Steven Burrill, head of one of biotech’s earliest and largest sources of venture capital, shared his vision of the healthcare landscape in the future in his keynote address, entitled, “Biotech 2008: A 20/20 Vision to 2020.” Pointing out that US consumers spend some $200 billion each year on wellness products, without having a single penny of that reimbursed, Burrill intoned, “Don’t ever argue with me that we’re not willing to spend money on wellness.”
And how will we remain well? Prevention, says Burrill, will supplant therapeutics as a focus of medicine, and everything we do will be geared toward our wellness and longevity, he predicts. We will eat for health, and employers will continue on a trend towards providing financial incentives for healthy living. We’ll have monitors inside our Blackberries and cell phones that register how much we exercise, and these devices will transmit this information to our employers, our health-care providers, and our insurance companies who will, in some way, reward us for each extra step and sit-up we perform.
Of the many futuristic, and frankly somewhat fantastic visions Burrill shared, the most surprising were his predictions of how healthcare would be practiced. As he envisions it, our primary healthcare provider will be Walmart. Among the items we pick up at Walmart will be our genetic profiles, analyses, and diagnoses. Burrill proposes that we’ll enter the store, drop off a blood sample, and go on with our shopping, while our blood is analyzed and diagnosed. Routine healthcare will be administered by nurse practioners in the store, and on the way out, we’d pick up our prescription drugs. (Specialized medical care, say in oncology or cardiology, will be administered in specialized centers, Burrill predicts.)
I have to say that a lot of this sounded pretty odd to me, until this morning on the news I heard a report about “do-it-yourself healtchare.” It seems you can now or will soon be able to test the paternity of your child, assess your risk for breast or prostate cancer, or diagnose your viral infection with kits that you buy off the shelf at where? Drug stores and places like Walmart.
You can’t argue with Steven Burrill.