A Health Renaissance: Highlights From The 7th Annual Forbes Healthcare Summit

DNA molecule, computer-generated.Getty

The theme of the 7th Annual Forbes Healthcare Summit, which took place in New York City November 27-28th, 2018, was Starting a Health Renaissance. Senior Health Editor, Matt Herper, opened the event by reminding us that medicine is always moving at a breakneck pace. Advances in immunotherapy and precision medicine are transforming cancer treatments. Artificial intelligence (AI) – previously in the purview of science fiction – is making a legitimate impression in public health. Social determinants of health need to be integrated into practical solutions for patients and communities. The big question: how can we take this kindling and set it ablaze? This year’s Summit again brought together some of healthcare’s most powerful individuals in pharma, biotech, finance, clinical medicine and beyond to tackle these issues head-on.

In the first panel, Herper interviewed venture capital legend, John Doerr, Chairman of Kleiner Perkins and financial backer of Google, Amazon and Uber, who is now shifting his focus to healthcare. Mr. Doerr did not mince words. “The leaders of our institutions are taking us to the wrong goals.” He emphasized the leadership approach of former Intel guru, Andy Grove, which Doerr discusses in his book Measure What Matters: “OKR is a deceptively simple idea.” Objectives and Key Results, i.e. the Why and How, should guide every leader in healthcare – as they did with Google and the Gates Foundation – in achieving goals that are measurable and verifiable.

Steffano Pessina, CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance, drew upon his “old-school manager” philosophy. “When you do a deal, you have to create value,” declared the Italian-born businessman. And every deal, he continued – particularly in reference to the Humana partnership – boils down to human connections. In response to Amazon’s increasingly popular online-driven platforms, Mr. Pesssina believed that customers still need a brick and mortar experience: “Human beings are social animals and they need daily human contact.”

Steve Forbes at The 2017 Forbes Women’s Summit in New York City.Star Max/IPx

Day two of the summit was chock full of fascinating speakers and discussions. Steve Forbes, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, Forbes Media, underscored the holistic nature of health. “There’s more to health than just medicine: food, housing, family all matter,” stated Forbes. “Patients remain at the center of what we do.” Michael Dowling, President and CEO, Northwell Health, reinforced this point from a health system perspective:  “We need to broaden our definition of health,” said Dowling. “We need to screen for food insecurity; work with local farmer’s markets; and create food kitchens to teach patients how to cook.” Benefits of these programs thus far include fewer emergency department (ED) visits. He also proudly cited educational opportunities for students from low-income communities who “come to our health facilities for clinical opportunities. Now, one of these students has a full scholarship to medical school.”