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Health, wellness and food are set to become even more linked than ever before in 2012 and beyond.

That’s a significant trend that I’m witnessing right now through the various keynotes and consultations that I do with a large range of food / restaurant / consumer product companies, as well as the keynotes I do for major health care groups worldwide. I get to see what food companies are focused on; I get to see what healthcare groups and governments are worried about…..

Jim Carroll helps global organizations interpret how the trends of today will impact them tomorrow. His food and health care clients include H.J. Heinz, Nestle, the World Healthcare Innovation & Technology Summit, and just recently, as the opening keynote speaker for the 2011 World Pharma Innovation Congress in London, England

In a nutshell, here’s what’s happening:

  • the importance of health and wellbeing on a global national, political and healthcare system perspective is accelerating. We’ve got a big global problem, and nations and governments are racing to deal with it.
  • the result is that there is a very significant effort by food companies to speed up their innovation engine with respect to their health and wellness product line – it’s being done to mitigate potential political risk down the road
  • it’s also being done because it makes increasing business sense — as consumers worldwide begin to adjust their lifestyle, including their food intake, revenues of the health/wellness product line soars. One report suggests, the sale of heath and wellness oriented foods is expected to quadruple through the next five years.
  • to help accomplish that, food and consumer product companies are make an increasing number of BIG BETS involving product development, and through even more vigorous M&A activities, that enhance their health and wellness product lines

Making BIG BETS involves establishing big goals. Consider just two examples of “BIG BET thinking”:

  • “Frito-Lay, the biggest U.S. seller of salty snacks, is embarking on an audacious plan. By the end of the year, it intends to make half its snacks sold in the U.S. with only natural ingredients” You Put What in This Chip? 24 March 2011, The Wall Street Journal
  •  Pepsi intends to grow a $10 billion health and wellness portfolio to $30 billion by 2020

Savvy food companies know that globally, they face increasing national financial, political and healthcare risk. Quite simply, the world is getting fat, people are getting sick, and countries are not going to be able to afford the care for those suffering from the resultant lifestyle disease.

Here’s a clip in which I’m speaking to the annual general meeting of the Professional Golfers Association of America — the PGA! — on the depth of the obesity / lifestyle crisis.

Given this reality, and the economic volatility in Europe, the US, Japan and elsewhere as government revenue declines and spending soars, in 2012 and beyond we are going to see far more aggressive efforts by politicians and governments to reign in health care spending, including that related to lifestyle-disease. Nations simply can’t afford what is set to come in terms of spending.

Much of this activity will come to involve far more aggressive efforts concerning preventative health care programs, including wellness and lifestyle management. We can expect governments and politicians to become far more aggressive with food companies when it comes to their food offerings.

There is a big political risk here on a global scale.

The result? Smart food companies are making BIG BETS right now to grow their health and wellness product lines. It makes great sense from a business sense; it’s critical in order to stay one step ahead of government trends in order to mitigate risk.

So how will food companies grow their health and wellness line of business? By accelerating internal innovation into health and wellness product lines, but also through some pretty aggressive M&A activity

  • A report by Deloitte suggests that this will include increased M&A activity involving dairy, juice, health snacks and functional foods.
  • Gerald Abelson, president of Canadian corporate finance group MNC Multinational Consultants recently observed that “health and wellness is definitely where you want to be in the next three to five years” in a discussion about global M&A activity in the food and consumer product sector in 2012 and beyond.

Big Goals – Big Bets.

That’s the focus for 2012 and beyond for most companies in the food and restaurant sector.

Background:

If you check the Health Trends section of this blog, you’ll find a post in which I write about the ongoing and significant challenges that the world faces with the rapid emergence of lifestyle disease and other challenges. Notes one comment in that post (“Trend – Confronting the Global Health Care Crisis”):

It’s the lifestyle disease that provides the biggest challenge in terms of scope: according to the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, “1.6 billion adults are overweight or obese worldwide and over 50 per cent of adults in the US and Europe fit into this category.”

 with the resultant impact:

  • “The number of adults with diabetes worldwide has more than doubled since 1980 to 347 million, a far larger number than previously thought and one that suggests costs of treating the disease will also balloon.” Global diabetes epidemic balloons to 350 million, Reuters Health E-Line, June 27, 2011

Lest we think that this is a problem only in the Western world, I also note that:

The challenge with lifestyle disease isn’t restricted to the Western world; the statin (cholesterol) drug market in China, India other “BRIC”countries is set to grow at rates of up to 25% compounded per year. In other words, developing nations are soon to see the same lifestyle diseases which are currently sweeping through North America and Europe.

