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The sun is setting on “sick-care”: It’s time for the Dawning of a Well-Care Era

The sun is setting on “sick-care”: It’s time for the Dawning of a Well-Care Era

With healthcare delivery in the spotlight, now is the time to ensure we aren’t just making people better, but helping them stay well. Individuals have never been more interested in healthcare and wellbeing, and this gives us the perfect chance to lay the foundations for a truly 21st-century way of thinking about health.

Our current healthcare models are all geared towards curative treatment or management of chronic conditions. We wait to get sick before we seek help. This model of sick care means that currently, the primary focus of pharmaceutical companies is to make medicines and devices that help people recover from sickness, or prevent already sick people from getting even more unwell.

If we are to develop a healthcare system fit for the 21st-century, we need to rethink this model. We need to shift the focus towards promotion and continuation of health before sickness even occurs. To do this we need to purposely disrupt the existing business model pharma bases its work on.

We will all be happier and healthier if we can manage our own health at home and in our community, before diseases manifest themselves. Clearly, it is better for everyone if we can “fix the roof while the sun is shining” rather than allowing the storm of sickness to approach and cause damage before we decide to do something about it.

Therefore, the next trend in healthcare should be a focus on well-care, and pharma has a responsibility to lead the way.

Re-directing pharma for the 21st century

At Janssen, we want to take the initiative in driving the well-care era. However, this will require us to be brave and take risks in order to adapt and prepare our business to help deliver this societal goal.

The challenge for pharma is that the current “sick-care” model is a conundrum of business vs people. Our “customers” are primarily those who are already sick or who are managing a long-term condition. We, as children of the historic sick-care model, are structured to support secondary and tertiary health intervention. A paradigm shift, to focus on primary intervention through a program of health promotion, health education and preventative pre-medication would, in theory, reduce the reliance on secondary and tertiary intervention.

The question is; how bold can we in the industry be in self-disrupting the current healthcare model, one that has provided us with a comfortable business position for decades? How can pharma become a well-care partner, deliberately reducing its reliance on treating the sick, to pivot to keeping people well, in a way that delivers value and continues to enable necessary investment in the next generation of medicines?

How can pharma become a well-care partner?

The dawning of a well-care era will not happen overnight, and it won’t happen until every industry player, every health system, and every individual in society can agree on the value of a well-care model. From the perspective of pharma, there are several ways that we can contribute.

For example, we can support, develop, and disseminate well-care health education. Instead of teaching people how best to manage a condition they have now developed, we can teach them instead how to prevent that condition from ever emerging.

Additionally, instead of monitoring health parameters of patients once they seek help, we can empower people to monitor and manage their own well-being, so that they can keep themselves well and be more accountable for their own health. We can further support this concept by driving the development of the next generation of wearable devices to track the wellness of each individual, and ensuring equitable access to such devices.

We can encourage and advocate for more local, community level healthcare, and partner with those delivering services on the ground to aid people at risk of developing a preventable condition as early as possible.

Of course, there are some conditions that will never be entirely preventable, and for these, we will still need to supply some preventative and curative medicines. By adopting a hybrid model, pharmaceutical companies will be vital partners in delivering healthcare at all levels, from community-driven well-care, to life-saving interventions for the sickest patients.

Is a true well-care era achievable?

The idea of well-care is a challenge; a challenge to governments to prioritize the health of citizens above cost-saving; a challenge to individuals to reduce their reliance on health systems and take responsibility for their own wellbeing; and a challenge for the pharmaceutical industry to adapt and evolve past the old ways of doing business. We must resolve these inevitable conflicts and end our reliance on legacy systems that we've been using for a hundred years.

The scale of this task might seem daunting, but we would do well to remember that everyone, at every level, no matter where they are, has one common interest. We all strive for the same thing, the care and wellbeing of individuals and society.

When we start building that kind of an ecosystem, I think we'll be on the way to building a 21st century well-care system, one where everyone is as healthy as they want to be.