The next healthcare revolution depends on something the US really does not do well

by Edward Cone

imagePersonalized medicine is happening in a big way as treatments tailored to individuals or small groups replace one-size-fits-all approaches.

Now if we can just figure out how to pay for it.

Powered by advances in genetics, genomics, and Big Data, personalized medicine is improving patient outcomes, transforming drug discovery, and changing institutional culture.

And the momentum continues to grow, with meaningful support from the Obama administration and the promise of greater efficiencies across the healthcare system.

But our new report on the topic also points to the challenge of moving from a market that is oriented toward blockbuster treatments that serve broad populations to one that supports much more targeted products.

There are ways this can happen. Here’s how we lay it out in the paper:


Getting the numbers right…requires fresh thinking on assessing the value of innovation. This new mind set might take a more systemic view of economic benefits rather than looking at a P&L statement for a given product in isolation. The broader approach includes the risk/benefit profile of each treatment, the waste and adverse events avoided, and the consequences of more effective resource allocation.

In other words, we need to take a systemic view of treatment cost and value, and then act on it.

That’s what worries me. Hospitals in the US are terrible at understanding their own costs, and when the costs are made clear they frequently are kind of crazy.

And while it would be unfair to tar an entire industry with the actions of the Pharma Bro or a company built on jacking up prices, it seems safe to say there are some paradigms out there that need shifting.

The promise of personalized medicine is significant enough to force meaningful change on the system, even as other forces are pushing in the same direction. But when cracking the human genome and making meaning from Big Data look like the easy parts of a revolution, you’ve got some serious work to do.

Edward Cone is the deputy director of Thought Leadership at Oxford Economics. He worked on the Healthcare Gets Personal program with associate editor Adrianna Gregory.