If we are to deliver on the promise of universally available health care, we must find ways to make current health-care systems far more productive while accelerating the development of innovative diagnostics and therapies that will substantially improve health outcomes at sustainable cost.
This two-pronged approach–near-term productivity improvement and longer-term radical innovation–can transform everything from fundamental research to delivery of patient services at all points of care.
We must, for example, use limited resources more efficiently, focusing on wellness, education, and appropriate use of diagnostics. We must shift the locus of health care, placing the responsibility on patients to change behavior patterns and comply with drug therapies and treatment plans. To succeed in that shift, we must understand the economic, cultural, and psychological factors that influence people to adopt healthy behaviors or prevent them from doing so.
We need to find leverage in information science and big data to better understand how diseases progress and how they might be prevented. Research on diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, and brain disorders still has a long way to go, demanding more focus and funding. But over time, as innovations move from laboratories to patients, they may revolutionize the delivery of medicine.
These advances will not come by focusing on medicine and research alone. We must also consider the political, cultural, economic, and corporate interests that inform and shape the system.