Healthcare investment trends 2017: ACA, Drug prices, EHRs

Highlights from Healthcare Investment Trends 2017, a panel of biopharma and IT investors in early stage companies.

One of the joys of networking in New York City is getting a peek at exclusive clubs that host these events – clubs I couldn’t afford to join, even if they’d have me!
Recently, I attended Healthcare Investment Trends 2017, presented by NYC Health Business Leaders, sponsored by Grassi & Co.
It was held at the Union League Club in Murray Hill – a club as fixed in the past as a bug in amber.

The dress code 

When I strolled up to the coat check I noticed behind the counter a rack hung with neckties – in case someone violated the dress code and needed to borrow a tie!* When I rang for the elevator, I was disappointed there wasn’t an elevator operator. But I was excited to glimpse a grand library as we passed the second floor, complete with two-story bookcases and a fireplace.
And when I entered the ballroom, they brought out cocktail franks as appetizers – I haven’t been offered one in decades!

Healthcare investment trends 2017

Here are some ideas that stood out during the panel discussion. Please note this is my completely unofficial point of view, and may not reflect what the panelists intended.

  • Overall, there is a continuing multi-year trend of steady investment in both biopharma and healthcare IT. But there is volatility in the public markets over valuation of healthcare businesses, most likely due to uncertainty about the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
  • What are private investors watching in 2017? Well, they are not particularly concerned about the proposed dismantling of the ACA. More important to them is increased public and political scrutiny of prescription drug prices, and the continued trend towards value based payments. 

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Healthcare IT roadblocks

Besides biopharma, panelists discussed healthcare IT, a sector with multiple issues:

  • It sometimes takes more than a decade to implement research results in clinical practice. So patients may not be getting the best care based on the most current research. Why? One reason is the fragmented state of healthcare electronic health records (EHR). The sector is composed of  competing proprietary systems that don’t readily share patient data. This impedes both research and adaptation of best practices.
  • Today’s EHRs use outmoded code and primitive UX. And the mandate for meaningful use of EHRs had a downside: providers have installed an entire generation of outdated systems.
  • EHR improvements take the form of middleware – applications that add connectivity by sitting on top of an EHR. Typically, middleware is designed to solve specific problems, such as managing a chain of referrals. But they are, at best, a band aid over the systemic technology problems in healthcare.
  • So when will this situation improve? Panelists expect the next generation of EHRs to arrive in 10 – 20 years.
* Good to know: In the summer, the Union League Club permits dress (Bermuda) shorts!

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LevinsonBlock is a Brooklyn-based healthcare marketing agency that specializes in mid-sized organizations. Our clients include healthcare providers such as FQHCs, disease foundations, and healthcare technology firms.
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