The healthcare industry is a $3 trillion industry, and that number will only increase as technology continues to evolve and become an essential role in patient care. 

Our client – Alexandria Real Estate Equities (ARE) – recently hosted the prestigious annual Galien Forum at the East Tower of the Alexandria Center for Life Science NYC. 

In addition to an awards ceremony which is trumpeted as “the Oscars for the biopharma industry,” the day was filled with high-level panel discussions involving some of the world’s leading scientists, business leaders and innovators who continue to pioneer both the medicines and strategies that are making a lasting, positive and meaningful impact on our communities. 

Joel Marcus, founder & CEO of ARE, moderated a dynamic panel on The Future of Digital Health – a very timely topic as the convergence of healthcare and digital innovation continues to take shape. 

Joel and fellow moderator Lynne Zydowsky, chief science advisor at ARE and president and co-founder of the Alexandria Summits, opened the panel asking how technology is shaping the healthcare industry.

Dick Foster (PhD), venture partner at Lux Capital and senior faculty fellow at the Yale School of Management, said: “Big data has the ability for doctors to make better informed clinical health decisions, and it will allow patients to better manage their own health one day. It will help improve the productivity of the healthcare system, and how we put the system together going forward. Right now, it’s far from effective, but it’s how we wire the system that will bring the range of costs down.”

Digital Health & Ebola

When asked about the intersection of digital health and Ebola, Sachin Jain (MD), chief medical information & innovation officer at Merck & Company, claimed: “In Dallas, the first thing we reached for was to figure out who to blame for the unfortunate death of Thomas Eric Duncan. And we blamed the computer. Going forward, we need to identify what’s human error vs. what’s computer error and make sure we point the finger in the right direction next time. Electronic Medical Records (EMR) can play a critical role for us in treating serious diseases like Ebola.”

“We’re far from being where we need to be with EMR,” Zydowsky chimed in. 

According to Foster, the digital health system in the U.S. is not close to where it needs to be. “We’re more at the beginning stages of the internet than at the end of the internet at this point,” he concluded. 

Krishna Yeshwant (MD), general partner at Google Ventures, added: “We’re at the very beginning of where tech can touch sequencing, and the sequencing of Ebola… we’re still trying to understand and wrap our heads around it.”

Ed Park, EVP and COO of athenahealth which offers cloud-based EMR services, believes that interoperability is critical to the success of EMR. “There will be no single vendor to solve all the problems,” said Park. “There’s just way too much out there. Let’s take Amazon as an example. Amazon is extremely successful because their web model has interoperability. There are no web services available in healthcare. We know we’ll be getting close when we have that interoperability at play in healthcare.”   

Impact of the ACA

Joel then asked how each panelist would grade the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to date to which Jain replied: “The administration created a hot mess, but a great hot mess. Twenty million Americans now have healthcare coverage. Areas that were lying dormant for decades are open for discussion. It has done some great things so far, like opening the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. But right now, it’s the Wild West of healthcare.”

Nathaniel Turner, co-founder of Flatiron Health, added: “It’s mind-blowing to think that you have to pay doctors to use EMR. But the ACA is great in many others ways, one being that you have to have everyone on healthcare in order to properly manage the population.”

Innovation in Digital Health

In conclusion, when the panelists were asked what excites them most about the future of digital health, they responded: 

Foster: “Over 140 new healthcare tech companies have emerged every year in the last 7-8 years which equates to about 1,167 new tech companies. This is one of the most exciting parts of the innovation that’s happening in healthcare. A lot of people have many great ideas.”

Park: “Healthcare has thousands of different submarkets. What I’m excited about is that you’ll be seeing a lot of this innovation at the outer levels, like telemental health, which is the use of telecommunications technology to provide behavioral health services.” 

Yeshwant: “The ability to create products that treat and cure diseases is the most exciting thing; the fact that drugs are expensive is a reflection of how we don’t understand biology.   Technology can move the world forward and cure things.”

Were you at the Galien Forum? What were your takeaways from the event? Share them in the comments, or tweet to @JPappasPR!