Healthcare services are overstretched, as populations age, obesity becomes more prevalent and treatment costs increase. Healthcare also suffers from chronic inefficiency, often the result of legacy systems and working practices. Today, however, the use of mobile technology to remotely track, monitor, diagnose and communicate with patients is poised to deliver a much-needed dose of efficiency to the industry.

IN FOCUS

 

IN FOCUS

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“When I was in Hong Kong a few years ago, all my friends in banking and financial services moved into fintech and insurtech. I was working in healthtech and they teased me that the market was not ready for disruption, and would take decades to change,” says Kateryna Portmann, strategic alliances manager at medical data app provider Medopad.  

Fast forward to today and things are rather different. Healthtech is on the map and Portmann now wakes up to early-morning meetings with Apple, one of Medopad’s key partners. 

 An ageing population and the rise of lifestyle-driven chronic diseases are triggering an explosion in demand for healthcare products and services. With most European welfare states facing gigantic deficits, the traditional state-funded model must evolve to survive. 

Making it better

 And a number of bodies are considering how best to deliver change. These include start-ups such as Medopad, multinationals such as IBM and forward-looking health authorities in regions as far-flung as Estonia, Singapore and Saudi Arabia. In each case, the challenge is how best to deliver healthcare to optimise resources and improve efficiency.

Building on consumers’ increasing reliance on their mobile phones, pioneering businesses have developed mobile appointment technology for hospitals and other healthcare bodies. DrDoctor, for example, now manages more than four million medical appointments a year for major UK hospitals, reducing non-attendance rates by more than 40 per cent. Dr Ian Abbs, chief medical officer at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London, says this generates significant savings: “We’re looking across our organisation to realise something in the order of £2.5 million to £3.5 million of annual returns.”

Patient-generated health data offers another way to streamline interaction between patients and healthcare professionals – and reduce costs.

Healthcare services are overstretched, as populations age, obesity becomes more prevalent and treatment costs increase. Healthcare also suffers from chronic inefficiency, often the result of legacy systems and working practices. Today, however, the use of mobile technology to remotely track, monitor, diagnose and communicate with patients is poised to deliver a much-needed dose of efficiency to the industry.

Leveraging the data

A survey by trends consultancy Foresight Factory asked 4,000 consumers in the US and Europe whether they would be willing to share health-related data from self-tracking devices and apps with their healthcare providers: 27 per cent said they would. The percentage may be low, but there is a notable difference across different age groups. Younger generations are significantly more comfortable with data sharing and are more aware of the potential benefits when it comes to health. 

As Heather Fraser, healthcare lead at IBM think tank, the IBM Institute of Business Value, frames it: “The key issue now is how to leverage patient data in the healthcare system, to get the ‘wider picture’ of the patient.” 

This is where companies such as Medopad come into play, as Portmann explains: “Medopad technology takes a modular approach – it covers a wide variety of disease areas to deliver better and more personalised care by transforming the way patients and data interact with clinicians. We allow healthcare professionals to remotely track, monitor and communicate with patients, allowing both sides to input feedback, share data from connected devices and review drug adherence.” 

Offsite care

Remote patient engagement has significant benefits. Most obviously, it reduces the need for costly, face-to-face interaction. 

But it can also help to prevent disease by identifying symptoms at an early stage. Patients are also more likely to adhere to treatment and take their drugs if they are remotely monitored. 

And the stakes are high. A review from Annals of Internal Medicine estimates that the lack of adherence to treatment in the US causes around 125,000 deaths annually and 10 per cent of hospitalisations, costing the healthcare system up to $289 billion a year. 

Against this backdrop, drugs companies and healthcare providers are investigating a wide range of solutions to improve patient adherence through smart technology, from connected inhalers to monitor asthma patients, to the first ever pill with an ingestible sensor, which was recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for schizophrenic patients. 

DrDoctor manages more than four million medical appointments a year for major UK hospitals, reducing non-attendance rates by more than 40 per cent”​

Information made simple

Healthcare has long been plagued by erratic information systems, with doctors, hospitals and specialists often failing to share important data about patients. Today, however, the need for change is acute, as healthcare apps and connected sensors become increasingly sophisticated and advanced. This prompts one key question: how should medical data be collected, stored and used to simplify information sharing, better manage disease and reduce the risks of medical mistakes?

