#BrandTalk: when Big Data meets healthcare

Home Blends & Trends 8 February 2019

On the 15th November 2018, fifty-five played host to an informal discussion on HealthTech, the fourth in our BrandTalks series. With guests from a broad spectrum of backgrounds brought together to explore digital trends, the aim of these talks is for each participant to gain from the perspectives of their peers…

The subject for our fourth BrandTalk was “What does the emergence of big data and tech mean for healthcare?”. We invited a range of experts from companies working in healthcare and technology such as French health insurance company La Mutuelle Générale, and startups specializing in the industry such as Withings, BotDesign, ADDON-acs, Concilio, Betterise and Fluo, as well as a medical professional to add their views and experiences.

Artificial Intelligence, predictive health, smart wearables… when healthcare meets tech

According to a report published in 2017 by Biotech and BCG, there are already over 600 businesses working in the healthtech sector in France. With future revenues predicted to be in the region of 45 billion dollars and 130 000 new jobs to be created by 2030, it’s safe to say it’s a growing market!

Despite the fact that over 82% of insurance companies are planning to invest in AI within the next five years, insurers are still not taking full advantage of the innovations made possible by startups. Jehan de Castet, founder and CEO of Fluo, suggests that while some countries such as the UK already have advanced strategies when it comes to investing in healthtech startups, French insurance companies are only now beginning to explore the possibilities.

Nevertheless, before rushing to develop new digital services, brands need first to understand people’s needs. Recently, French insurance company AXA announced the closure of its myAXA app citing insufficient users. “Clients value our services highest, so our apps need to be more than just gadgets. We need to be able to provide the right client with the right information at the right time” stressed Thibaut Allouard, managing director and co-founder of ADDON-acs. It’s the same for start-ups. “Nowadays, the wow factor alone isn’t enough. Of the 500 or so diabetes apps currently available, only three or four are actually used regularly” said Jean-Louis Fraysse, co-founder of BotDesign.

Apps should be thus constructed primarily around the needs of consumers, as Raphaël Gravaud, Head of CRM & E-Commerce at Withings explains: “Each of our smart devices is linked to the same app, so that customers can access all their health data in a single place”.

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Using digital and data to guide patients along the care pathway

Advances in technology and data have resulted in significant improvements to both medical hardware and health services. Patients can now be supported with an increasingly efficient and bespoke care package, and with predictive healthcare on the horizon, we’ll soon see access to services simplified, including better cost control.

It’s clear that the complexity of our fragmented healthcare system leaves patients lost and confused. “Navigating the healthcare system when we are ill or coming to terms with disease is an uphill task, and the noticeable disconnect between general and specialist doctors is obviously unhelpful ” states Georges Aoun co-founder of Concilio. The challenge is to make the best use of the data supplied by doctors and patients, either to save time, or to improve the depth and quality of care.

According to Dr Nicolas Postel-Vinay, specialist in eHealth at the European Georges Pompidou Hospital, Paris, the major problem for doctors is being able to bring together all the appropriate data from the various parties involved in the care pathway. “To be in the best position to provide a patient with a quick and accurate diagnosis and treatment, we need all the relevant data and completed documentation on hand straight away. This is very difficult in the current system’’. France has already begun phasing out paper records with November’s launch of the DMP in French, or EHR (Electronic Health Records) initiative. A patient’s healthcare data can now be stored securely online making it much easier to access and share.

Nevertheless, digital is not a universal remedy… In the French system, online consultations are considered a viable alternative to trips to the doctor for communities with little access to healthcare, and the state has been reimbursing fees since September 2018. However, while online consultations can help save time even in areas with good medical facilities, do they actually result in fewer physical appointments? “A physical consultation would still be required if there was any ambiguity regarding a patient’s diagnosis, or any data was missing”, answers Postel-Vinay. “There’s also the argument that a remote diagnosis risks complicating the care pathway leading to an increase in the amount of care needed and the costs incurred’’. Despite these reservations, eHealth moved quickly, with French startup Doctolib engaging in online consultations less that two weeks after the French state had committed to funding them.

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Protecting data and respecting patient confidentiality

In a survey carried out by a French Research Institute called Odoxa, 80% of people said they’d be happy for their data to be shared in the interests of medical research, but 83% of them wanted to know how their information would be used and be guaranteed that their anonymity would be protected. For companies working with health data, transparent communication with patients is crucial.

Therein lies a paradox unique to the health sector, explains Jessica Ferraris, Innovation Designer at La Mutuelle Générale (a French health insurance company): “Data is at once an opportunity as well as an obstacle to the supplemental health insurance market. Clients are mostly ready to share their data in order to access a better service. But, at the same time they expect the use of that data to be controlled, secure and tightly regulated. The key issue now facing the sector is to maintain and strengthen client trust by offering an ethical and transparent data policy”, something Europeans are already familiar with following the introduction of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in 2018.

Of course, the relationship between health and data also varies around the world. “In the US, patients can upload their data to blockchain and and get a token in return”, says Jean-Louis Fraysse, “The amount you pay for your healthcare is also decided according to who you are, or rather how healthily you live, much like the pay how you drive model”, adds Georges Aoun. Europe is however not ready for this model of personalized insurance and monetizing data falls foul of data protection law and is as such illegal there.

So what did we take away from the fourth edition of fifty-five’s BrandTalk? It’s clear that data is having a profound effect on the healthcare market and raises some specific challenges. The way data can be used is quickly evolving, but ease of access and improving care are central to this evolution. Finally, we should remember that rather than replacing us, technology is instead there to help. As Jean-Louis Fraysse explains, “technology exists first and foremost to compensate for “human deficiencies”, so we can harmonize and streamline the quality of care we provide”.

Would you like another cup of tea?