 

(This is a long post!)

Were my comments in the video below — recorded in front of 3,000 people at the annual National Recreation and Parks Association annual conference in Salt Lake City in 2009 — quite possibly the stupidest, dumbest  comments I’ve ever made on stage?

Could we really be headed to a world in which we are going to utilize a lot of technology and innovation to help us deal with a very real and significant challenge – that is, dealing with the tsunami of care-giving that will be required in the world of seniors care?

I’ve been debating this for quite some time, given the confluence of two issues: my wife and I  and sons (and her sister and family) have been quite immersed since December with a family member that has involved the rapid onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia. It is a very sad, intense and emotionally challenging situation; it has revealed to me the personal side of a very complex problem.

And while all this has been going, I had been working on and preparing for my keynote to the DSSI Annual Forum. DSSI is a major supplier within the US seniors care industry, and the conference features the participation of probably the bulk of the seniors care operators in the US.

My keynote was to be focused on innovation in the seniors care sector — where might there be opportunities, and what are the trends that will provide those opportunities.

How did I approach the topic? I truly believe that we live in a period of great transformation, and that people must challenge themselves to think boldly when it comes to innovation. Hence, the innovation opportunity comes from “thinking big.”

So let’s think about the scope of the problem. We all know that in Western nations and mature Asian countries, the seniors care challenge is massive. And with longer life expectancy, we are dealing with a reality in which the challenge of Alzheimer’s care for these seniors will go on for much longer periods of time.

In my keynote, I jumped right into the “scope” issue. Consider the reality:

  • in the US, the number of Alzheimer’s patients is set to triple to 16 million by 2050
  • the typical Alzheimer patient is disabled for 9 to 20 years – and this will increase to 40- to 50 years as medical advances continue and life expectancy continues to grow
  • we are spending $172 billion a year in treatment – and that is set to grow to $1.08 trillion by 2050 given the growth in the number of cases, and the impact of longevity
  • there is a lot of family care giving that is involved; as the St. Louis Dispatch noted, “Boomers may be spending more years caring for an aging parent than a child
  • and the challenge shows no end in sight: “40% of people over the age of 80 are suffering from dementia – there will be a million new cases a year by 2050

Put these facts into the context of the reality of what is occuring in the world of seniors care today:

  • an ongoing massive ramp-up in demand with shortfall in available and planned units
  • a funding crisis with plunging investment / housing values, and state, federal and municipal tax deficits
  • ongoing skills and staffing issues
  • increasing scrutiny in public eye
  • heightened expectations on quality of service from the boomer generation

That’s why one of the first points I emphasized is what I often do in my keynotes: “World class innovators aren’t afraid of thinking boldly!” Simply put, we have a huge problem, and society and government needs some pretty bold thinking when it comes to solutions. How is society going to care for, in a respectful way, an increasing number of seniors living with a very complex disease? How can we help the caregivers to give better care?

Which brings me to the Paro therapeutic robot.

“It’s Not a Stuffed Animal, It’s a $6,000 Medical Device; Paro the Robo-Seal Aims to Comfort Elderly, but Is It Ethical?” – Wall Street Journal

When I am preparing for a keynote, I often do research that involves reading through several hundred articles on a topic — I access these through an online research service. In this case, while doing my homework, I came across the Paro, as covered in an article in the Wall Street Journal:

It might be the cuddliest medical device ever to cause an ethical quandary. Five years ago, a Japanese robot manufacturer introduced Paro to the world. Built to resemble a baby harp seal—with a plush coat of antibacterial fur—Paro was hailed in Japan as a pioneer among socially interactive robots, one that would help lift the spirits of millions of elderly adults.

It never quite caught on. “It doesn’t do much other than utter weird sounds like ‘heeee’ or ‘huuuu,'” says Tomoko Iimura, whose adult day-care center in Tsukuba City keeps its Paro in a closet.

