Join the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) at its inaugural Digital Health Lab Day this October 3, 2019. Organized by the ZHAW Digital Health Lab, the event will feature interesting discussions by researchers and practitioners on the latest trends and solutions in digital health, exciting presentations on ZHAW research projects, as well as interactive workshops.

I recently spoke with Prof. Dr. Sven Hirsch, the Scientific Chair of the event and director of the lab, on why interdisciplinary collaboration is necessary for healthcare innovation, and what event attendees can expect at the first ZHAW Digital Health Lab Day.

Aisha Schnellmann: Why was ZHAW Digital Health Lab founded, and what is the role it intends to play in the healthcare industry in Switzerland and internationally?

Prof. Dr. Sven Hirsch: The ZHAW Digital Health Lab is a virtual ZHAW-wide competence centre established at the end of 2018. It brings together experts from the fields of technology, healthcare, applications and health economics within ZHAW. This strong interdisciplinary collaboration is what enables the ZHAW Digital Health Lab to develop patient-oriented solutions and innovation that meet the current challenges of digitisation in healthcare.

AS: Tell us more about your role at the ZHAW Digital Health Lab.

SH: We manage the lab together with our board of directors and are in the phase of ramping up our visibility. Our lab cooperates with national associations, start-ups, established companies, hospitals, insurers, health service providers, and university partners. The next step we are working on is internationalisation. We have currently established contacts in the Greater Boston Area, USA, and India to institutionalise cooperation, and are in discussion with partners in the EU.

AS: You are currently working on a project that uses sensor technology in disease characterization of intracranial aneurysms. What do you hope to achieve with this work, and what is your personal motivation behind this endeavour?  

SH: Through this research project, we intend to improve the analysis and prediction of intracranial aneurysms – little pouches in brain vessels – that could be dangerous to patients. To look for disease patterns, we have built statistical tools enhanced with machine learning to better analyse large amounts of clinical data. These insights directly benefit patients by improving the decision process of disease management.

We have always collaborated closely with clinicians to solve real-world problems with better quantitative or mental disease models. Because our purpose-driven research is highly interdisciplinary, we work with clinicians, biologists, computer scientists, and engineers to benefit patients. It is definitely rewarding to see our research saving lives and to be a part of such a diverse research community intent on improving healthcare.

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AS: How would you describe the digital health landscape in Switzerland? Who are the main drivers of digital health innovation in the country?

SH: Switzerland is a hub for artificial intelligence, machine learning, and health technology supported by excellent corporate and academic research. But in my opinion, the digital health landscape in Switzerland is still fragmented.

Nationally, innovation in digital health is strongly driven by the bigger universities. There is an increasing number of digital health start-ups, but these are still in their early stages. The big pharmaceutical multinational companies are primarily interested in the development of new drugs or in improving their existing products. The hospital and care provider landscape is further fragmented, with the electronic patient record still pending after years in development.

We have all the right ingredients, but nobody is putting these together to prepare a meal.

AS: What is certain though is that new technology will continue to impact healthcare delivery in significant ways. What are some examples of ongoing ZHAW projects that are leveraging on such new technology, that will be showcased on the Digital Health Lab Day?

SH: At the Digital Health Lab Day, we will discuss the latest trends and solutions in digital health such as technology-assisted movement training for people with limited functional capacity, the significance and reliability of smartphone accelerometers, and the state of AI in healthcare.

AS: New applications of health data will also be discussed at the event. What are some new ways ZHAW projects are processing and using health data to advance medical research and development?

SH: For example, the ZHAW Digital Health Lab is working on a collaborative customer-oriented project with the Department of Health and a major insurance company involving evidence-based tips on health topics and mobile apps to improve healthcare behaviour. The lab is also working on FairCare, an EU project focused on improving the coordination of formal and informal care.

AS: What do you think are the top three emerging technologies that will transform the healthcare industry and how medical care is provided?

