Recent scientific advances could transform healthcare by 2030, says Dr Hubert Bland, medical director at Bristol Myers Squibb UK & Ireland, but there are key decisions the UK must take to make that vision a reality
How has digital technology helped improve healthcare over the past 10 years?
Extraordinary advances in healthcare over the past decade indicate an exciting future for all of us. Immunotherapy has transformed survival for some cancer patients; the rollout of an effective HPV vaccine has raised the prospect of eliminating cervical cancer as a global public health problem; and teams in the UK have sequenced 100,000 whole genomes from NHS patients.
The devastating Covid-19 pandemic, though deeply disruptive to health services in the immediate term, has acted as a further catalyst for the adoption of digital technologies. Within 24 hours of the Zoe app launching to track Covid symptoms in the UK, for example, it had been downloaded over 1 million times. Such engagement in public health research is unprecedented and offers a window of opportunity.
How will data shape healthcare innovation over the next decade?
By 2030, the way we deliver healthcare can be revolutionised even further, as science and technology converge, and the UK continues to embrace data-driven healthcare. In this new era of healthcare delivery, scientific developments are being leveraged to better understand the complexities of human biology.
As such, our future healthcare will hopefully be based on early detection, faster diagnosis and better prediction of risk at both the individual and population level. Traditional healthcare data will be combined with other kinds of data to improve decision-making and better target health interventions. Prevention will be prioritised, enabled by the application of artificial intelligence algorithms, machine learning and digital devices.
What role is Bristol Myers Squibb playing in this healthcare revolution?
As a pioneering bio-pharmaceutical company, Bristol Myers Squibb is particularly focused on the future of oncology and the potential for exponential improvements in our efforts against this disease. In cancer diagnosis, we believe that population-wide screening, leveraging new techniques and genomic and polygenic risk scores, will enable asymptomatic cancer detection and early diagnosis at stages 1 and 2 of the disease’s progression. Cutting-edge treatments used at these early stages of cancer will combine precision medicine with advanced therapies to make care more specialised and more personalised.
How can the UK ensure this vision translates to real-life advances in healthcare?
By bringing together both traditional and non-traditional healthcare datasets, the UK could become the first country to routinely use AI in diagnostics, clinical decision-making and disease prevention. This must be done in the most robust, secure way, prioritising and protecting the privacy of people’s health records while unlocking the vast possibilities of large data to improve lives.
We must also position the NHS as an engine of innovation, which means ensuring it gets the funding necessary to clear the backlog caused by Covid-19 and lay strong foundations for the future. If we invest in NHS clinical research infrastructure and streamline approval processes, for example, the NHS can attract more clinical trials, meaning UK patients are among the first to test the most innovative treatments globally.
As the pace of scientific advances accelerates, how can the UK health system be more agile to proven innovations?
This is a challenge for healthcare systems around the world, trying to grapple with unprecedented demand while continuing to advance patient treatment. The NHS, industry bodies and other partners must continue to work together – through initiatives like the Life Sciences Vision and Accelerated Access Collaborative – to expedite the adoption of new technologies across the health service.
As we navigate this era of data-driven healthcare, we must also continue to put the individuals at the heart of decision-making about their own healthcare, the application of new technologies and the design of health systems. At Bristol Myers Squibb, we are committed to ensuring that the design of every major clinical trial of our medicines has patient input. Similarly, we must ensure that people’s needs define the future of every aspect of healthcare in the UK, so that all of us can share the benefits of longer, healthier lives.
For more information, visit www.bms.com/gb
NO-GB-2100345. October 2021
Promoted by Bristol Myers Squibb