The pandemic brought some much-needed changes to our healthcare system. Telehealth finally caught on after Congress loosened restrictions that had hampered it. Nurses are being recognized for their hard work as some states, such as New York, grant them full practice authority. Both pandemic-induced changes should make healthcare more affordable and easier to access.
While these policy changes are great, the biggest pandemic advancement was the private-sector-driven mRNA vaccines that helped end the worst of Covid-19. Like Moderna and BioNTech, the companies behind the vaccines, other businesses are working hard to create new products and services that will help more of us live longer and healthier lives.
Scipher Medicine is a precision immunology company that helps match autoimmune disease patients with the most effective therapies based on the patient’s unique characteristics. A recent study showed that Scipher’s PrismRA blood test led to better patient outcomes when it was used to guide treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.
Scipher’s ability to make better use of currently available treatments and develop novel drugs with the same technology is an amazing development, but it is only the beginning. The human genome was fully sequenced a few weeks ago, which will further expand opportunities for personalized medicines and treatments. Instead of drugs and treatments designed to work for the average person, biotech companies can work with doctors to create unique drugs tailored for individuals. This should boost drug efficacy and reduce unwanted side effects.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in America, killing roughly 600,000 people annually. President Biden has pledged to cure cancer, but he cannot do it without private-sector innovation. One company on the frontier of the battle against cancer is GRAIL. GRAIL has a cutting-edge multi-cancer early detection blood test, and early detection of cancer is crucial for treating it.
The resources, capital, and technology that businesses like GRAIL bring to the fight against cancer are vital. Governments can provide grants and funding, but the major breakthroughs that will drive better health in the long term will come from private firms like GRAIL that must compete to satisfy consumers.
Another company that is making healthcare easier to access is Visibly. Based in Chicago, Visibly uses telehealth technology to provide more affordable vision tests and eye screenings to millions of Americans. People can also use Visibly to renew their prescriptions online, saving them time and money.
Early versions of President Biden’s failed Build Back Better plan would have expanded Medicare benefits to include vision coverage. But we do not need another taxpayer-funded program to ensure people have access to low-cost, high-quality vision services. Visibly, driven by the desire to serve consumers, is already providing these services, and more companies will follow as long as the government does not stifle competition with unnecessary regulation.
Another way businesses are making healthcare less expensive and more accessible is by solving delivery problems. Zipline uses autonomous drones to deliver medicine and healthcare supplies to millions of people around the world who live in hard-to-reach places.
Drone technology has been around for years, but regulatory uncertainty has made it difficult for companies like Zipline to deploy drones in the United States. Better regulation that clarifies the rules without limiting new entrants or competition would make it easier for Zipline and other businesses to deploy drones in America. Instead of time-consuming trips to the pharmacy, Americans could have their medicines delivered right to their doors via drones.
All these businesses are making healthcare more effective, more affordable, and easier to access. Politicians in Washington and statehouses around the country owe it to their constituents to create an environment where these and other businesses solving big problems can thrive.
Too many healthcare policy discussions focus on expanding access to insurance rather than improving health outcomes. An incremental approach, such as tweaks to the ACA, Medicare, or Medicaid, is not going to result in healthier lives. Transformative innovation driven by entrepreneurs in the private sector is the ultimate cause of longer and healthier lives and fostering such innovation should be our focus.