SH: I believe a paradigm shift needs to happen in healthcare. Healthcare systems need to be human-centric with a focus on providing truly personalised medical care. Harnessing and unifying health data in smarter ways is one step in this direction. Connecting patient data into registries, reducing barriers to use of health data for statistical purposes, analysing health data from wearables, and enabling the interpretation of sensor data in real-time in clinics are examples of potential game-changers. Data fusion and machine learning will also become increasingly key tools in drug discovery and efficient clinical trial management.

At the same time, it is important to highlight that health data security and privacy should constantly be a top priority. Healthcare is highly regulated, and for good reasons. We should therefore collectively push healthcare innovation while safeguarding ethical rules.

AS: What can participants expect from its inaugural Digital Health Lab Day?

SH: The Digital Health Lab Day is a milestone in the work of the still young ZHAW Digital Health Lab. We are looking forward to keynotes from Prof Dr. Tavpritesh Segti (Indian Institute of Information Technology), Prof. Dr. Claudia Witt (University Hospital Zurich) and Dr. Ignacio H. Medrano (Savana Médica). In addition, there will be practice-oriented workshops in the afternoon. The event will end with a networking dinner where you can make new contacts and shape the future of healthcare with us!

We look forward to seeing you there! For more information, please visit:

 

 


About Prof. Dr. Sven Hirsch

Sven Hirsch

Prof. Dr. Sven Hirsch is a researcher and lecturer in the field of complex biomedical systems at Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW). He heads the research group biomedical simulation and directs the ZHAW Digital Health Lab. In his work he merges statistical approaches like machine learning with mechanistic modelling to reproduce disease mechanisms and clinical pathways. He is active in health research to develop new disease biomarkers from clinical images, time series signals, and patient data to improve diagnosis and care. He has contributed to the understanding of intracranial aneurysm by simulating blood clotting and angiogenesis. His research activities now converge on digital health technologies and on making these promising tools useful.

 


About the author

Aisha Schnellmann is a Singaporean sociologist by training, interested in healthcare, education, and sustainability issues. She is passionate about producing content that promotes meaningful dialogue, focusing on print and digital content that resonates with a strong call-to-action. Based in Zurich, her interest in digital healthcare grew from the conversations she had with committed medical staff in rural hospitals in Asia, who remain hard-pressed with the technology available to them.

Digital transformation is set to revolutionize how hospitals deliver care. But is digital technology being harnessed equally effectively across all aspects of the healthcare system? “Not quite,” pointed out Pamina Göttelmann, Business Development Manager of imito AG. “Digital technology is well-adopted in areas such as diagnostics and treatment. But if you look at systems for documentation management and communications, technology can still play a bigger role in improving how these processes work.”

In hospitals today, for every hour a physician spends with a patient, they spend an estimated two hours updating the patient’s electronic health record. Unsurprisingly, a recent survey by Merritt Hawkins found that more than 78% of physicians experience periodic feelings of professional burnout due to factors such as loss of clinical autonomy, diminished time with patients, and the administrative burdens of updating electronic health records. “The workload and documentation load of nurses and doctors have increased. Today, everything needs to be documented, and this can be incredibly time-consuming. This is where new technologies can help,” she elaborated.

We rely on medical professionals to provide excellent medical care especially in their direct interactions with patients. So, when hospitals utilize digital technology to improve their legacy documentation management and communication systems, doctors and nurses will be able to focus on what matters most – the patient.

Smartphone technology makes better doctors

We recently spoke with Pamina, who shared with us about how her team is harnessing smartphone technology to streamline clinical processes in hospitals in Switzerland. The imito mobile app integrates seamlessly into the various systems used in hospitals (e.g. user identification, electronic medical records, archival of images), equipping medical professionals with a user-friendly tool to document photos or videos and communicate directly at a patient’s bedside, scan and save important documents, and digitally measure wounds, everything directly saved in electronic medical records, only while using a smartphone.