Now Paro has come to American shores, appearing in a handful of nursing homes and causing a stir in a way that fake seal pups rarely do.

My first reaction was, “that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.” I was thinking in the context of what my wife was going through; dealing with someone with Alzheimer’s involves a tremendous amount of love, care, time, and emotional commitment.

How, in my mind, could a fake pet ever provide a level of care that would equate to that offered by a loving family member?

And at that point, I had to check myself — after all, I always challenge people to avoid reacting to new ideas with such phrases. It’s a key part of what I often outline on stage — the “innovation killers” that provide such a degree of organizational sclerosis that it clogs up our ability to try to do something new.

So let’s think about the Paro therapeutic robot. It was approved by the FDA as a medical device; the Wall Street Journal had this to say:

“Powering it are two 32-bit processors, three microphones, 12 tactile sensors covering most of its fur, touch-sensitive whiskers and a system of motors that silently move its parts. They allow Paro to recognize voices, track motion and “remember” behaviours that elicit positive responses from patients”

– It’s not a stuffed animal, it’s a $6,000 medical device, WSJ, June 2010

The more I thought about it, I realized that I was probably guilty of the same anti-innovation attitudes that I often talk to my clients about. Who am I to say that such a device might not play a role in helping to provide for bold, transformative solutions to a challenge that is massive in scope?Maybe I’m guilty of the same type of innovation-blockers’s that I speak on stage about! I pondered that thought through the last month during my daily five mile walks….

Read further into the article, and you come across this:

One recent morning, staff at Marian Manor in Pittsburgh, one of Vincentian Collaborative’s homes, circulated three Paros among residents gathered for a sing-a-long. As 77-year-old Anita Biro sat down at a table, she berated two fellow residents and told them to leave, recalls Beth Kuenzi, activities manager for the home’s dementia unit.

But when Ms. Kuenzi put Paro in front of Ms. Biro, her mood changed. As Ms. Biro stroked the robot’s synthetic fur, the machine batted its eyelashes and tracked movement with its head and eyes.

“I love this baby,” Ms. Biro cooed.

Aides also take Paro to residents’ rooms to get them to socialize. At another Vincentian home, Lois Simmeth, 73, doesn’t always participate in group activities, but she ventures into the hall when she hears Paro’s sounds.

“I love animals,” explains Ms. Simmeth. She whispered to the robot in her lap: “I know you’re not real, but somehow, I don’t know, I love you.”

Five years out? 10? 15? Who knows what type of bold, innovative solutions we might see emerging that could help family members who are in a caregiving situation, or which might help to alleviate the huge burden of care within seniors facilities?

Further into my research, I came across the MedCottage. What a unique innovation this was — a small, wired, backyard “cottage” that a family could use to provide independent living for their parents.

It seems to tie into a key trend — at the DSSI event, former Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson (now President of the AHCA / NCAL, the main association representing the seniors care industry in Washington), noted that a survey indicated that 96% of American’s did not want to spend their later retirement years in a nursing home — they wanted to be in a home care environment.

And so could the MedCottage be a fascinating innovation to the trend towards home care?Absolutely — but it too will run into the “innovation blockers.” Such an idea could be doomed because of “NIMBYISM”  – “not in my neighbours backyard!” Yet things are moving fast on that front too:

The State of Virginia has passed a law allowing installation of MEDCottages in residential backyards, over the objections of homeowners who have expressed fears they don’t belong in neighbourhoods.” Checking up on mom from a distance, Toronto Star, September 2010

Telling this story on stage, I reminded my audience that to deal with the really big challenges that we are faced with, we need fundamental shifts in how we approach things, and a lot of bold thinking and big ideas. Certainly the economics for home-care are compelling. I put up these bullets for the audience of seniors care operators:

  • “In Ohio, home care is estimated at $1,400 per month vs $4,300 for nursing care
  • bold goals: plan shift from 42% to 50% within three years
  • the discussion is occurring – you need to be a part of it!

In other words, my challenge to the seniors care industry is this: clearly, there is a massive trend towards home care, which will also involve a lot of family caregiving. Which led to one of the key points in my keynote: “Innovative organizations make bold leaps, in order to keep up — and stay ahead —  of a faster future”, and this point : ““Our innovation mandate won’t involve tinkering around the edges.”

