Tackle the future with Team Healthcare


A new level of collaboration is needed to overcome the current and future challenges facing healthcare globally, according to international research presented recently. But how far should individual companies go for the good of the 'team'?


For some time now, the different players in the healthcare sector have been transforming themselves into a team – a team made up of doctors, patients, payers and, of course, pharma, in order to better manage current and future challenges around health.

Therefore it was appropriate for Charles van Commenee, former head coach of the UK Athletics team during the London 2012 Olympics, to present his views on exactly what is required of a high-performing team, and to set the expectations for what lies ahead in our industry, at the recent meeting 'Future Agenda: How to Inspire Future Thinking'. The meeting drew together 120 key opinion leaders and executives from pharma and the broader health environment.

Alongside Charles van Commenee, Dr Tim Jones, founder and programme director of the Future Agenda project, shared research from 10 months of work, involving about 5,000 people from around the globe.

The objective was to kick-start the conversation around some of the biggest, most complex issues facing the world today, encouraging exploration and, hopefully, a solution through combining the efforts of the global community.

Problems too big to solve?

The key topics which will change the priorities of healthcare industries worldwide over the next 10 years were discussed. Some of the largest drivers identified by the research included the obesity epidemic, the increasing and unsustainable costs of healthcare as a percentage of GDP and ageing and expanding populations.

With ageing demographics – largely due to the success of the healthcare industry in the past century – elderly dependant ratings are reaching almost 70 or 80% in some countries, which has experts concerned.

"A child born this year is going to live six months longer, on average, than a child born last year. The big thing that everyone is agreeing with is, we've got population growth, but it's the imbalance about it that's the problem. If we can try and somehow rectify the balance side of things, move populations around, then we'll be fine going forward," said Tim Jones.

This issue alone raises some uncomfortable questions. Only through a concerted effort involving all concerned parties, can each problem be untangled and addressed as the challenges mount. As attendee Dr Marianne Fletcher of Pfizer pointed out: "We're seeing population migration to a degree already, but is the infrastructure in place? If migration is likely to increase then it's important to consider whether the healthcare infrastructure is there to meet the needs of those migrating populations, and prepare accordingly."

David Coleiro, founding partner at Strategic North, emphasised the importance that collaboration and technology will have on this shifting landscape. "What is clear is that a new level of collaboration will be required to solve the myriad of health challenges we face.

"The role of the different stakeholders in health will change," he continued. "A tech-centric system will shift how we can deliver healthcare and the role of patients and healthcare professionals within it. Business and governments will also become more actively engaged in the wellbeing of employees and society. Collaboration and sharing of resources will become more normal in business and companies from disparate industries will collaborate to develop complete health support offers, including lifestyle coaching, health monitoring and medicines. These will become available to be purchased or leased as a package. As such, pharma needs to re-align its own role to remain a key part of 'Team Healthcare'."

Only a high degree of global teamwork will begin to solve these dilemmas. These are issues that cannot be solved by governments or any one industry alone. Participating in such a high-performing team requires certain skills and, as van Commenee pointed out, even in an 80-man team like UK Athletics, everyone must play their part.

"When you see Mo Farah or any other athlete crossing the finish line, you may see one athlete, but there's a whole army of experts behind them. There's about 15 people who work with these athletes day to day," he explained. "But, as you can imagine, this only works if people work together, and it takes desire to be successful. A dream, and ambition, that's where you start."

For the good of the team

It's safe to say that, for many, ridding the world of childhood obesity or fixing our ageing healthcare system has been a dream for quite some time, so why haven't we found a solution? "It's where you start, but it's not distinctive. Everybody has a dream; it doesn't cost any money to have a dream. The question is, what price are you willing to pay? How dedicated are you?"

Dedication was the centrepiece of van Commenee's presentation. As he pointed out, the difference between a performing team and a high-performing team comes down to how much you live by the values of your team, and what lengths you are willing to go to for success.

"Mo Farah is a great example. He finished fifth or sixth many times at world championships at global level. In 2009 I asked him what the difference was between him and the athletes that won. It came down to him having to move house. He was working in London on his own, but the opposition had a lot of strong training partners. They were training in altitude in Kenya or other places around the world. Mo had to make the decision to move his family to Oregon to join another training group. He gave up his sponsor, he made a lot of sacrifices, but he kept going.

"This is something that all team members have to understand; if the athletes are determined to focus and sacrifice for many years then the rest of the team has to make the same sacrifices. What's good for the individual is not always good for the team, and that's actually the essence of teamwork – to understand that and make the necessary sacrifices. If you don't share those values you end up in trouble."

Shared values are important in teamwork, and this is more relevant to pharma, and to the wider healthcare industry, than ever before. Healthcare is no longer a doctor/patient relationship with everybody else on the periphery.

Arguably, there isn't a more high-performing team on earth than a global athletics team, where everyone must pull their weight and be top of their game every single day. But if we have any hope of tackling even one of the issues, then 'team healthcare' also needs to step up to the plate, dedicate itself to the cause and make the sacrifices necessary to win the gold. After all, it's for the good of the team.

The Future Agenda: How to Inspire Future Thinking event was hosted by healthcare brand-building agency Strategic North and learning and development company Raise the Bar.
About the author:

Craig Sharp is a freelance journalist and content marketer. He has over eight years of business journalism experience in the healthcare, process excellence and display advertising industries. Before going freelance, he worked at processexcellencenetwork.com and, prior to that, eyeforpharma.com.

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Craig Sharp

13 April, 2016