Global Leaders at Healthcare Forum Say Innovative Models and Disruptive Technologies Will Help Bridge the Public Health Gap

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 11, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- More than 350 senior executives gathered in San Francisco Tuesday to explore solutions to the world's urgent healthcare challenges that included innovative financing models and technologies to get much-needed products to market faster and more cost-effectively.

The Global Leaders Healthcare Forum, now in its second year, brought together some of the best minds in business, IT, health and finance. The conference was sponsored by Global Leaders, a digital community for CEOs and senior level executives in business, government, education and philanthropy.

"Our goal is to connect our top minds to focus on healthcare challenges - leaders who can sit down and share ideas to arrive at innovative yet realistic solutions," said George Bickerstaff, Executive Chairman and Co-Founder of The Global Leaders and former Chief Financial Officer of Novartis Pharma AG.

This year's Forum connected influential leaders through speeches, panels, guided discussions and informal networking. Participants included a Nobel Prize winner, former CEOs of major pharmaceutical companies, leaders of global philanthropy organizations and an astronaut.

One theme of the conference was the likelihood of the United States following Europe in implementing more restrictive regulation of healthcare products and devices and placing a greater emphasis on comparative effectiveness. Participants also discussed the impact of FDA decisions on investment in U.S. healthcare. Additionally, American companies might expect to find more obstacles to growth overseas, several participants noted.

Dr. Francis Waldvogel, Chairman of the Novartis Venture Fund, stated pharmaceutical companies face two major problems - "lost in translation and lost in transition." By lost in translation, he meant obstacles in the translation of scientific research to practical treatment because of regulations that hamper R&D. Lost in transition was a reference to the need for better processes for moving patients from hospital to ambulatory environment to home settings. He said the pharmaceutical industry must move beyond developing and manufacturing drugs toward more comprehensive care by packaging medications together with services to achieve better patient outcomes.

Kathleen Sharp, New York Times contributor and author of Blood Feud, moderated an innovation panel and asked panelists whether industry was making progress in meeting the goals established by the 61st World Health Assembly in 2008. The overarching goal is to close the gap between the developed and developing world in treating the most deadly diseases. One panelist noted the role of technology in enabling progress.

"Open digital platforms are disrupting traditional healthcare business models and making it possible to develop drugs and offer care in ways that were undreamed of even just five years ago," Ritesh Patel, Global Practice Leader-Digital at the Chandler Chicco Companies, told those attending the panel "Innovation in Global Healthcare - Are We Making Progress?"

Patel reviewed some innovative uses of emerging technologies, such as using social platforms like Facebook and Google to radically overhaul clinical trial recruitment, reduce costs and speed the recruitment process from months to weeks.

Po Chi Wu, Adjunct Professor, Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, presented an international model to watch. He said that with a population of 1.5 billion, the potential for innovative talent in China is staggering. He encouraged attendees to become familiar with the China Medical City model - a $1.7 trillion investment at a site near Shanghai. "This is an example of how (China) is making scale work," he said.

Participants also discussed the need for the healthcare industry to re-invent itself by borrowing best practices from other sectors. For example, the energy industry shares an open, transparent data repository accessible to companies across the sector. Access to such broad, transparent health data would help the healthcare industry better influence patient behaviors, improve outcomes and increase efficiencies.

The Forum highlighted the need for countries to share learnings. Some cross-market exchange already is underway globally with organizations in various countries sharing ideas on payment plans, consumer engagement, service delivery and outpatient care. Panelists were generally optimistic about growth in the healthcare sector, and noted increased demand for medical products by a rising global middle class.

Global Leaders has 2 million members who have held senior leadership positions in companies that drive more than 70 percent of the world's Gross Domestic Product. The executives in attendance, including many chief executive officers, collectively run over 950 companies, control 1.3 trillion in revenue, and employ over a million people.