So where does all this lead in terms of the video clip from my NRPA keynote – was this the dumbest thing I ever said on stage? I don’t think so. Clearly, Silicon Valley has health care in its sights — and that will include seniors care, and home care. Noted one researcher at Intel:

We have the potential to aim our innovation engine at the age wave challenge and change the way we do health care from a crisis- driven, assembly-line, hospital approach to a personal-driven approach, with people taking care of themselves with help from family, friends and technologies

This ties into the research that I refer to in my keynote to the NRPA:

Researchers at the University of Missouri are using sensors, computers and communication systems …. to monitor the health of older adults who are living at home.”

“….motion sensor networks installed in seniors homes can detect changes in behavior and physical activity, including walking and sleeping patterns…early identification of changes can prompt health care intervention….

Study the MedCottage web site, and you’ll discover that it involves some monitoring and other technologies that do exactly that.

Clearly, we have some big challenges to solve in the seniors care industry. Clearly, there will be a trend to home care. And clearly, we are witnessing the emergence of new ideas and innovations that will provide for transformative change.

So no, I don’t think I was wrong in my video.

I don’t think that the experience that my family has been through negates the trends. I think as a futurist, sometimes you have to make bold leaps with your imagination, by carefully studying trends and innovations, and putting into perspective what they mean.

The future is coming — and while we might often wonder about the predictions that are made, we must never dare to question the boldness of what might emerge.

 

It’s an interesting time in the US. The healthcare reform debate continues; the future is uncertain. Health care groups everywhere and those impacted by the bill are spending a huge amount of time thinking about the implications of the bill, and the role of innovation.

Real innovation in the healthcare sector will come from riding the future trends that will allow for the reinvention and re-architecture of the the entire system. Click to read more!

In my own case, I’ve been doing and am scheduled to do quite a few keynotes for health care or related institutions (insurance, tax, financial, pharmaceutical, and others..) that focus on future trends in health care. And I’m finding that people are bringing me in as the ‘thought leader’ to really open the minds of people beyond the policy and political discussions which are underway in these leadership meetings.

For example, for an upcoming conference in Arizona, there will be two days looking at health reform issues. There will be:

  • a policy wonk, looking at the politics of health care in Washington
  • an economist, who will take a look at the global and US economies, and the impact on health care dollars
  • a health system specialist, who will talk about how to implement the requirements of the health care bill
  • and me — the future — to provide a closing keynote on the REAL trends that will impact healthcare into the future!

There are a lot of policy and political issues on the table today, and organizations need to address them. But I’m also finding that quite a few CEO’s and senior executives are working hard to move their team beyond just those issues, and are looking for the real opportunities for innovation within the system. That’s where I come in!

As I note in my healthcare keynote description:

When Jim Carroll began a recent keynote talk for the Minnesota Hospital Association CEO Summit, he announced that he wouldn’t even mention health care reform — and the audience of 300 senior executives cheered! Instead, he told the audience that he would take them on a voyage to the world of healthcare in the year of 2020, and provide them the insight they really need to deal with the challenges and opportunity of the future.”

What are some of these trends, that go well beyond reform? I cover them in my talk:

Where will we by the year 2020? We will have successfully transitioned the system from one which “fixes people after they’re sick” to one of preventative, diagnostic genomic-based medicine. Treating patients for the conditions we know they are likely to develop, and re-architechting the system around that reality. A system which will provide for virtual care through bio-connectivity, and extension of the hospital into a community-care oriented structure. A consumer driven, retail oriented health care environment for non-critical care treatment that provides significant opportunities for cost reduction. Real time analytics and location-intelligence capabilities which provide for community-wide monitoring of emerging health care challenges. “Just-in-time” knowledge concepts which will help to deal with a profession in which the volume of knowledge doubles every six years. That and much, much more.”

Health care reform is a big issue, and likely one of the biggest in the US economy today. But you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you think that innovation in the health care sector is limited to the impact of the bill. There are so many trends providing so much opportunity for innovation, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t understand them.

Think BIGGER – read my “It’s January 15, 2020: What Have We Learned About Healthcare in the Last Decade” document!

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