr. Laure de Preux (Assistant Professor, Imperial College) concluded the day by suggesting that partnerships have the power to reduce inefficiency in the delivery of healthcare. The problem with implementing innovation can also be alleviated with growing partnerships; all structures require collaboration to grow.

A recording of the conference is available to view here.

Executive Education offers an Advanced Management Programme on Health Innovation, supported by the EIT Health Network. The program allows seasoned professionals to engage in intense debate with top-tier colleagues and faculty members on the key issues affecting healthcare innovation and delivery today. By challenging each other, and sharing their knowledge and experience, participants gain new management insights and come away with stronger decision-making and implementation skills.

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