What's past is prologue. These words from William Shakespeare are on my mind as I conclude nearly 20 years of working in the nation's dynamic health-care sector – both with the biotech company Celgene and as a board member for one of the country's most forward-looking hospital and integrated clinical care systems located right here in New Jersey.
As I reflect on what I've learned, I'm amazed by the progress achieved during this period. From the dramatic breakthroughs in treating HIV to significant advances for patients with cardiovascular disease to finding a cure for hepatitis C, American health-care innovation has transformed grave illnesses into manageable conditions and found cures for serious diseases.
And during that time, the death rate from cancer has declined steadily in the US, leading to projections of over 20 million cancer survivors by 2026. These are more than statistics. They are lives – saved, extended, improved.
As gratified as I am by that progress, at the same time, I am daunted by the challenges that remain, and disappointed by our failure to adequately address the increasing inequality of health outcomes and the social and economic issues impacting health care in our communities today.
We are not candidly and transparently confronting the challenges of our health-care system to ensure that high-quality care is accessible, affordable and delivers better value to all Americans.
To produce the right solutions, we must ask the tough questions, and not grasp at quick fixes just because they seem popular or convenient.
Here are the fundamental questions we should be asking:
How can we best invest in health? How can we reduce the burden of disease? How can we make patients healthier and keep them that way? And how will we address our rapidly aging population?
Alzheimer's and dementia, for example, are estimated to impact 16 million people at a cost to the health-care system of $1.1 trillion by 2050. And how do we lift the burden of cost that rests disproportionately on the sickest and most vulnerable in our population?