Healthcare is extraordinarily expensive—it accounts for almost one-fifth the GDP in the US and 50% of provincial budgets in Canada—and yet, health outcomes and delivery of care in those countries leave much to be desired. While the systems differ—Canada has a single-payer system and the US has its patchwork model model of private and public insurance—many of the frustrations are the same, said a panel of experts at the Fortune Global Forum in Toronto, Canada on Tuesday.
The issues? The systems are hard for patients to navigate—it’s difficult to access one’s personal health data and to get it shared with other providers. Misdiagnosis and duplicative treatment are expensive (and sometimes dangerous) problems. Despite the vast amount of data vacuumed up by the healthcare system, evidence-based medicine is not always practiced by providers or payors.
“The holy trinity of healthcare is data, money, and embarrassment,” said Kevin Smith, President and CEO, University Health Network, Canada’s largest network of research hospitals.
How can we spend less and get better care?
Smith said we’ve got to “let the consumer choose based on real data, not drown them in information” to determine “is this the best evidence based care fort the best outcome at the best price?”
He added that societal discussions were needed to determine what sort of healthcare systems we really want. “There is a consumer component,” he said, noting that some, regardless of evidence of value added, want the latest and greatest medical treatments. It comes down to: “Do you want greater benefit for a broader population, or do you want the best service available with the latest technology?”
He added, “those are diametrically opposed.”
Carolyn McGill, CEO of Aetion, a firm that is working on bringing together and analyzing healthcare data to produce evidence-based insights for medical providers and payors, is optimistic about the future of healthcare and noted there are many cost-saving insights to be drawn, particularly about medicines that don’t work. She noted that it took 8 years for the medical community to learn that a drug for colorectal cancer didn’t work on a large group of patients. (Smith added that it typically takes 7 years for academic findings to be adopted into standard practice.)
Vitor Rocha, CEO of Philips North America is also optimistic, largely because of new technologies like AI and monitoring tools that allow patients to stay in their home, reducing hospitalization costs.
Fellow panelist Dianne Carmichael, a healthcare investor, agreed the field was on a precipice of disruption—and that that’s a good thing. She expects new technologies as well as the expectations for on-demand healthcare from younger generations will accelerate change in the industry.
Even Smith was optimistic, noting that we’re better at managing chronic diseases and that we’re doing more to treat addiction than ever before.