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The Rise of Digital Healthcare Technologies

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Digital technologies are increasingly becoming a promising source of solutions to many of the current challenges the population is facing. In particular, they are providing innovative ways to monitor and improve health around the world.

We spoke to Dorman Followwill Senior Partner, Transformational Health and Venkat Rajan, Global Director, Visionary Healthcare Program, Frost & Sullivan, to learn more about the role digital technologies can play in transforming healthcare.

AM: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing humanity in terms of healthcare?

DF: The greatest challenge facing humanity in terms of healthcare, in fact, one of the greatest challenges facing humanity overall, can be summarised in this one Big Question: How can we provide high quality care to every patient globally in a sustainably affordable way? This question uncovers the three great sub-challenges of quality of care, access to care and cost of care. In a world where there is already a massive supply-demand mismatch between a growing wave of ageing patients and a continually very limited number of physicians and nurses to deliver care to these patients, we believe that one key answer to all these challenges will come through an emerging technology platform we call the Internet of Medical Things.

AM: What role do you think digital technologies will play in overcoming this?

DF: We believe digital technologies will be pivotal to the Internet of Medical Things, as the entire data sets generated and leveraged will be digitalised. In fact, let me summarise this transformation for you in this way: in the decades from 1980-2010, the focus of our industry was a product focus – a focus on the pill or the device. Then, in 2010 our industry began to focus on integrated solutions, such as drug/device combinations or drugs with companion diagnostics, for value added services to the providers and/or patients. But it is our thesis that the key driver of the future of healthcare from 2016 and into the foreseeable future will be the digital experience across the continuum of care. So, digital technologies will of course underlie the digital experience, so these technologies will drive the future of healthcare.

AM: Can you give us some examples of current developments in the field of Internet of Medical Things?

DF: One can envision the Internet of Medical Things as an ecosystem integrating a multitude of health and wellness services which cooperate on different levels. These services can come in the form of wearables, the currently most widely adapted service, as apps on smartphones or home medical devices. Another usage can be clinical appliances, such as tools for patient surveillance or automatic equipment reports which order new equipment once necessary. At this point, the largest challenge for large-scale adaption is not the technology – technologically, much is possible already – but the lack of unified regulations. Establishing these is hampered by a variety of players being involved in the process of adaptation. 
AM: Are there any downsides to the rising dependence on Artificial Intelligence in healthcare? How will it affect patient experience?

DF: A common reproach against AI in healthcare is that it might take out the doctor. Based on Frost & Sullivan’s research in the field I rather believe AI to be a huge chance to make the patient experience a lot more consistent, transparent and finally cost-efficient as well. Digital technologies allow us to collect such large amounts of data that it is simply impossible for any individual or even for an institution such as a hospital to make sense out of them. Thus, technology serves as a facilitator rather than a replacement for the doctor, who will still be needed. With AI in healthcare, the transition from one doctor to the other will proceed more smoothly because the second doctor can already access the information the first one collected. Like this, it is much easier and quicker to find patterns and find treatment solutions which might fit the cluster the patient belongs to, e.g. a certain age group, risk or medical history. 

AM: What steps are being taken to ensure the security of sensitive data that digital healthcare technologies will generate?

DF: The healthcare sector is one of the most data-sensitive ones and as such, data protection is and will remain a much discussed issue. Similarly to other industries with concerns about data security, such as defence and the banking business, cyber security has to be evaluated by each new player. 

Dorman will expand on these issues in his talk the ‘Internet of Medical Things’, at the upcoming GIL Europe event taking place in London on June 30th.


Dorman and Venkat were speaking to Anna MacDonald, Editor for Technology Networks.