By Adrien Châtillon, co-founder & CEO of Actipulse Neuroscience.
Despite living in a fast-paced world full of digitization and progressive technology, under the facade of equality and fairness, society’s disparities and social polarity are still thriving.
According to the United Nations, around 120 million more people have been pushed into poverty during the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, the United States Census Bureau reports that the country’s inequality rate reached the highest in 50 years and the most extensive index among the G7 nations, an informal grouping of seven of the world’s advanced economies containing Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United.
Prioritizing patients’ well-being is vital to provide accessible, democratized treatments for all in need might not be an easy problem to answer, but none of those needing solving the most are.
With increasing socio-economic inequality, good-quality healthcare must be viewed as a right, not a privilege. To overcome this barrier and democratize treatments for patients, let’s look at the steps that the healthcare system in the US needs to take.
Money Should Take the Backseat
In the United States, 1% of jobholders earn about 40 times more than the bottom 90%. Hence, how is it possible to receive equal health care in the US principal Bismark Model based on the rule of “the higher fee you pay, the better service you receive”? Those inequalities result in most people not being able to afford the quality healthcare they deserve. Everyone should be able to afford adequate and good-quality healthcare, no matter how much money they make.
It’s essential to reshape what seems to be the biggest driver for the big fish across the medical industry – money. To get a better idea of how swift from profit-oriented to patient-oriented approach can contribute to a more universal healthcare system, let’s rotate the business approach within healthcare companies 180 degrees.
Medical companies should not focus on making money by helping patients but on helping patients to make money instead. If patients’ well-being is a top priority, as opposed to money, companies will gain more patients, enabling them access to modern treatment solutions. By democratizing state-of-the-art technologies for patients, the companies would grow financially by attracting more customers.
The change towards a patient-oriented approach will only come from those in executive positions at medical and health-based companies. Then, the shift in mentality will trickle down all the ranks and initiate a domino effect throughout the healthcare industry to prioritize patients’ well-being.
In that spirit, one thought to follow is Merck’s founder quote, “Medicine is for the patient. Medicine is for the people. It is not for the profits.” This American multinational pharmaceutical company underlines patients as a priority, opposed to focusing directly on pushing towards profits. The goal is to democratize access to new technology solutions and treatment, which, in turn, will attract more patients, allowing companies to widen their reach and increase earnings.
Thinking Ahead in the Design Process
According to a Pharma report, the average cost of research and development of successful drugs or treatments is $2.6 billion. Clinical trials are expensive when done in economically developed countries, resulting in a costly therapeutic bid. Hence, health startups and companies should consider externalizing their clinical trials – at least the first pilot trials outside the US or Western Europe. Relocating preclinical and proof of concept trials to cost-effective countries will minimize expenses related to treatments’ development processes.
For example, new adaptive designs in clinical trials focus on low-cost, effective, and optimized solutions by looking at the trials’ location, staff expenses, quality of equipment, and providing more accurate dosing to decrease treatment and drug development expenses.
Apart from the overall costs, what’s crucial in treatment democratization is thinking ahead of the design process. Suppose the company doesn’t consider what’s affordable for low-income or underdeveloped countries at the early stages of the whole design process by choosing components and equipment that are costly. In that case, for the company to profit, the provided solution will have to be more expensive for patients.
Democratizing Access Through Technology
Medical companies can fight for a worldwide inclusive healthcare system by investing in modern, technology-driven solutions – and there are multiple benefits.
For example, Salesforce created The Salesforce Patient 360 to unify disjoined healthcare institutions’ systems, using AI to provide services from early diagnosis to treatment tracking and planning. On the other hand, Source Meridian gathers and centralizes data to improve the quality of care and lower costs, making it personalized and inclusive.
In 2020, Takeda Pharmaceutical and Kanagawa Prefecture in Japan began a pilot study for a next-generation healthcare platform – Care for One. It seamlessly connects wearable-device monitoring, telemedicine, online medication guidance, and drug delivery. Their goal is to use Care for One to reduce the burden of hospital visits, support the symptom monitoring of patients with Parkinson’s disease, and improve the quality of their medical care.
Additionally, Actipulse Neuroscience is a neuro-tech company specializing in researching and engineering Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation technologies to treat neurological and psychiatric disorders. We’re on a mission to make non-medication, neuromodulation treatment accessible for patients in their homes. Through our non-invasive treatments, the company intends to decrease the consequences of depressive disorders post-COVID, too.
What ties all these companies together is that they’re driven by creating accessible, universal, technology-driven tools and treatments to answer patients’ issues.
Creating a Cybersafe Environment
According to CDNetworks, healthcare institutions are the second most vulnerable industry to cyberattacks. In fact, in the last three years, more than 90% of all healthcare organizations have reported at least one security breach causing malfunctions of patients’ medical devices.
With all the state-of-the-art technologies and AI capabilities to process data, ensuring patients’ confidentiality and data safety is more crucial than ever. Cyber Incident Tracer, developed by CyberSpace Institute, tries to make this a reality by mapping and tracking cyberattacks on healthcare systems.
With the ethical use of data becoming a priority, companies should never forget that all patients’ information fundamentally belongs to them. Overall, it’s the patients who are in control and choose whether they want to use their information for clinical trials or another type of medical process.
Aiming to Defeat the Mental Health Stigma
Although many areas of mental health care have significantly improved, mental health stigma is still alive and well.
Nowadays, everything is about good marketing campaigns, and companies fighting mental health disorders don’t seem to have one. The lack of a well-designed PR strategy makes the problem more invisible. We see many social campaigns regarding health issues, such as cardiovascular diseases, but only recently has mental health gained bits of publicity.
Every year, Modern Healthcare holds the Marketing Impact Awards to choose the best initiatives raising awareness within society. This year’s award went to the Permanente Medicine hashtag campaign, #JustTheVaxx, where experts were invited to join social media live streams and discuss the facts and myths regarding wide-spread COVID-19 vaccination concerns.
It’s crucial to underline the importance of building awareness around mental health issues as over 75% of people with depression don’t receive adequate care in high-income countries. In low and middle-income countries, over 75% of people with mental health conditions receive no treatment at all. That’s why normalizing its occurrence and taking steps towards reducing the stigma, providing effective and affordable therapies should be healthcare experts’ primary focus.
To achieve inclusive healthcare, the healthcare giants need to minimize factors that place profit way above purpose. After resolving the issue of companies pushing patients’ well-being aside, they should optimize their process design, invest in making technology more accessible, allow the latest solutions to become patients’ reality.
Adrien Châtillon is the co-founder and CEO of Actipulse Neuroscience, a neuro-tech company specialized in the research and engineering of Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation technologies for the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease and dementia
Disclaimer: This article mentions a client of an Espacio portfolio company.