Service providers, not big pharma, will be in the driving seat for predictive health care 

What you and I and everyone else want is to know how to maximise quality life years, how to stay well as long as possible. And as individuals and as society we are willing to pay a lot for this.

So it is curious how little predictive or preventive health care happens. The OECD says spending averages 2.8% and that it was a soft target that fell in the recession.

There are clear examples, such as giving selenium to pregnant women, which would massively reduce thyroid problems. And yet West European governments do not generally prescribe or even recommend it. Supplements and advice on healthy living do not pay like patented drugs do.

We think this shows two things: 1) the big pharma tail wags the health care dog and 2) governments and payors claim to care about individuals’ life chances, but don’t really. The only people who really care if you die early or have a debilitating illness are you, your close friends and your family.

And now we have the keys to the kingdom – big data and AI can be applied to every aspect of our health, from the genome to the gut biome, to produce tailored programmes that keep each of us on course to maximise life years.

The need then is to synergise all this into tailored health care programmes which go further than generic advice to eat greens and exercise well. And health care platforms like Verita Health Care (see our interview here) and Livongo are having the temerity to produce these. Many other health care operators are also moving into the sector. And insurers such as Allianz and Discovery are starting to offer these platforms.

We say “temerity” because these players will have the forces of the medical profession and its main influencer, big pharma, ranged against them. As with chronic disease management programmes, big pharma will demand double-blind trial scientific levels of proof. The medical profession will provide squadrons of nay-sayers.

And yet it is very clear that a new landscape of preventative care, which can, and will, add several, possibly many, years of quality life for most of us, is emerging. And health care providers who can meld the data and have the reach to deliver these services will be in the driving seat. But sitting there will take courage.

We would welcome your thoughts on this story. Email your views to Max Hotopf or call 0207 183 3779.