 

 

 

Photos: Imito AG

“Smartphone technology is not a new technology, but it is relatively under-utilized in the healthcare sector, especially in hospitals,” she explained. At least officially. According to survey results, more than 50% of doctors who work in hospitals use their smartphones for clinical documentation. These are exchanged via Messenger apps such as Whatsapp to gather feedback from more experienced colleagues. Under these conditions, data security is a concern.

When implemented effectively, however, app technology can help keep electronic health records accurate and facilitate the transfer of patient medical data between different healthcare institutions.

The cost of going digital

The benefits of digitally transforming processes in hospitals are well-documented. In fact, healthcare professionals Pamina’s team spoke to want these systems improved. But convincing decision-makers in hospital management to invest can be a challenge. “If the IT department in the hospital is strong and innovative, they are more likely to get pilots funded. Otherwise budget can be a real issue,” shared Pamina.

This is because overhauling legacy documentation management and communication systems, while necessary, can be costly. As a significant example, The Lucerne Cantonal Hospital purchased a new clinical informational system from the American software manufacturer, Epic, for 65.4 million francs (excluding MWST) in 2016. This cost includes the investment and operational costs for 8 years. A centralized IT solution for all medical, patient-related, and administrative data, implementing it requires the hospital to significantly rethink how its systems operate, how its medical professionals work, and the care that its patients receive.

Though hospitals that opt for digital health products that integrate with their current systems instead of a complete overhaul will find it lighter on their wallets, budgets for such changes still remain tight. This is where having the support of healthcare professionals can make a huge difference. “You have to be very patient. But if your product’s core functionalities are based on solving real pain points that doctors and nurses feel every day, it will eventually succeed. If you show healthcare professionals the potential benefits, their support could mean convincing hospital management to implement your solution,” explained Pamina.

Transforming patient care by supporting digital hospitals in improving its processes, therefore, is a marathon, not a sprint.

What’s next 

The future of the digital hospital looks promising. Many new technologies continue to emerge to bridge the gap between patient care and process. New models of digital hospitals continue to develop, such as the “cognitive hospital”, a next-generation hospital that is a “smart” facility itself and a strategic partner in patient care.

However, much of this future depends on how the healthcare industry solves this major challenge: Ensuring medical data security while enabling interoperability between systems. “The digital hospital is data-driven. Sharing medical data across healthcare institutions, however, is so difficult because it remains in isolated information silos. This is one of the reasons why progress continues to be slow,” concluded Pamina.

 


About Pamina Göttelmann

Pamina_GAfter completing her master thesis “Setting Investment Priorities for Mobile Solutions in Hospitals”, Pamina deepened her acquired knowledge with valuable field experience in mHealth. As a project manager at the University Hospital of Zurich, she initiated the introduction of mobile clinical app solutions in the hospital and was responsible for the development of its corporate mobile strategy. She has co-authored and shared some of her field experience in two publications. Pamina joined imito in November 2018 as the Business Development Manager.


About the author

Aisha Schnellmann is a Singaporean sociologist by training, interested in healthcare, education, and sustainability issues. She is passionate about producing content that promotes meaningful dialogue, focusing on print and digital content that resonates with a strong call-to-action. Based in Zurich, her interest in digital healthcare grew from the conversations she had with committed medical staff in rural hospitals in Asia, who remain hard-pressed with the technology available to them.

For more information about the next “Women in Digital Health” events

“YOUR DATA – YOUR RIGHT”

The digital disruption in the healthcare industry is turning heads. The value of medical health data is on the rise, evidenced by the increasing threat of medical data theft worldwide. In fact, these days, it’s been said to be even more valuable than that of personal banking data. It came therefore as no surprise when the European Union announced its new regulation on data protection and included the protection of personal health data as part of its coverage. From May 2018, the European Union aims to increase the protection of personal health data by requiring patients to give explicit and unambiguous consent to the processing of their personal data. Patients also have the right to access their own personal data, the right to transferring their data to another entity or person, and the right to object the processing of their data.

