Field Notes from JP Morgan Healthcare Conference

January 30, 2019
Chris Neuner

Pharma’s Adoption of Health Tech in 2019

I’ve been attending the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference for years, and this past January, I noticed a marked sea change.  Historically, the conference revolved around cost of care, R&D pipelines, specialized medicine, and, more recently, an increased focus on rare disease.  But this year focused on technology’s impact on the healthcare sector.  NVIDIA shared how AI is improving patient care, Abbott’s event advertisement positioned the company as the leading healthcare technology company, Teladoc showcased innovation in virtual healthcare, and Abundant Venture Partners demonstrated how RWD solutions have the power to transform healthcare in order to drive better patient outcomes.

Technology Giants & the Healthcare Space

This isn’t a surprise.  Technology giants spent 2018 shaking up the healthcare space.  Alphabet alone filed 186 healthcare patents, according to Ernst and Young.  As part of a long-term plan to improve care and reduce costs for employees, Amazon teamed up with Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan appointing Atul Gawande as CEO of the new health venture while acquiring online pharmacy startup PillPack and announcing plans to sell software that can read medical records.  In December, Apple released its ECG app, which records a wearer’s heartbeat and rhythm using the electrical heart sensor on Apple Watch Series 4 and then checks the recording for atrial fibrillation, a form of irregular rhythm. Microsoft signed a multiyear deal with Walgreens Boots Alliance, the latter transferring its information technology workloads to Microsoft’s Azure public cloud.  IBM, Uber, and countless others have jumped on the bandwagon, unveiling plans to disrupt the healthcare landscape.

A Pharma Seal of Approval for Health Technology

Why now?  Tech giants are wise to the massive opportunity in healthcare.  The US healthcare market has an annual spend of more than $3 trillion.  The healthcare system is notoriously fragmented and inefficient, and the pharma industry has traditionally been slow to adopt relative to others, historically approaching tech with trepidation.  But perhaps now, pharma and the healthcare industry are finally looking to technology for solutions, primed with the power to tackle some of healthcare’s largest problems on a global scale.  Scott Gottlieb spoke to the modernization of FDA policy in order to “keep pace with modern innovation,” saying “The technological advances in medical devices and their ability to improve the lives of patients are creating tremendous public health promise.”  Drug giant Eli Lilly recently announced its acquisition of biotech Loxo Oncology for $8B, and Roche acquired Flatiron Health for $2B last year.  JP Morgan’s 2019 healthcare conference laid bare the legitimization of health technology in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry.  It crystallized the validation of health-tech companies that have invested time and resources in a way that garners pharma’s seal of approval.

Final Takeaways and Predictions

  • The pharma industry and healthcare sector are gravitating towards technology providers and entrepreneurs who are able to turn health data into actionable insights
  • Those who embrace technology are increasingly distancing themselves with those who do not
  • Technology releases like Apple’s ECG will continue to accelerate and disrupt health as we know it
  • Technology’s ability to relentlessly curate data and transform it into analyzable, actionable information is key to reducing healthcare costs and improving health outcomes

What were your takeaways from JP Morgan’s healthcare conference this year?

Chris Neuner, Chief Revenue Officer at PulsePoint, has 20 years’ experience driving performance in the interactive marketing and health media space. He brings to PulsePoint a proven track record of partnering with leading pharmaceutical companies and agency partners to build successful businesses.

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