Celebrating the age of 60 and Promoting Innovation in Healthcare
Christian Hebenstreit, GM & SVP EMEA, Medidata Solutions
The World Health Organization has predicted that in the 35 years between 2015 and 2050, we’ll see a near doubling of the number of 60-year old people alive today globally, from 12% in 2015, to 22% in 2050. Brazil, China and India are going to double their populations of over 60s in just 20 years.
To avoid a tipping point in healthcare operations, organisations are going to have to keep this burgeoning elderly population healthy, happy and productive. If we are to stop the age of 60 from being the tipping point, how we are delivering healthcare to the elderly population has to change.
Office visits, going to a facility, getting diagnosed, receiving a treatment plan: all of these processes have remained essentially unchanged over the past 50 years, and the infrastructure for delivering the science has not progressed much, if at all, with the aging population in mind.
If healthcare delivery could keep up with advancements and speed of innovation in the world at large, we’d be in a much better place. The work that is going on in research labs and the innovation happening in pharma is staggering, and it will have a positive impact on the quality of life for many generations to come.
Ultimately, we want to keep people out of the healthcare system for as long as possible and this can be achieved in many ways through good health advice and assessing health from a more holistic point of view to consider endpoints differently and more thoroughly.
The Importance of Private and Public Sector Collaboration in Providing Better Healthcare for Aging Populations
Everyone wants to develop and bring safe, high-quality drugs to market faster, and ultimately at a lower cost, but how do you do that? Neither public or private sectors can solve this on their own – they have to collaborate. It has to be a collective goal that we all contribute to. The AIDS response is a great example: alongside private industry collaboration, the investment, research and development of new techniques as contributions from the US government, National Institute for Health and the European Union were game changers.
There is a lot of innovation going on today. Look at the UK National Health Service: Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, is talking much more about making medicine preventative. Medidata is also a new forum member advisor for the World Economic Forum’s System Initiative on Shaping the Future of Health and Healthcare, which is bringing together governments, civil society, and companies to help deliver affordable healthcare for nearly 10 billion people over the next 30 years.
What we’ve also seen is that there is more collaboration within the life sciences industry to share data. It has improved over the last three to five years. There are instances where two companies have run drug trials in parallel, and, depending on efficacy, patients are randomised into the trial arm that is most worthwhile, regardless of the company that recruited them. You wouldn’t have seen that a decade ago.
We are also demonstrably learning from failure. Look at randomised controlled trials of new medicines: in the past, if they failed, they were buried, with significant effort and funds often drained, and patients frequently impacted by the negative outcome. Now that data can be reused, we’re starting to scratch the surface on exactly how it can be used, and we’re able to begin learning from failures.
So Ultimately, How Do You Prevent the 60 Year-Old Tipping Point?
There’s no easy answer to this question, but we do need to start looking at quality of life as an endpoint. Historically, in drug development, there have been very specific endpoints and we didn’t necessarily have a very good way to measure quality of life. Now, people can wear sensors or fill in online diaries to provide input as to what their quality of life is like.
This means that patients themselves are beginning to make more decisions on their quality of life based on clean data, and this is now an important part of how drugs are being developed. It’s a positive step forward which is enabling the experts to make better discoveries, and it’s a path we should definitely continue on.
For more discussion of this important subject, be sure to watch Medidata’s recent podcast on the topic of ‘Defusing an Aging Population Time Bomb’.