This process is a timely development. It means patient empowerment. It returns the ownership of personal health data to the control of the individual and effectively unlocks the monopolizing control of the companies/institutions that collected that data in the first place. But what does this decentralization of data really mean and how will this revolutionize research and development in the healthcare industry?

Driving population health through meaningful health data exchange

The robust exchange of medical health data as well as ease of access are crucial in advancing research and development in the healthcare industry. The decentralization of personal health data brings us one step closer to such an eco-system, but not quite. This is because individuals generally prefer to remain anonymous when it comes to matters of health and are less likely to participate in the exchange of medical health data especially if they have concerns about data security.

According to the founders of the HIT Foundation, this is where their platform comes in. HIT (Health Information Traceability) Foundation is an organization that aims to be the leader in blockchain technology for the healthcare market by empowering patients with their medical health data ownership.

We recently met the foundation’s co-founders, Dr. Quy Vo-Reinhard and Ms. Elizabeth Chee at our last Women in Digital Health event, where they shared about the foundation’s blockchain-based online marketplace for personal health data and explained how this platform will inevitably enable collaboration to take place between companies/institutions in the healthcare industry – through the meaningful exchange of health data between stakeholders in a secure environment, and with the consent of the individual data owners.

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Image 1: Dr. Quy Vo-Reinhard, Chief Data Officer & Co-Founder, with the HIT Foundation team and advisory board on the slide behind her.

“I believe blockchain is the technology of the future. It ensures that collaborations can happen in an open and secure manner. Our platform allows entities that store the medical data (e.g. hospitals, pharmaceutical companies) to connect with those who need access to it (e.g. policymakers, research and development divisions), with the individual data owner facilitating this exchange through his/her consent,” explained Dr. Quy Vo-Reinhard.

By using blockchain technology, HIT’s online marketplace secures individual data owners’ anonymity – making it more attractive for people to participate. Through the platform data seekers can incentivize individual data owners with tokens that can be earned when participating in a data exchange.

Integrity of data is of upmost priority

To ensure the integrity of the health data exchanged on their platform, current stakeholders who store the data (e.g. hospitals, pharmaceutical companies) are very much part of the eco-system. Their participation in the eco-system ensures that the medical health data of the individual that is exchanged has been officially verified and maintains its integrity. The foundation’s platform also makes it easy for current stakeholders to participate in the market without needing to completely build a new system; just plug and play. “You, the individual, are the person who can connect the dots and facilitate a meaningful exchange. We want the critical intermediaries to be a part of the system, but it has to serve a social purpose. Your data could be used to facilitate quality of care, prevention, and drive population health,” shared Elizabeth Chee.

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Figure 1: Token Economy in three phases

The next steps

Blockchain technology’s increasing application in the healthcare industry is set to benefit many stakeholders. It will first and foremost benefit the individual by securely unifying his/her medical health data and provide a comprehensive medical history that can be easily shared by the individual to medical institutions regardless of where the data resides in the first place. It will secondly benefit medical institutions and companies who are sitting on valuable medical health data but have had no options to exchange this knowledge, because of a lack of secure data transfer options and a lack of systems in place to easily engage and facilitate consent from individual data owners. The potential of blockchain technology’s application in the healthcare industry is tremendous and will most definitely play a defining role in revolutionizing its future.

The HIT Foundation’s blockchain-based marketplace for personal health data will be launched in summer 2018. They were recently recognized as one of the” Blockchain for social good ” projects at the World Economic Forum 2018 and was invited to participate in the panel discussing “Blockchain for Humanity”.

About the author

Aisha Schnellmann is a Singaporean sociologist by training, interested in healthcare, education, and sustainability issues. She is passionate about producing content that promotes meaningful dialogue, focusing on print and digital content that resonates with a strong call-to-action. Based in Zurich, her interest in digital healthcare grew from the conversations she had with committed medical staff in rural hospitals in Asia, who remain hard-pressed with the technology available to them.

