Leadership Series: Interview with Harry Glorikian, Partner at New Ventures Funds

As part of Slone Partners’ ongoing series of exclusive interviews with healthcare pioneers, we’re delighted to present Harry Glorikian, a global healthcare industry businessman, observer, and writer for over three decades. Well-known in the life sciences, diagnostics, and healthcare IT communities, himself holding four US patents in telecommunications, Mr.Glorikian spoke with Slone Partners’ President Tara Kochis-Stach to offer his insights into healthcare industry disruption, technology, and future developments.

Original Piece can be found: Here

SLONE PARTNERS PRESIDENT TARA KOCHIS-STACH: Apple, Amazon, JP Morgan, and Berkshire Hathaway have all announced they’re tackling healthcare directly for the benefit of their employees – a privatization of processes and upending of traditional “market rate” costs. What’s your take on this disruptive trend?

HARRY GLORIKIAN: The idea that employers are tackling healthcare directly isn’t a new one—it’s how the health insurance industry began more than 100 years ago. For years, employers have seen their costs rising tremendously and have begun to pass those costs on to employees. With both feeling the squeeze, it’s natural that there’s a push to transform the system and upset the status quo. There have been several attempts in the past few years to do this, like the Health Transformation Alliance, that counts diverse employers like IBM, American Express, and Caterpillar among its members. I think all of these attempts by employers, including Apple and the joint Amazon-JP Morgan-Berkshire Hathaway group, to tackle health costs are perfect opportunities to try out disruptive ideas on relatively small populations and see what works best, what could be rolled out to a much larger population in the future. Google tried their health record system, and now Apple has broached this subject with their IOS personalized electronic health record that’s become a standard for health records traveling with patients everywhere they go. For medical records organizations and hospital systems, this is a wake up call. Silos are being broken down, the moats around industries are being erased, and the markets are reacting quickly. 

TARA KOCHIS-STACH: You’ve become a prodigious blogger who covers all things healthcare, with real focus on life sciences and technology. What is it about being a writer and publishing your insights that’s different from your speaking engagements or business ventures? 

HARRY GLORIKIAN: Writing (either in blogs, short pieces, or my books) gives me the opportunity to explore topics in greater depth than I’m generally able to when giving a talk. I can describe in more detail how science and technology are transforming the healthcare landscape than a 30 minute or 1-hour talk allows for. But when you read about something, talk about it, think it through, and finally put it to paper, it’s like getting a mini degree in any subject. And when you string many subjects together, down the road, making connections in your mind, epiphanies can occur. This is what makes writing special. 

My business ventures give me the opportunity to investigate new technologies and products that are on the cutting edge of the industry. I’m constantly reading about and interacting with tech companies, which gives me a great deal of insight into what’s possible and where things are headed. I integrate that information and look at it from various points of view: how it fits into the industry as a whole, how it could influence one sector specifically, like drug discovery or health systems. Learning about these startups shines a light on where change will happen first and where there are investment opportunities. 

TARA KOCHIS-STACH: You’ve been a healthcare industry watcher and participant for 30 years who’s recently written about gene editing, genome banking and individual DNA rights, among others. What scientific breakthroughs in the past 3 decades have you witnessed that you deem thrilling? And what frightens you? 

HARRY GLORIKIAN: At the top of my list of scientific breakthroughs has to be sequencing the human genome. That feat has set the stage for what’s come since. Gene editing is another breakthrough; the potential to cure diseases like sickle cell or fix rare metabolic diseases is nothing short of astounding. I think that the integration of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and technology into the healthcare arena is also at the top of my list of breakthroughs. We’re just beginning to see how these technologies will transform the entire industry, from patient care to research; it’s a very exciting time. I’m not frightened, per se, of the use of technology in this way. Computers and robots aren’t replacing the doctors and scientists—they are helping them to be more efficient, make discoveries more quickly and accurately. But we may need to develop frameworks, guidelines, or even regulations that help us better manage the technologies. At the center of this is both personal and social responsibility – people don’t like regulation but they’ve never lived in an unregulated world, and in an unregulated world, they may not like what they end up with. 

TARA KOCHIS-STACH: Wearables and simple-to-use software are giving average people more information and presumably more control over their healthcare. Is there a power shift occurring between patients and doctors? What are the ramifications for diagnostics and therapies?  

HARRY GLORIKIAN: They want to feel in control of their data—just look at the popularity of fitness trackers and Apple Watches. This is a move toward true shared decision-making. So, it’s a power shift in that patients are not just going to blindly accept doctors’ decisions. There is a need for tools that help patients understand their disease, their treatment course, or that help doctors do a better job of explaining it. As medicine becomes more personalized, particularly for oncology and chronic diseases, the role for diagnostic devices is becoming even more important and the market for some therapeutics are becoming narrower. This is leading to tremendous opportunities for diagnostics manufacturers as pharmaceutical companies look to identify the best patient group for a particular drug. There’s also a very interesting generational gap – older people look to their doctor, while younger people use technology and tools to manage themselves. Younger, educated people are helping us transition from a “sick care system” to a “wellness care system” through self monitoring, and it’s probably saving a lot of people trips to the ER. 

TARA KOCHIS-STACH: What are the healthiest things – mental and physical, personally and professionally – people can do to live long, productive and meaningful lives?  

HARRY GLORIKIAN: I’m not a medical doctor so I can’t speak about what people should do specifically, but I’ve worked with and talked to hundreds throughout my career; balanced nutrition and being physically active are essential components of any healthy lifestyle. Professionally, I think being open to change is essential. Healthcare is an area where individuals with very diverse skills and ideas can make a significant difference in people’s lives—I think that’s incredibly meaningful. But in the end, taking control of your health and taking control of your healthcare goes a long way. Technology nowadays makes it much easier and simpler. 

TARA KOCHIS-STACH: You mention above that the recent trend of employers getting into healthcare is the result of companies and their employees taking on more of the costs. What do you think is behind the growing number of proposed mergers & acquisitions between insurers and pharmacies and others? 

HARRY GLORIKIANJust as employers and employees are bearing the brunt of escalating health costs, insurers and pharmacies are, too. Companies are using data analytics to identify areas where they can streamline processes and improve margins. It’s not entirely surprising then, that we find an insurer looking to work with a pharmacy benefits manager or pharmaceutical companies directly. The task will be for the companies to leverage data analytics in such a way to identify where the low-value/high-cost products are leading to unnecessary, higher costs systemically. It’s not going to be about steering everyone toward the cheapest drugs or procedures—in the end, that won’t save the system money if they aren’t effective. But if these vertically-integrated companies can highlight the high-value products, and move patients and providers toward those, I think we will start to see a dramatic reduction in wasteful health spending.