Designing Health Policy for the Future

Published May 18, 2020

Themes Centered on COVID-19 “Lessons Learned,” Universal Healthcare, and Enduring Healthcare System Transformation

004_P1_HealthPolicy_VirtualISPOR2020_150x200Lawrenceville, NJ, USA—May 18, 2020—ISPOR—The Professional Society for Health Economics and Outcomes Research (HEOR) opened its Virtual ISPOR 2020 conference this morning with its first plenary session, “Health Policy—Designing For the Future.” Virtual ISPOR 2020 is the Society’s first completely virtual conference that was redesigned as an online event when the COVID-19 pandemic required a necessary cancelation of the in-person conference.

The World Health Organization reports that one third of the world population lacks access to medicines, vaccines, and other essential health products; threatening lives and risking the emergence of other diseases and health-related effects, such as the antimicrobial resistance. With the growing realization that health is not exclusively a cost issue, rather it is an investment for the future, this multistakeholder panel of experts shared health policy insights from the United States and Western Europe. Speakers included:

  • Moderator: Dana Goldman, PhD; University of Southern California; Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • Margaret Anderson, MA; Deloitte Consulting LLP; Washington, DC, USA
  • Sir Andrew Dillon; National Institute for Health and Care Excellence; London, England, UK
  • Tomas Philipson, PhD, MA; White House Council of Economic Advisers; Washington, DC, USA

Sir Andrew Dillon was the first to provide his remarks. He noted that the COVID-19 pandemic will leave an enduring mark on our healthcare systems. In reflection, we’ll be able to evaluate the diverse approaches that different countries have taken, but we will realize that the challenges will still look familiar. He believes that in the future, we need a strengthened World Health Organization to facilitate sharing cross-country information. He stated that we need to commit to universal healthcare (UHC) for all citizens and that without UHC we are diminished as individuals and as societies. He pointed out the essential role that transparency plays in the healthcare system. Noting that increasing transparency is critical to confidence in the system and stated that achieving transparency requires both courage and persistence.

Margaret Anderson, MA spoke next. She pointed to a study that Deloitte had conducted prior to COVID-19 on The Future of Health that looked at healthcare 20 years in the future. In light of the current pandemic, she has been reminded of the quote, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” and has heard some say, “Science is the mother of invention.” With the rapid change spurred by COVID-19, she believes that both necessity and science are bringing innovation. She stressed the importance of broadening how we think about health to include not only physical health, but also mental and financial health. She also stressed that it is important to not ignore the many health challenges we faced before COVID-19 as those issues and diseases are still with us. She also noted the importance of taking the lessons we learn in dealing with COVID-19 and applying them to healthcare overall.

Tomas Philipson, PhD, MA spoke next, speaking to the sectors addressing the COVID-19 crisis in the United States—federal, state, and the private sector. He noted that states have had a more regulatory role (eg, mandates to mitigate disease spread), but that what is often missed in the conversation is that the private sector was actually the first to take measures that reduced economic activity. For example, data show that restaurant bookings were down significantly before mandates were put into place. He believes it is important to keep in mind that mandates force everyone to behave the same, which isn’t necessarily optimal. He thinks the approach that makes the most sense for a market opening is one that brings in low-risk individuals while protecting higher-risk individuals. He also believes that the private sector will drive the rebound in the United States, noting that if people are still afraid when mandates are lifted it will impede any recovery.

Dana Goldman, PhD moderated a lively question and answer session focusing on the future of health policy. Dr Goldman pointed out that the Asian Development Bank has estimated the cost of COVID-19 as high as $4.1 Trillion dollars, noting the value of developing a vaccine and asking the panel how we can incentivize innovation. Dr Philipson pointed out that diagnostics and vaccines can be much more valuable than is often assessed. He also addressed the desire of governments to make these treatments available to patients at no cost, while still encouraging innovation and giving credit to the innovator. Sir Andrew Dillon spoke to the issue of rewarding innovation. He believes that the principle of fair reward for innovation is broadly accepted, but that life sciences companies need to take care that they are not seen as taking advantage of the situation.

Dr Goldman asked Ms Anderson to speak to the issue of patient engagement in future health policy. She noted that patient organizations have a history of impacting health policy and are the lifeblood for many health conditions. She also pointed out that the pandemic has impacted the finances of many of these organizations with significant reductions in donations. She asked that we ask the question, “Are we actually talking to patients about their needs?” and recognized that both the US Food and Drug Administration and many life sciences companies have done important work in listening to patients. 

Virtual ISPOR 2020 is being held May 18-20. Registrants will have access to the nearly 60 hours of on-demand recordings of all conference sessions through June 30. In addition to the plenary sessions, Virtual ISPOR 2020 features issue panels, workshops, podium presentations, and educational symposia. Research abstracts from the conference will continue to be published in the Society’s journal, Value in Health, and will be available in the ISPOR Presentations Database. The ISPOR Short Course Program is also be presented virtually with a variety of course topics and dates offered in June and July.

Additional information can be found at:  
Virtual ISPOR 2020  |  Program  |  Registration Information  |  Short Courses  |  COVID-19 PlenaryPress

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ISPOR, the professional society for health economics and outcomes research (HEOR), is an international, multistakeholder, nonprofit dedicated to advancing HEOR excellence to improve decision making for health globally. The Society is the leading source for scientific conferences, peer-reviewed and MEDLINE®-indexed publications, good practices guidance, education, collaboration, and tools/resources in the field.
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