Again, we are looking at a promising start-up, which uses blockchain technology to develop a platform in healthcare, called “Sunny Lake”, based in beautiful Paris. It is built with the Ethereum blockchain and aims to offer an exchange platform for different stakeholders in the healthcare system like patients, physicians, researchers or laboratories. Their goal is to provide a toolkit, data and experts in order to conduct health and life science studies, in an efficient and effective way. What the benefits for patients/users are and why Sunny Lake is not a typical start-up, Jean-Christophe Despres (President and Co-founder) shared with us in an interview.

By Tram Trinh and Sunjoy Mathieu

Jean-Christophe, you are a French globetrotter and serial entrepreneur in the marketing field. Why did you decide to enable clinical studies with an emerging technology like blockchain ? Can you tell us more about you?

Jean-Christophe Despres: My entrepreneurial journey started back in the mid 90’s working on online communities. I later created the first ethnic marketing agency in France where I had to deal with public health campaigns targeting migrants. Once again, I’ve used a community-based approach. Later on, I’ve participated in a think tank, Club Jade, which launched those amazing projects on Big Data and Cancer, and an open source portable echograph. They happened to start from my office at the time and I had many opportunities to see the power of their growing communities. Talking with patients especially experts dealing with chronic diseases convinced me that a health community using blockchain technology would address major challenges in health and life science studies such as transparency and data privacy.

What is your Sunny Lake product?

Sunny Lake is an e-health platform based on Ethereum blockchain on which patients, physicians, researchers and labs can collect, share data and therefore build and test future health and life science studies in an accelerated mode.

This platform should become the meeting place for sharing between patients, physicians, research and lab organizations where everyone can find at an affordable and controllable cost, the tools, the data, the experts and the communities necessary to finalize the first steps of such studies. Our initial version of the Sunny Lake has just been launched and now we are developing an enhanced version, expected to go live in June 2018.

You mentioned Etherum is underlying your blockchain. Why select this one, since there are several other existing blockchain technologies?

Ethereum was designed to enable users to build smart contracts. Those contracts are algorithms which enable stakeholders to exchange data or counterparts, commonly referred to as tokens, in a secured and simple way. As our ecosystem involves many interactions with different entities (pharmaceutical companies or public labs) or individuals (experts or patients), we think that Ethereum is a fundamental layer for future applications. In addition, as a platform, we wanted to work on a public blockchain.

We understand that the benefits for patients and for the medical is a trustworthy reliable and traceable universe of questionnaire protocols, data and consent that can accelerate medical research findings. Is our perception correct?

With blockchain, there’s already a feature which is not questioned much, it’s timestamping. Bitcoin is running for many years with not a single fraud or bug on that matter. We are therefore quite confident with our business proposal regarding informed consent for instance. But there is more to it which is as important maybe as the internet revolution: the tokenization of our economy. This simply means that everybody in a community should be entitled to be rewarded for their participation through a common process. For Sunny Lake that means that there will be strong incentives for sharing data. We expect to receive massive feedback from patients not only because they will be rewarded but most of all because they will be able to measure up their own impact on research.

How do you envision the speed to adoption as everybody relies on trust and for the time being your direct customer is a business organisation, that will then reach out to the end user patient/consumers?

Well, this is why we are not a startup like others, always rushing. We need to build our own circle of trust, explain the impact of technology on business and change habits, participate in creating new standards. As long as we are moving forward, implementing our technology step by step, it’s ok. We can perfectly understand that the industry is watching us with interest and doubts. Hopefully, there are some pioneers and we are glad to receive more and more trust. Meanwhile, patients are eager to see this new age coming. It going to take a couple of years but we think it will bea fundamental change.

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It seems trust is a non-negotiable condition to impact a scaleable volume of questionnaires and consents not only in France but also globally?

The only issue is of a legal nature and it’s barely affecting us for what we are doing at the moment. For other matters, technology doesn’t care about borders. People suffering from rare diseases are already used to communicating with each other worldwide. What we want is us to have a greater voice and empowering them to initiate new research.

Jean-Christophe Despres, President & Co-Founder of Sunny Lake

What is the profile of companies using Sunny Lake? And why in your opinion do they trust you as all is based on Ethereum technology that other blockchain solutions could use?

