The model developed by ECHAlliance, and its community, provides a comprehensive guideline to all stakeholders, in order to develop and implement disruptive solutions for healthcare.
Recent multi-billions dollar deals, such as between the IT leader IBM and the big pharma industries Sanofi and Johnson & Johnson around big data, or between the tech giant Google and the laboratory Novartis about the new lens for Diabetes monitoring, show that the world of healthcare industry is more and more about partnering with tech industry in order to create innovative solutions.
Some analysts say that Digital Health is taking off (which would be good news giving the fact that eHealth initiatives have been developed for more than 15 years). But actually “Digital health” should not be different than “Health”.
The digitalization of a number of industries happened in the late 20’s century and the healthcare industry is eventually proceeding with this shift. But why this delay? Because of the complexity. If you observe the healthcare environment, you’ll find:
o Governments and Policy-makers
o Health & Social Care Providers (hospitals, GPs & nurses, social workers, third sector…)
o Citizens, patients and their families
o Companies who provides equipment, medical devices, information systems, transport…
o Universities and research centres
o Payers (public & private insurances)
o Patients, Citizens and Consumers
Each of these stakeholders have their own objectives, their own strategies and each of them impact a part of the whole system. Sometimes their objectives could appear as antagonists: governments and payers want to reduce costs, professionals want to keep their job and maybe increase their staff numbers and citizens want quality and convenience. In order to express these different opinions and strategies, and to make progress for everyone's benefit people need to speak together.
The European Connected Health Alliance (ECHAlliance), an NGO created 5 years ago, has created such dialog spaces, called “Ecosystems”. ECHAlliance has 400+ member organisations and 15,000+ experts across the world, around innovation for health and social care. They are governments, leading companies, insurers, start-ups, patients’ associations, hospitals & health professionals, etc. They meet regularly (120+ meetings per year), either in a regional area (regional ecosystems) or during international events (such as the Mobile World Congress Barcelona). They work as well together online, thanks to a web platform named “Global Connector” (www.echalliance.com), where each member of the community can create a profile, explain what he/she is doing, their projects, showcase products, read and share scientific articles or success stories, and more important communicate with the whole community.
ECHAlliance has 400+ member organisations and 15,000+ experts across the world, around innovation for health and social care
When we started 5 years ago, it was not easy to put in the same room a health Minister with a doctor, a patient, an industry, an insurer and a hospital manager. Since then, ECHAlliance has facilitated the expression of views, objectives, strategies of stakeholders in more than 25 countries. These discussions gave birth to working groups focused on specific topics (such as the medicine optimisation, or how to build a good eHealth strategy, or mental health and wellness).
Within a unique community, the stakeholders gradually get more and more comfortable speaking with each other and now they understand each other, build relationships and trust. Working closely with members, especially policy-makers and payers, the ECHAlliance community paints the “big picture” of the sector and design disruptive plans for the future of health & social care. The International network of multi-stakeholder ecosystems is as well a tool to implement innovative solutions, test & evaluate their impact and define sustainable funding models, in order to change deeply the health & social care systems.
But, digital is not a solution, it is (only) a tool, which could support a different model of production of healthcare services. The question of future health is so “how we can disrupt our healthcare systems and think differently?” (I know, the latter is the baseline of a famous Californian computer company… but the kind of disruption we aim for is similar).
Plenty of innovative concepts are emerging in healthcare. Mobile technologies are more and more involved in healthcare (as they are in our life), it is now possible to make an appointment at the hospital with an app, do a consultation with your doctor through your iPad or access your personal health data through an Internet portal.
Chronic diseases, responsible for around 75% of the healthcare costs around the world, are using remote monitoring systems, allowing a patient to stay at home, report some information and data (collected for instance with connected medical devices or wearables) to their doctor and improve their quality of life, avoiding acute events and hospitalisations. Roche Diabetes Care has recently developed a spin-off called Emminens Healthcare Services (based in Spain) in order to develop diabetes patients management systems, looking for behaviour change about diabetes education, nutrition, physical activity, etc.
Demographic change and active ageing are as well on top of healthcare agendas in most of developed countries, with an increasing part of the population over 60 years old (raising to 30% in some countries at the horizon 2030). Industry players, such as Tunstall Healthcare, are developing TeleCare services, combining technologies (devices) and services, in order to support older people in their daily life, enabling multi-dimensional interventions such as falls prevention, nutrition, social relations, cognitive and physical activities, etc.
Digital is not a solution, it is (only) a tool, which could support a different model of production of healthcare services
Latest technologies, such as Big data, Artificial Intelligence and Virtual/Augmented Reality are also penetrating the healthcare sector. For example, IBM created Watson, a technology platform that uses natural language processing and machine learning to reveal insights from large amounts of unstructured data. It is now deployed in hospitals to support doctors on their diagnostics bringing relevant information around a specific patient and his/her disease in oncology or genetics. Watson is also helping governments to take decisions about public health policies, analysing thousands of terabytes of data from population health data.
ECHAlliance member SLAM, an NHS Trust based in London has developed a start-up called Mindwave Ventures (http://mindwaveventures.com), which has developed virtual reality environments to help people to overcome their phobias, such as the fear of the crowd or of dirty places.
Management and organisation
But innovation doesn’t mean only new technologies. There are also very key non-technological innovations, on change management, re-design of organisation, innovative funding models, etc. For instance, at the moment, the vast majority of healthcare systems are based on the “fee-for-service” model: they pay for the delivery of resources (health professionals time, facilities & equipment…) to tackle a specific patients’ population (geographic or disease-related) to healthcare services providers (public or private). But a chronic disease is not, by definition, curable. So, the objective for healthcare systems is to improve patients’ quality of life, in their natural environment (home) and avoid using classic healthcare facilities (hospitals). The good indicator is not the resources deployed but the outcomes generated by the intervention (satisfaction of the patient, avoid hospitalisations and healthcare costs, etc.). This is the “outcomes-based model”.
The Ecosystem model developed by ECHAlliance, and its community, provides a comprehensive guideline to all stakeholders, in order to develop and implement disruptive solutions for healthcare, tackling needed innovations, technological and non-technological:
Latest technologies, such as Big data, Artificial Intelligence and Virtual/Augmented Reality are also penetrating the healthcare sector
o Infrastructures for data exchange, create the conditions to share data between professionals, patients and decision-makers;
o Innovative solutions and services: for chronic diseases, active ageing…;
o Enabling environment creating the conditions for non-technological innovations.
ECHAlliance’s strength lies in its growing multi-stakeholder communities, supported by its online platform Global Connector, acting on the ground in regions and countries committed to change the rules of the game within health & social care systems, thanks to the Ecosystem model.