I’ve spent some time recently interviewing investors for a series of articles and one theme that has come through is there will be two key themes to technology investment in the 21st century: environmental issues and the provision of quality healthcare.
A demographic timebomb
While most people would likely have predicted the environment, healthcare is a particularly thorny issue in the 21st Century. First, the positive: people are living longer lives. Where previously being in your 60’s was seen as old age, now it is seen as a new middle age. The other positive is we are getting extremely good at keeping people alive for longer. 50 years ago, the most likely outcome of a heart attack was death – now it is recovery, with an increasing life expectancy to boot.
This does come with its own issues. As medicine develops and becomes more complex, keeping people alive gets increasingly costly. But as more people in the population retire and no longer pay taxes, the burden of healthcare falls on a smaller proportion of the population. All of this was true before the pandemic, but with the cost of COVID-19 to the NHS being estimated at one billion pounds every month, it is even more true now.
Challenging questions to answer
This all leads to very difficult questions for society to address. Statistics from the Office of National Statistics suggest that, in the first wave of COVID-19, the median age of those dying was 83. This kind of statistic, of course, hides a huge variety of cases where people considerably younger have died. However, it remains true that one of the most challenging moral issues within healthcare is the question of what the cost is of keeping someone alive. We all want to live in a world where healthcare protects our nearest and dearest whatever the cost. Unfortunately, we are not always so keen to pay the cost in taxes or private medical contributions.
Tech to the rescue
This is where technology is uniquely placed to deliver transformative solutions – ones that not only keep people healthier for longer but do so in a replicable way that means the cost can be much less than the treatments it is supplementing or replacing. In interviews with investors, I’ve been told about some incredibly so called ‘platform’ technologies that have the potential to vastly reduce costs of treatment while also improving clinical outcomes across multiple potential illnesses. While we all have a role to play in looking after our own wellbeing, these kinds of technologies hold the key to delivering the best possible care for the best possible buck in the future.