Covid-19 will certainly change many aspects of drug approval and the overall regulatory process for biomedical product innovation—first and foremost, new and stronger emphasis on partnership and collaboration across sectors, across disciplines, across borders.
There will be greater clinical-trial innovation in terms of design infrastructure and some of the tools for doing clinical trials. This includes opportunities to integrate digital technologies, such as telemedicine, and hopefully also shine a brighter light on the importance of diversity in clinical trials—making sure that trial participation looks like those who are suffering from the disease and at risk for the disease.
I would like to see a stronger alignment on, what are the unmet public-health and medical-care needs? Certainly for whatever the next emerging infectious-disease threat might be. But there are many other areas of our current set of disease challenges—including chronic disease, diabetes and obesity, and opioid addiction. So can we do both: Work together in new ways, and also create new incentives to drive innovation to develop products that are truly needed, but where the market may not drive that innovation and product development adequately?
With the economy as it is, there will be fewer resources [and greater need for patient care]. My guess is resources will need to be more efficiently used.
One of the positive things about the pandemic with telehealth is some of the regulatory, billing and jurisdictional barriers have been loosened to increase flexibility. We’ll see more virtual care across the board because both systems providers and patients will have gotten used to it.
We had this radical transition to a more virtual environment. If Covid-19 hadn’t hit, it would have been more gradual.
You interact with patients through multiple different mediums: in person, via video, via phone, via patient portal, via the web, via secure texting. What is the blend for any one individual patient? And how do we figure this out as individual providers in the health-care system? That is a challenge we’ll have to address.
Covid-19 taught us things about technology and the importance of prevention, as well as some hard lessons around racial disparities. We knew there were problems, but we didn’t know they were as big as they are. The behavioral-health crisis, which was terrible before, has gone crazy. There are good solutions, but they require a different way of doing things, such as integrating mental health with primary care.[Health-care delivery a decade from now will be] where you want it, when you want it, how you want it, probably for 90%, 95% of what’s delivered.
I had a pretty exciting last nine months with my multiple myeloma diagnosis and a bone-marrow transplant and some experimental therapy. Some of those things are going to have to happen in hospitals, but Covid-19 has accelerated the trend of care outside the hospital, including at home. We’re about to start our at-home bone marrow transplant program. We think about three-quarters of a transplant can actually happen outside the hospital. One thing I know is it’s going to be higher value—lower cost and higher quality.
We will need to have a national strategy for pandemic flu preparedness, with dedicated and sustained funding to both public-health-emergency preparedness, as well as health-care system preparedness. This is so that we don’t experience the same types of resource shortages that we saw with Covid-19.
There will be many hospitals that won’t survive Covid-19, and that means the ones that remain will have to reimagine how they provide care, not just to protect their bottom lines, but more specifically to provide care to vulnerable communities, especially ones with a large representation of underrepresented minorities.
There has been very little investment in aligning the research community with the practice community. The [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] has developed 15 national public-health-emergency preparedness capabilities that are designed for use by state, local, tribal and territorial public-health agencies. However, there will need to be greater development of the true operational capability of all these plans, meaning the ability to actually implement all of the plans that we’ve established over the years.
During the pandemic, several health systems have kept patients with Covid-19 at home and monitored them with sensors on their arms where they can track them remotely. That is where we’re headed.
Right now, telemedicine is kind of like version 1.0, but in the future you may actually be able to take your smartphone, pop in a probe, and do an ultrasound exam on any part of your body except your brain.
There will be a shift to more patient autonomy where they will have the technology to generate and interpret their own health data, while reserving in-person doctor visits for serious matters like a new diagnosis or a threatening condition.
The biggest opportunity would be having a virtual medical assistant where a person has all their health records continually updated seamlessly from the time they are in the womb until the present. Not only that, but it integrates their genome, their microbiome, their environmental sensors and up-to-date literature on any risks and provides feedback to the patient to prevent provoking a condition.
The pandemic has highlighted trends that were already in effect, which is that information and tools about health are available outside of health-care institutions. Who has access to your data? What kind of ability do people have to consent over the uses of their data? What kind of protections are there for that data?
One look into the future is legislation that’s passed in Europe, the GDPR, and the California Consumer Privacy Act. This legislation is meant to give individuals more ability to consent to how their data is used and what data is collected. At the same time, there’s still a very strong trend towards health data being used in partnerships with big data companies like Google and others, which can still make issues like consent and transparency regarding data usage challenging.
Interviews have been condensed and edited.