5 Key Takeaways from This Year’s JP Morgan Healthcare ConferenceThe annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference is one of the most influential healthcare conferences, as it sets the tone for expectations in the healthcare landscape during the upcoming year.

This year’s healthcare investment symposium at the Westin St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco didn’t disappoint as it brought together industry leaders, emerging fast-growth companies, innovative technology creators, not-for-profits, and members of the investment community.

Over 400 companies, both public and private, delivered presentations to more than 8,000 attendees. Moreover, all the organizations who participated represented about $300 billion or 10% of the actual healthcare spent in the U.S.

Below, we’ll share 5 key takeaways from the conference and discuss how they may shape the future of healthcare.

1. Rectifying Power Imbalances

Jen Horonjeff, CEO and founder of Savvy Cooperative, named one of the top 50 daring entrepreneurs in 2018, showed up to her panel presentation wearing a hospital gown.

When speaking about the future of pharmaceutical innovation, Ms. Horonjeff said she wanted to highlight the power imbalance between decision-makers and end-users (the patients). Savvy’s mission is to give patients direct ways to share their experiences with health innovators and advocate that they are fairly compensated for their contributions. The company empowers patients to co-create new solutions, give them a sense of purpose, and help them earn money.

For many patients, dealing with illness and disease involves some of the scariest moments of their lives. In this fragile state, they are often put in a cold room, stripped of their clothes and dignity. Ms. Horonjeff challenged attendees to remember who was not represented at the conference—the patients. Her remarks were a wake-up call for what is missing in healthcare conferences nationally. Keeping the patient at the center of the decision-making process will be increasingly critical moving forward.

2. CVS—Transforming Retail Healthcare Delivery

CVS Health recently announced a significant expansion of its HealthHUB locations at CVS Pharmacy stores across the country. The aim is to deliver a differentiated consumer health experience. The JP Morgan conference marked the culmination of the CVS Health journey when it acquired Aetna in November 2018. Since then, the company set a bold course to transform the consumer health care experience in the U.S.

Building on the success and customer response to its HealthHUB pilot in Houston, the company will open additional locations in Houston, Atlanta, Philadelphia, southern New Jersey, and Tampa this year, and plans to have 1,500 HealthHUB locations operating by the end of 2021.

CVS plans to transform how healthcare is consumed. Furthermore, the company will allocate 20% of their retail space to those health services, changing the game as to how healthcare is delivered. It will be interesting to see how other companies like Walmart respond to the move. Still, one thing is sure: the CVS Health initiative will put tremendous pressure on health and hospital systems going forward.

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3. The Definition of Digital Health

Many conference attendees complained about the confusion over the definition of digital health and agreed that lack of clarity could hold back the sector. Digital health is broadly considered as the intersection of health and technology. However, the term has been overused and overhyped so that its definition is no longer clear.

Digital health involves two primary facets. The first is invisible data, the information created by an iWatch, Fitbit, or other types of wearable devices that create, track, and monitor data. Amazon Echo devices also capture information in our homes and cars.

The second aspect of health IT is information captured and used for therapeutic purposes. These types of devices may require a prescription from a physician. Pear Therapeutics is one of the leaders specializing in prescription digital therapeutics.

Companies like Express Scripts are currently evaluating different devices and technology as they have the potential to harm as well as help patients. Misinformation about the potential pros and cons of digital health abounds and needs to be delineated and clarified more and more moving forward.

4. Lack of Mergers and Acquisitions

Historically, the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference has been all about mergers and acquisitions. However, this year, the lack of M&A activity made the news. Data suggests that there are fewer business deals during an election year. And 69% of deal-making decision-makers surveyed say that the valuation gap between buyers and sellers is the largest it has been since 2008.

During the four-day event, there were hundreds of receptions, dinners, and one-off meetings. It is unknown who met with who, what deals were discussed, and what followup meetings will occur after the conference. At the end of the day, any deals announced later this year were probably initiated during the JP Morgan conference.

5. Viatris Paving the Way

Viatris is the creation of Milan and Pfizer’s [Upjohn] division. Announced in July 2019, the company will aim to create a new global healthcare gateway. Viatris’ 2020 revenue will be made up of roughly 34% generic products and over 50% branded products.

The company has access to over 1000 molecules and expects to increase sales by some $3 billion over the next four years. They have a suite of products in different therapeutic areas, including brands, generics, over-the-counter, biologics, and biosimilars. Moreover, the organization includes over 13,000 sales reps, 2,500 scientists, 1000 regulatory experts, and over 600 medical product safety professionals.

Viatris plans to take its global footprint and partner with mid-sized pharmaceutical companies to help them commercialize future branded products, which could disrupt the market in significantly positive ways.