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Healthcare Innovation: Investing in the Next Breakthrough Idea

09 February 2015


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People living longer is a huge challenge for governments

The world's combined aging population will become a major challenge for most governments unless innovations in science and technology are further developed, utilized, and spread to make the elderly self-reliant and live productive lives, said Jonathan J. Fleming, president of the non-profit group Network for Excellence in Healthcare Innovation (NEHI), at The Government Summit 2015.

In the US alone, 18 million people are over the age of 75 and more than half of them live alone. “The number of elderly people will grow and grow and the number of young people who will take care of them will shrink and shrink and this is going to be a major challenge. Medical innovation will make us live longer but we don’t just want to live longer, we want to live well. And that would mean getting spare parts,” Fleming said.

The global population is projected to reach 8 billion by 2030. By 2050, the ageing global population would reach 1.5 billion.

Fleming was joined by Chris Coburn, vice president at Partners Healthcare, in exchanging ideas and thoughts on the topic ‘Healthcare Innovation: Investing in the Next Breakthrough Idea’. 

A venture capitalist who works with wealthy individuals in financing medical research and breakthroughs in technology, Coburn said innovation plays a key role in keeping elderly patients safe and healthy despite the absence of family members.

A cancer survivor, Fleming said technology is also enabling many elderly people with medical issues, even extreme ones, to live longer.

“I do believe the governments have to rethink what they are going to do with people who will live beyond 65. These are people who are wise and experienced. They want to be part of society. They don’t just want to live alone. They want to make sure that they live a high-quality life,” Fleming said.

Coburn said the sobering fact is that innovation is intertwined with providing the elderly quality and healthy lives. In April, Coburn said, Boston will host the World Medical Innovation Forum where participants will share ideas about scientific breakthroughs in medicine and technology that will have a large impact on people, especially the elderly. Among the latest innovations is medical technology's ability to sequence the genome of a person for less than $1,000. This research will enable one to have a customized health care plan, he said.