In March 2017, Estonia, one of the most digitally advanced countries in Europe, announced an initiative with blockchain pioneer Guardtime to help manage the health records of its 1.3 million inhabitants. Access to medical information through a secure, distributed ledger enables the safe sharing of data among a range of interested parties, from family GPs to hospital-based surgeons and local pharmacists. This vision of a unified, secure source of medical data is well supported by consumers, not just in Estonia but elsewhere, too. According to Foresight Factory, 53 per cent of consumers would like their health data – such as test results, doctors’ notes and medical history – to be shared across all their healthcare providers in a simple, comprehensive way. 

Science fiction?

But electronic health records (EHR) might turn into an additional burden for healthcare professionals. As Fraser suggests: “Primary care physicians spend nearly six hours a day interacting with EHRs during and after clinic hours. So the question is: how can we release capacity back into the system with innovation?” 

Artificial intelligence (AI) may help in other ways, too. “We’re not talking about AI replacing the doctor or nurse, but acting as an aid to speed up diagnosis or suggest personalised treatment plans based on one’s genetic profile or symptoms,” says Fraser. 

The idea may sound a little like science fiction, but it could make a real difference. With more than 23 million medical scientific papers already available – and new ones being published by the hour – doctors find it increasingly tough to keep up to date with the latest research. This is exactly where cognitive technology may help.

AI can also streamline the pre-screening process, allowing doctors to focus on cases that need specialist advice and saving time and money in the process. ​

Speed and accuracy

To explore this idea, Moorfields Eye Hospital in London has built a five-year partnership with AI firm DeepMind Technologies. Dr Pearse Keane, consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields, says: “The number of eye scans we’re performing is growing at a much faster pace than experts are able to interpret them. The AI technology we’re developing is designed to prioritise patients who need to be seen and treated urgently by a doctor or eye care professional.” So far, DeepMind’s AI tool has shown that it can recommend the correct referral decision with 94 per cent accuracy for more than 50 eye diseases – in line with the world’s leading eye experts.

Such fast-paced developments suggest that inefficiencies across the healthcare system should fall significantly over the next decade. Many would argue that this disruption is not only inevitable, but also a necessary condition for over-burdened, under-resourced health systems to be able to cope with the years ahead 

Back to articles

DeepMind’s AI tool has shown that it can recommend the correct referral decision with 94 per cent accuracy for more than 50 eye diseases – in line with the world’s leading eye experts”​

“When I was in Hong Kong a few years ago, all my friends in banking and financial services moved into fintech and insurtech. I was working in healthtech and they teased me that the market was not ready for disruption, and would take decades to change,” says Kateryna Portmann, strategic alliances manager at medical data app provider Medopad.  

Fast forward to today and things are rather different. Healthtech is on the map and Portmann now wakes up to early-morning meetings with Apple, one of Medopad’s key partners. 

 An ageing population and the rise of lifestyle-driven chronic diseases are triggering an explosion in demand for healthcare products and services. With most European welfare states facing gigantic deficits, the traditional state-funded model must evolve to survive. 

Making it better

 And a number of bodies are considering how best to deliver change. These include start-ups such as Medopad, multinationals such as IBM and forward-looking health authorities in regions as far-flung as Estonia, Singapore and Saudi Arabia. In each case, the challenge is how best to deliver healthcare to optimise resources and improve efficiency.

Building on consumers’ increasing reliance on their mobile phones, pioneering businesses have developed mobile appointment technology for hospitals and other healthcare bodies. DrDoctor, for example, now manages more than four million medical appointments a year for major UK hospitals, reducing non-attendance rates by more than 40 per cent. Dr Ian Abbs, chief medical officer at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London, says this generates significant savings: “We’re looking across our organisation to realise something in the order of £2.5 million to £3.5 million of annual returns.”

Patient-generated health data offers another way to streamline interaction between patients and healthcare professionals – and reduce costs.

Leveraging the data

A survey by trends consultancy Foresight Factory asked 4,000 consumers in the US and Europe whether they would be willing to share health-related data from self-tracking devices and apps with their healthcare providers: 27 per cent said they would. The percentage may be low, but there is a notable difference across different age groups. Younger generations are significantly more comfortable with data sharing and are more aware of the potential benefits when it comes to health. 

As Heather Fraser, healthcare lead at IBM think tank, the IBM Institute of Business Value, frames it: “The key issue now is how to leverage patient data in the healthcare system, to get the ‘wider picture’ of the patient.” 

This is where companies such as Medopad come into play, as Portmann explains: “Medopad technology takes a modular approach – it covers a wide variety of disease areas to deliver better and more personalised care by transforming the way patients and data interact with clinicians. We allow healthcare professionals to remotely track, monitor and communicate with patients, allowing both sides to input feedback, share data from connected devices and review drug adherence.” 

