The healthcare industry is transforming at an unprecedented rate. New technologies, the rate of information sharing, and the reduced barriers to entry have mustered together, forming a perfect storm of disruption, change, and opportunity. The practice of strategic foresight has a lot to offer, and carefully executed, it can shed light on unknown or fringe shifts in the market and social climate that can make or break organizational success.
With this in consideration, here are five recent developments worth monitoring for their potential to change everything we know about health.
1/ DIYbio (Do-It-Yourself Bio)
DIYbio is an international community of citizen scientists, biohackers, amateur biologists, and do-it-yourself bioengineers. The community uses online tools like Google+ to openly share, foster conversations, and crowdsource advice on a smorgasbord of topics and procedures, such as isolating banana DNA, hacking a drill to build a homemade centrifuge, or proposing herpes virus treatments.
DIYbio’s savvy sourcing of lab equipment and genomics alteration kits via eBay and other digital sources is another reason why it’s such a hotbed for bio enthusiasts and hobbyists. Previously near-impossible, now home labs are within reach for those that wish to set them up.
2/ Arenas, Not Industries
Columbia Business School professor, speaker and author, Rita McGrath, put forward the concept of “Arenas, Not Industries” in her 2013 book, The End of Competitive Advantage: How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your Business. She explains that the conventional wisdom of conducting business within an industry has become archaic, and is no longer appropriate for the rapidly changing business climate in which we currently reside. She contends that a company’s competitors are no longer solely those within its industry; rather, competition can come from anyone playing within an arena, from anywhere in the world.
On May 1 2014, Google Ventures invested a reported $100 million into New York-based Flatiron Health, a small start up that intends to use big data to help in the battle to end cancer, and this is not the first healthcare startup Google has supported. Five years ago, Google’s investment may have been perceived as a fanciful long shot, but not any more. Five years from now, who else will have expanded into health?
3/ The Post-Antibiotic Era
When Alexander Fleming discovered the antibiotic penicillin, it was considered a miracle cure for infection for the following 80+ years, saving millions of lives. All good things, however, must come to an end. Due to overuse and the adaptive abilities of the infectious agents antibiotics are meant to kill, the miracle cure is no more. In April 2014, the World Health Organization released the report Antimicrobial Resistance: Global Report on Surveillance 2014, where WHO depicts a post-antibiotic era, in which “common infections and minor injuries can kill.”
Although the future of antibiotic effectiveness and care does not seem promising, this opens an opportunity for supplementary and/or replacement treatment methods and options. Such alternatives will require swift action on the part of those that wish to mitigate the risk of a post-antibiotic era.
4/ From Chemistry to Computers
A series of reports released by PWC has highlighted an undeniable fact about the biopharmaceutical sector: As an aggregate, these organizations are spending more on research and development, but releasing fewer and fewer new molecules than they did 20 years ago. There is a reduced return on investment in drugs and the chances of hitting a blockbuster are becoming thinner and thinner.
At the same time, the trend of technological advancement — particularly within computing and big data — has begun to reach a threshold in accessibility and price where it can empower large-scale change on any sector.
Due to the reduced returns on novel drugs and molecules, many within the biopharmaceutical sector are diversifying and shifting investment towards other forms of patient care. This applies particularly to firms who are investing in technology-based products and services, an area that is thriving and is ripe for growth and development.
5/ Redefining Drugs
The stock of British company GW Pharmaceuticals has recently skyrocketed with over 1000% gain during 2013, thanks to the company’s heavy investment in the medicinal properties of marijuana. And that may be just the beginning. With a favorable political climate in many states — such as Colorado, California, and Washington — to approve the legalization of marijuana for medical use, in addition to mounting evidence that the medicinal effects of marijuana significantly reduce seizure episodes in epilepsy patients, GW is riding the green wave.
With the social stigma of marijuana for both medicinal and non-medicinal uses being broken down, an opportunity has arisen to rewrite what a drug is and how it can help the diseased. The astute will recognize such situations, readying themselves to swiftly adapt products and services that will tailor to a new set of needs.