High blood pressure (HBP) is a serious health condition and an important indicator for two of the world’s most deadly chronic diseases – diabetes and heart disease. With 1 billion people around the world affected by HBP, this and other chronic conditions have brought many healthcare systems to breaking point, threatening to bankrupt some and prevent others from providing access to care for people who desperately need it.

In tackling HBP and other chronic diseases, an obvious approach is to increase the focus on prevention strategies. While prevention is essential, for many people – including those predisposed to chronic disease – it may be too late. Patients who are already living with chronic diseases are in need of effective, affordable care. Herein lies the challenge in addressing the unmet needs of patients suffering from chronic conditions: providing appropriate and affordable treatment through fragmented local health systems (with limited infrastructure in many cases).

It’s not breaking news that our current approach to healthcare is unsustainable. Yet, the pace of change has lagged in proportion to the need for change. For those of us in industry, we need to step outside our comfort zone and develop offerings aimed beyond discreet interventions to address the ongoing health of patients. This requires innovation in delivery models to complement traditional technology innovation (which still dominates industry thinking … and R&D spending).

Connecting and optimizing patient-centric “healthcare ecosystems” with creative new delivery models is an emerging science (often called Business Model Innovation) that will have a profound impact on the treatment of chronic conditions. One promising development is the use of information and communications technologies to promote patient engagement, timely diagnostics, and remote care delivery by connecting patients with care providers in separate locations.

Delivery models that synchronize points along the care continuum for patients have tremendous potential to improve outcomes while driving down costs. Yes, cost is a critical part of the equation, especially when 80% of the world population lives on less than US$ 10 a day.

To bring about the necessary shift, governments, providers, payers and industry must collaborate. We must work together to align incentives around patient outcomes and economic sustainability every step of the way: this is the foundation for change. The sense of urgency is high – and we need to apply pressure on every part of the healthcare ecosystem to align for change. The health of the world depends on it.

In a series of blog posts curated by the World Economic Forum’s Health Team, a number of leading voices will present their perspectives on health and healthcare in the run-up to World Health Day on 7 April. 

Author: Geoff Martha is the Senior Vice-President, Strategy and Business Development at Medtronic, USA

Image: A blood pressure machine and other devices REUTERS/Yorgos Karahalis