The Annals of Internal Medicine estimates that the lack of adherence to treatment in the US causes around 125,000 deaths annually and 10 per cent of hospitalisations, costing the healthcare system up to $289 billion a year”​

Remote patient engagement can help to prevent disease by identifying symptoms at an early stage. Patients are also more likely to adhere to treatment if they are remotely monitored”​

The Annals of Internal Medicine estimates that the lack of adherence to treatment in the US causes around 125,000 deaths annually and 10 per cent of hospitalisations, costing the healthcare system up to $289 billion a year”​​

Offsite care

Remote patient engagement has significant benefits. Most obviously, it reduces the need for costly, face-to-face interaction. 

But it can also help to prevent disease by identifying symptoms at an early stage. Patients are also more likely to adhere to treatment and take their drugs if they are remotely monitored. 

And the stakes are high. A review from Annals of Internal Medicine estimates that the lack of adherence to treatment in the US causes around 125,000 deaths annually and 10 per cent of hospitalisations, costing the healthcare system up to $289 billion a year. 

Against this backdrop, drugs companies and healthcare providers are investigating a wide range of solutions to improve patient adherence through smart technology, from connected inhalers to monitor asthma patients, to the first ever pill with an ingestible sensor, which was recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for schizophrenic patients. 

DrDoctor manages more than four million medical appointments a year for major UK hospitals, reducing non-attendance rates by more than 40 per cent”​

Information made simple

Healthcare has long been plagued by erratic information systems, with doctors, hospitals and specialists often failing to share important data about patients. Today, however, the need for change is acute, as healthcare apps and connected sensors become increasingly sophisticated and advanced. This prompts one key question: how should medical data be collected, stored and used to simplify information sharing, better manage disease and reduce the risks of medical mistakes?

In March 2017, Estonia, one of the most digitally advanced countries in Europe, announced an initiative with blockchain pioneer Guardtime to help manage the health records of its 1.3 million inhabitants. Access to medical information through a secure, distributed ledger enables the safe sharing of data among a range of interested parties, from family GPs to hospital-based surgeons and local pharmacists. This vision of a unified, secure source of medical data is well supported by consumers, not just in Estonia but elsewhere, too. According to Foresight Factory, 53 per cent of consumers would like their health data – such as test results, doctors’ notes and medical history – to be shared across all their healthcare providers in a simple, comprehensive way. 

Science fiction?

But electronic health records (EHR) might turn into an additional burden for healthcare professionals. As Fraser suggests: “Primary care physicians spend nearly six hours a day interacting with EHRs during and after clinic hours. So the question is: how can we release capacity back into the system with innovation?” 

Artificial intelligence (AI) may help in other ways, too. “We’re not talking about AI replacing the doctor or nurse, but acting as an aid to speed up diagnosis or suggest personalised treatment plans based on one’s genetic profile or symptoms,” says Fraser. 

The idea may sound a little like science fiction, but it could make a real difference. With more than 23 million medical scientific papers already available – and new ones being published by the hour – doctors find it increasingly tough to keep up to date with the latest research. This is exactly where cognitive technology may help.

AI can also streamline the pre-screening process, allowing doctors to focus on cases that need specialist advice and saving time and money in the process. ​

Remote patient engagement can help to prevent disease by identifying symptoms at an early stage. Patients are also more likely to adhere to treatment if they are remotely monitored”​

Speed and accuracy

To explore this idea, Moorfields Eye Hospital in London has built a five-year partnership with AI firm DeepMind Technologies. Dr Pearse Keane, consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields, says: “The number of eye scans we’re performing is growing at a much faster pace than experts are able to interpret them. The AI technology we’re developing is designed to prioritise patients who need to be seen and treated urgently by a doctor or eye care professional.” So far, DeepMind’s AI tool has shown that it can recommend the correct referral decision with 94 per cent accuracy for more than 50 eye diseases – in line with the world’s leading eye experts.

Such fast-paced developments suggest that inefficiencies across the healthcare system should fall significantly over the next decade. Many would argue that this disruption is not only inevitable, but also a necessary condition for over-burdened, under-resourced health systems to be able to cope with the years ahead 

Back to articles

DeepMind’s AI tool has shown that it can recommend the correct referral decision with 94 per cent accuracy for more than 50 eye diseases – in line with the world’s leading eye experts”​​

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Bridgepoint  |  The Point  |  November 2018  |  Issue 34