Many pharmaceutical companies now understand they need a new deal with patients. It’s not always in their corporate culture and sometimes difficult in their highly regulated environment but they are eager to participate in trustworthy protocols. One of our client has challenged us because they didn’t want to have any record of patients public keys. It helped us a lot in designing the platform. If a company wants to use blockchain as a process, it doesn’t require Ethereum and we did that too. But most of them value this concept of community where a public blockchain makes full sense.

What are the concrete use cases you have been working on and was is the outlook for Sunny Lake?

Some real life science studies in Switzerland with the goal to create a tool for online consent, transparent, reliable and traceable. Every patient in the study could download on a third-party website the pair of encryption keys they would use for their consent. They are the only owners and holders of the keys. In order to have real consent, design of the protocol, training through simple videos were key to ensure complete understanding of the study purpose. The main investigator of the clinical study and himself could only receive the consent form to sign himself through e-mail and get the signature notarized by the blockchain. A first of its kind in real-life conditions.

As next steps, we will even receive more reliable data thanks to a methodology of registry based on transparency and unfalsifiable protocol, hence a stronger engagement from patients who can control their data and their traceability and enrollment probability.

Also, we’re launching an Initial Coin Offering. It directly relates to what I’ve mentioned regarding the tokenization of economy. Concretely, issued tokens will not only be displayed only to Sunny Lake but also to strategic partners that will contribute to build an improved ecosystem of clinical research. Patients will benefit from it but it may also involve other start-ups as well as pharmaceutical companies.

In a nutshell, what’s your critical life mission?

Contrary to many projects, we are not a portal, nor a “DMP” (Patient Medical Record) but an actor and conductor of an ecosystem. Our mission is to contribute to the best flow of quality data serving the future medicine based on big data and artificial intelligence. We want to facilitate data interoperability by creating meta data standards and by systematically notarizing exchanged data on the blockchain.

Thank you, Jean-Christophe!

Learn more about Sunny Lake and their projects:

Do you want your own start-up to be featured in a blogpost? Take this chance and contact us today!

With the highly-valued support from your business partner, Tram Trinh (CEO VITAnLINK, A Health Tech Accelerator in Paris), we have the chance to look over the Swiss start-up border and follow some international companies who are engaged in the area of healthcare and the opportunities the blockchain technology can offer in this field, as a benefit for people and patients.

I’m proud that we can provide our HEALTHINAR followers with a glimpse of the exciting times and dynamic team spirit of Iryo, a very promising start-up. With a patient-driven approach, they are developing an open-sourced EHR platform, that gives patients, hospitals, and medical research institutions complete control over their healthcare data. Their goal is to create a global and participatory healthcare ecosystem, based on the values of data security, maximum interoperability, and privacy.

Enjoy this week’s read, an interview with Vasja Bočko, (CEO Iryo) and Tjaša Zajc (Business developer and Communications Manager, Iryo).

Iryo_Vasja Bočko_blogpost_HEALTHINARIryo_Tjasa Zajc_blogpost_HEALTHINAR

“We take best practices learned in developed countries and bring it to the developing ones” – or: How Iryo is creating a global participatory healthcare ecosystem

Being from the world of IT, what urged you to tackle the highly regulated healthcare sector coming from the advanced IT world?

Tjaša: Compared to other industries, IT in healthcare is years behind in offering healthcare providers and patients a good user experience. Most IT providers provide vendor lock-in systems, making the exchange of data and interoperability extremely difficult. We are creating a system that is built on a standard that can increase interoperability (openEHR). Moreover, Iryo will be open-sourced, making sure there that vendor lock-in is non-existent. Blockchain adds a layer of transparency and immutability that will make the system more secure and trustworthy.

And so, why do you believe that Iryo will be able to outperform the big players in this space?

Vasja: I would say they all are facing the innovator’s dilemma, in reference to the book of The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clayton M. Christensen. Because these traditional players have always been successful in existing models, they can’t get out of this legacy mode easily and quickly.

