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July 12, 2005

GE Executive on Healthcare

In today's Wall Street Journal a GE executive speaks on the future of healthcare. My only complaint is that it should be a union leader articulating this message:

The Next Generation of Healthcare (subscription required)

The most obvious limitation of 20th century health care is that it was directed at First World markets and diseases. Despite having only 4% of the world's population, the U.S. accounts for over 50% of the world's health-care market and has a pivotal role in determining the prioritization of pharmaceutical research. Mass tropical and niche orphan diseases have been largely neglected. I don't criticize the pharmaceutical industry for this -- if only every industry were as successful in delivering what its customers want. But I do question whether the shortcomings we face in health care are the sign of an incomplete and immature model.

An "Early Health" model may actually be less expensive. Investment in excellent, primary care, with strong attention to lifestyle, environment, early diagnosis and intervention, stands the best chance of limiting the development of the expensive, debilitating late-stage diseases. The investments required depend less on remote hospitals and more on community-based patient-centric services, enabled by integrated electronic health-care records and the best possible screening and early diagnostic programs. We should constantly ask how do we bring care to the individual, not how do we bring the patient to a medical institution.

To make real progress we need to attract distinct investment to the new model of "Early Health," ring-fenced from the already stretched financial burden of addressing today's epidemics of "Late Disease." This will need new money, not just from our health budgets, but from science, education and social programs. Health care needs to move from being our greatest modern cost to our greatest modern asset.

July 12, 2005 in Healthcare | Permalink


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