The Big Questions Facing Healthcare Policy in the 2018 Midterms

The Big Questions Facing Healthcare Policy in the 2018 Midterms

 In Government Relations, Health

How can our health care system continue to push the envelope by developing breakthrough medicines, yet still meet the needs of patients with treatments they can afford?

Midterm elections are around the corner and politicians are working to overhaul the health care system and other challenges facing this complex system. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Election Tracking Poll, healthcare has appeared as a “very important” issue for 71% of voters and the “most important” issue for 30 percent of voters across party lines. As a result, leaders are increasingly being asked how to provide innovative care that keeps patient accessibility at the center.

This summer, leaders from industry and government gathered to engage in a conversation surrounding this very question at The State of Care: Innovation & Access event. Panelists, including Robert Atkinson, founder and president of Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, Chip Davis, President and CEO of Association for Accessible Medicines, Yvonne Greenstreet, COO of Alnylam and Heather Bresch, CEO of Mylan, opened the door for this discussion.

Innovation and access are equally important, but often at odds with one another. While leaders across the industry gain an understanding of where innovation and access collide, the goal remains to strike a balance between the two. However, other factors, such as affordability, play a major role in this conversation as well.

Why does affordability matter? Because patients are paying four times as much for medications versus other services in the healthcare system. In addition, out-of-pocket costs are increasing significantly compared to the cost of the system. Take Alzheimer’s as an example of the push to change the course of chronic diseases and the spending required to do so. Davis Ricks, CEO of Eli Lily, reminded us that the cost of Alzheimer’s medication is nearly equal to the amount that the entire U.S. spends on unpatented drugs.

Statements from all panelists touched on an important notion—the relationship between patient centricity and transparency. What does it truly mean to put the patient at the center of this process?

It means designing a healthcare service around patients and their specific needs. Patients are gradually becoming important players in the healthcare dialogue. However, there is zero transparency for what patients pay for when it comes to their medications. This is the problem that both patients and systems face when patients are not at the center of the healthcare system.

Additionally, there is a lack of literacy among patients to understand what they are taking and how they can access their medications. Reducing the complexity for patients could be a start as the system continues to shift its focus to the patient, rather than the dollar amount. In turn, the transparency will empower patients to play a more active role in guiding this discussion.

The discussion over whether the health care system meets the needs of its citizens has been in the spotlight during the 2018 midterm elections. With continued innovations in healthcare, we must remember to put the patient at the center of this process and design it around their needs. Only then can we have a truly patient-centric healthcare system.