The Five Trends Driving Vascular Innovation in 2021…
…are informed by our covid-19 experience – testing, vaccine development, and distribution as well as health policy and societal norms around disease prevention and treatment. Above all, we are seeing real-time what happens when there are inadequate tools and approaches when the demand for medical care exceeds the capacity of the traditional healthcare system. These experiences will have a ripple effect on innovations across the health ecosystem including vascular health.
Author: Ed Yu
After 30 years in corporate life and management consulting across technology and health industries, Ed is currently focused on improving societal health through innovation. Ed serves as the Chairman of Vascular Cures, a philanthropic nonprofit that is innovating patient-centered research, catalyzing breakthrough collaborations, and empowering people to enjoy vascular health. Ed also advises entrepreneurs in technology-based businesses in innovation and operational strategy.
1. Early Screening
The importance of timely testing for covid-19 infection has heightened our understanding that knowledge of one’s health status, or lack thereof, directly affects choices we make for the well-being of ourselves and those closest to us. The sooner you know, the more you are able to make informed decisions about your health. The increased appreciation of early detection and prevention of infection will provide a clear case for innovations in screening for and slowing the progression of vascular diseases. Just like covid-19, we may be asymptomatic, but we may be at high risk. Increased emphasis and innovations will grow in tools and programs on educating and engaging the public about their vascular health status. “Sitting is the New Smoking” campaigns, for example, will grow to increase our comprehension that our blocked arteries may be the result of choices we’ve made in the past, be they lifestyle or delayed screening. At the enterprise level, more innovative solutions will grow to improve understanding of the relative cost of the invasive vascular intervention (e.g., diabetic foot ulcers) vs. the cost avoidance measures. This will help commercialize innovations in preventive therapies such as supervised walking exercise to slow the progression of PAD. Central to these innovations is improved data analytics tools for both clinical and economic (claims) data.
2. “Good Enough” is Good Enough
As we see the global pandemic play out and how the health ecosystem responds, we see the inevitability of dialing back perfect solutions for just pretty good solutions. When the demand exceeds supply, we accept that vaccines approved under EUA (emergency use authorization), rather than full FDA approval are good enough to address the population health risk. In vascular disease, ‘good enough’ patient outcomes will likely be a topic of discussion and debate. What is considered a ‘good enough’ outcome in PAD treatment may be the driver for baseline outcomes definitions among interdisciplinary stakeholders in vascular disease treatment. These stakeholders will include the patients’ perspective on the benefit/risk trade-off in therapeutic options.
3. Equitable Care
Value-based care may be driven more by equitable care. What we have revealed for ourselves is that zip codes dictate health outcomes more so than genetic codes. Some people get higher quality care depending on their social-economic status. There will be a greater national emphasis on more equitable and affordable access to healthcare across zip codes. So, on average we may achieve better population health outcomes by uplifting the underserved, thereby improving overall population health outcomes. This incentivizes innovations that are tailored for specific communities, for example, mobile screening for PAD in poor communities. Healthcare innovations that are community-centric brings us another step closer to patient centricity.
Another innovation area that leads to improved value is increasing transparency of medical costs for patients, addressing issues such as surprise billings. These innovations will enable patients to be more involved and empowered in decision-making around their vascular treatment and care options. As this kind of transparency technology matures, patients and doctors will have a common set of data to make healthcare decisions more collaboratively.
4. DIY Healthcare
Prevention has always had a tough time getting traction within traditional health sectors. There is simply no market opportunity for non-patients, people who are not yet sick. But the pandemic has shown us that when the healthcare system is overloaded, DIY healthcare becomes the next best thing. We are paying attention to what we should or could be doing to live through Covid-19, from wearing masks, to taking vitamin D supplements, to dare I say it, injecting bleach! The point is we as health consumers are doing it ourselves when we can’t get the access we need, creating market demand. Prevention will become a stronger segment in the healthcare market. And if that results in demonstrable clinical outcomes benefit, then CMS reimbursement will cover more prevention and disease management therapies. This DIY trend will foster more resources and attention to innovative telehealth solutions such as remotely monitored, supervised walking exercise therapy for PAD.
5. Virtual Care
Prevention and treatment will likely see more growth as the result of the covid-19 impact on the healthcare industry. The health services sector will be watchful for promising telehealth upstarts. And deal activity is expected to recover in the pharma life sciences sector further into 2021. According to PwC’s health industry outlook, the private health sector is looking to identify the services, geographies, and patient populations where investments in virtual care would lower healthcare costs. Innovations in the earlier parts of the vascular disease health journey may have greater access to funding for R&D innovation. This bodes well for innovations in prevention and DIY solutions for vascular health.
The leading cause of amputation in the US is diabetes-related wounds that don’t heal due to infection. Antibiotic resistant bacteria are often to blame. Resistance occurs when bacteria change in response to the use of certain medicines and, over time, the medicines can’t tackle new mutations. Once antibiotic resistant bacteria set in, treatment options for a patient are limited. Spectrum Antimicrobials is trying to change that.
In my opinion, the innovations across the vascular care continuum will either increase (+) or stay steady (0).
- Prevention (+): informed by the need to prevent the next pandemic, there is a similar need to stem the tide of end-stage vascular diseases such as leg amputations from diabetes.
- Detection (+): more innovations in education and awareness especially for underserved communities. While ROI is still not clear enough for strategic corporate investment, their ESG (environmental, social, governance) goals will likely fund this more so than prior years
- Treatment (0): Life science research remains a durable sector of the economy especially during covid-19. Expected increase in M&A activity in pharma life sciences will increase commercialization successes for more proven innovations
- Long-term Management (0): While durable improvements in health outcomes is a common goal, there is not likely a greater investment in LT health management from the private sector because the time to return is not attractive enough. If there is a significant movement towards more socialized healthcare, then government spending (e.g., grants) would be the fuel for LT management funding, and therefore, innovations. There will continue be more self-serve, consumer pay vascular disease management tools as we accept remote healthcare is here to stay.