Friday, January 4, 2008

Why this Blog and why it now?

The health care system has been facing a notorious rise in costs for the past decades, and the last years have pointed to an approaching failure of the system. In very few words, there is not enough money to fund health care for all individuals. The problem has many facets, and the simpler one is the fact that medical costs have risen more than inflation and overall salaries.

This is not a problem of a single country; instead, it’s a general aspect that affects all health care systems around the globe. Nevertheless, this shouldn’t be news to any one, as the Media has brought many articles around the theme. For instance, read this article posted by the Ny Times on January 2nd about the current U.S. Presidential race.

Why this Blog?

If we get already enough updated information around the discussions and decisions made on health care, what is the purpose of another source of information?

Although I have no problems to find the latest news on health, I cannot find enough sources describing and analyzing the impacts to health care business. If you consider that as secondary, think again. Science has evolved in a radical pace and we have new promises for treatments and diagnostics that may considerably increase our standards of life. If you’re healthy, you’ll find advanced genetic tests that may predict your chances of having a heart failure, for instance. On the other hand, if you have a chronic disease such as Diabetes, new devices may help you keep you blood glucose under control. And the list goes on…

But again, there is not enough money to pay for everyone’s access to health care. If neither governments nor health plans want to pay for a specific treatment or product, why should we continue to invest in Science? If we want to increase quality of life in the future, with more access to health care, we better start considering the business impact of health care costs for all stakeholders: patients, health care professionals, governments, providers, companies, health plans and employers. One day, we all need access to care.

And this is the reason I’m starting this blog: as an attempt to bring discussion to the business level, hopefully with the help of other professionals such as you! Let’s analyze the impact of the increasing health care costs to marketing strategy, product positioning, segmentation and message, among other topics. We can improve health care business; and by doing so, improve the overall system.

Why it now?

After nine years looking at the health care market from the perspective of NGOs, government and companies at three continents, I felt it was time to start sharing my thoughts and absorbing others’ opinions and experiences.

We should all be unsatisfied with health care. Note that I’m using “should” because a few ones are not. Although some of us either don’t have health problems (therefore, don’t use the system) or don’t have problems to pay for medical treatment (thus, don’t have problems to gain access to adequate care), I guarantee that all of us pay taxes. Not getting into the details of how much tax we pay, I believe we all would like to see our tax money being used in a proper and efficient way. In other words, I believe no one likes to pay taxes for nothing, but for improvements. After all, paying more does not mean getting better treatment: the U.S. has the highest health care expenditures in the world, but much less life expectancy rates than several other countries paying much less for their medical care.

This is definitely not a critic to any government! By the way, I’m tired of listening to one stakeholder blaming another for the rise in medical costs, decreasing standards of care, etc. As mentioned by Professor Michael E. Porter in the (brilliant) book “Redefining Health care”, all stakeholders (or participants) must take action to improve the system. Having said that,
I don’t intend to, and will not attack any stakeholder in particular because 1) this is a waste of our time and intelligence; 2) after having worked with different stakeholders, I found no one more responsible than the other for the situation we currently face.

With politicians intensively discussing health care in their agendas, companies looking for ways to improve access to products and individuals (patients) getting more knowledgeable and demanding about treatments, this is the perfect time to start this blog as an initiative to stimulate discussions on how we can improve health care business. This means getting more and better competition around things that really matter as outcomes, instead of focusing on sharing risks or denying access to adequate care.

Again, health care business is everyone’s matter, and all stakeholders should act in conjunction to improve the system. This blog will mainly focus on the role of Life Science companies, but I also intend to explore (and welcome comments) about other sides.

One final note

Finally, I believe it would be good to have a certain consistency to my posts to this blog. I intend to post at least one comment per week, but won’t choose a specific date.

Enjoy the blog. Participate and post your comments.

Ernesto M. Nogueira

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