Author: Sarah Iqbal
Last week, WIRED Health organised a well thought-out and inspirational event covering matters in science, technology and healthcare, gathering individuals and companies that are responsible for changing the world of healthcare. At Biotaware, we have a vision of adopting technology to streamline healthcare processes clinical practice and consumer well-being, so it was fitting for us to attend the WIRED Health 2017 this year. Here is our commentary article and takeaways of the event, which was held at the Royal College of General Practitioners in London on the 9th of March 2017.
The panels and presentation together with all the delegates who attended the event explored and discussed scientific breakthroughs in various topics ranging from genomics and big data to disruptive healthcare and end of ageing, which gave spot-on and professional insights into the world of healthcare. The event also featured innovative technologies in the EY startup scene, ones that are shaping the future of healthcare. Here are some of the highlights of the event:
Talks on Genomics
Thanks to ongoing advancements in the field of genomics and unprecedented interest from a range of healthcare stakeholders, genetic testing has the potential to reshape healthcare through personalised patient care.
Genomics, like the healthcare industry, has suffered from restricted access to proprietary data, which remains in silo till today and is eager for innovation. Genomics adoption has been limited due to lack of awareness, reimbursement challenges and concerns around privacy and security of data.
The Chief Medical Officer of England, Dr. Sally Davies and the panel of “Future Proofing Healthcare” highlighted a few points to progress with genomic in the next 5 years i.e. 1) improve the response rate of using genomics 2) integrate data better in genomics 3) bring cheap genomic testing into the NHS and use it well 4) introduce engagement with patients to capture better data and finally 5) push data and genomics to work in a respectful relationship.
From Biotaware’s perspective, delivering on the promise of genomics is dependent upon three factors, pertaining to the world of digital health. Firstly, we need to ensure broad access to diverse data sets to enable insights. Secondly, we need to consider removing barriers to clinical workflow incorporation to enable interoperability. Finally, we need to adopt advance technology in clinical processes so it is relevant to providers, patients and consumers.
It is clear at the event that big data revolution is under way in healthcare. The term that was heard one too many times at the event was “democratisation of data” in healthcare, which is the process of expanding health information and the tools used to analyze it out to a broader audience than traditionally has had access. There are reams of public and private sector information, but most are stored in silo and not being used. Now the question is, can we- in a trustworthy way- unleash the power of this big data?
Another area is that can be improved with the use of data science is medical research, an area that encompasses what Biotaware does. It takes approximately 10 years for a drug discovery to make it into the market. How can we use big data to drive and accelerate this path way? This was thoroughly discussed and should be the core business for healthcare.
Jessica Mega, Chief Medical Officer of Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences), explored the intersection of healthcare data and technology. She discussed how big data can be used to determine the root causes of a disease and then offer preventative measure to tackle a disease for a specific patient i.e. personalised medicine. CEO Helmy Eltoukhy of Guardant Health uses data to diagnose cancer via a blood test, where one could detect cancer in the early stages and take specific measures that can be taken to attack the root cause of the gene mutation causing the cancer.
Daisy Robinton of Harvard University talked about the CRISPR-Cas9, a method to manipulate DNA molecules, making it possible to study genes and harness them to develop novel medicine and biotechnology. This opens possibilities in personalised gene therapy through big data collection and new clinical trial designs. If we control the drivers that control the disease for a specific patient, this will be a remarkable achievement.
All these innovation in big data is making strides in the world of medicine and healthcare.
Personalised medicine and patient centricity
Patient centricity is a constant theme throughout the event. It can be said that everyone attended the event are advocates for patient being at the core of the health system. Patient centricity is the process of designing a service or solution around the patient. To enable patient centricity, healthcare stakeholders need to engage directly with them and have the patients
Driving greater patient engagement is a critical goal for healthcare organisations to ensure that the patient is actively engaged in his/her health outcomes. This not only drives improved patient outcomes, but also lowers the burden on the health system. This is critical in healthcare, especially in the clinical trial context because patient engagement is synonymous with compliance – and compliance is very important in progressing with a clinical trial.
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Khaliya, a philanthropist and venture capitalist in promoting innovation in mental health and neurodegenerative disease gave a powerful presentation brought the delegates into perspective on how the mental state of mind affects one person’s life. From a technology perspective, there are opportunities to use tools such as apps and mobile to evaluate mental health. The good news is that digital health tools can help tackle both the stigma and the lack of accessibility around mental healthcare. For example, it can provide those who struggle with the stigma of mental illness a sense of security and empowerment: they can learn more about their symptoms and understand that they are not alone in their suffering.
Music and extreme environment in medicine
As much as drugs are important in our lives today, the side effects that comes with it is something patients and consumers talk about daily. However, Marko Ahtisaari is pushing to use music a precision medicine to replace painkillers to aid in cognitive conditions such as autism and Parkinson’s. The impact of music stems from the concept of human as rhythmic beings and there are many research evidence that suggest that music can help with conditions such as stoke. Music therapy also is used to help patients with balance and coordination. This sort of “alternative healthcare” is making waves in healthcare as human
Beth Healey researches health in extreme environments by setting up base at Concordia located in the South Pole of Antarctica. Her research looks at how extreme conditions can be applied to normal daily activities on earth by giving example of how human behaviours in long polar nights a Concordia can relate to factory workers who work night shifts.
The WIRED Health 2017 not only help us keep abreast of where the future of health is heading but also ensured we can provide insights to the work that we do. The event left us feeling excited and inspired and we look forward for what the healthcare future may hold. See you at WIRED Health 2018!