The markets we believe we can have the fastest impact on are developing markets such as Africa and/or parts of the Middle East, where the markets and regulations are less developed, leaving space for new players.

How does Iryo turn this vision into reality?

Tjaša: We are currently working with a non-profit organization called, Walk with me, that is active in refugee camps in the Middle East. It was introduced to us by one of our advisors, Brian de Francesca. Facing a severe lack of resources, most needs are tended to before an EMR system in a refugee camp. On the other hand, patients with chronic conditions tend to spend many years in these camps. Offering a system, in which they will be able to have their medical data stored on their smartphones is a step forward to improving their continued care. When they leave a refugee camp, they will be able to take all their medical data with them. Blockchain technology will be the primary solution enabling them to become the decision makers around their data. They will be able to grant or revoke access to their medical records based on their needs.

Vasja: Refugees have minimal resources, but one thing that holds a significant amount of to them is their smartphones and having internet access. The turn over of healthcare professionals in refugee camps is high, as they come through various NGOs. We are building an IT system that will be user-friendly for healthcare professionals and patients alike, consequently helping with the accuracy of medical records.

Given the number of refugees, and the capacity of smartphones, how can they store all this data?

Vasja: Big files such as imagining diagnostics results, will not be stored on the phone directly. Iryo provides a cloud-based platform that can store the additional data from the patients free of charge. The refugee project is our pilot project to prove the concept and eventually design a model for scaling to other places with similar challenges regarding connectivity and infrastructure.

What are your target segments and business model?

Vasja: Our software will be available as a SaaS freemium service. If a healthcare provider has IT capabilities for maintenance, they can use it as such or pay us to service them. Additional revenue streams will be local customization, tailor-made solutions. The most prominent potential we see is for Iryo to become the global platform for researchers who would have to pay for the access to patient records by incentivizing patients to open their medical files in exchange for Iryo tokens.

What is your unique message that you would like to send to entrepreneurs, investors, healthcare providers, researchers, here and today?

Tjaša: We will need to ramp up our development team in the near future in order to further develop a robust and reliable product.

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The core Iryo team with some of the advisors

What tenacity and long-term commitment! What drives you guys?

Vasja: We have all worked in IT which generally benefits from quick progress. A few of us initially worked in healthcare which is where we observed the inefficiencies concerning IT infrastructure across the board. The gap is massive, and unacceptable in this day and age. We want to bring the best practices and approach in IT to the healthcare world.

Tjaša: My personal interest in healthcare derives from being a chronic patient for more than 15 years now. As a former healthcare journalist, I follow closely where healthcare system inefficiencies are and what solutions could address them. We want to be the catalyst for change.

So this is what makes you wake up every day?

Tjaša: Yes, striving to create a meaningful social impact.

Kind of a Robin the Hood in healthcare?

Tjaša: I wouldn’t quite say Robin Hood as that would mean we would have to steal from the rich to give to the poor, but yes we attempt to take best practices learned in developed countries and bring them to the developing ones.

Learn more about Iryo and their projects:

By Tram Trinh

Bayer announced a new global head for digital health and finished its 3rd accelerator batch. Merck has officially doubled the size of its venture unit and is launching its 3rd accelerator batch in 2017. Many ‘big pharma’companies including Roche, Pfizer and Takeda have started to reach out to the startup world, attending most of the key European digital health events (Health 2.0, ECHAlliance, FT healthcare, Frontiers Health etc.). Not surprisingly, these initiatives created a flow of digital health entrepreneurs rushing towards partnerships with the big pharma companies in hope to engage with a potential exit candidate.

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Pilot-isis – a typical infection of the pharma companies

Nevertheless the path to exit with a big pharma can be a daunting journey that can last a minimum of 2-3 years. Like any big corporations, they are huge organizations. Disseminating new digital health products across a base of a minimum of 100,000 employees (scattered around the globe) is a serious long-term effort that requires a lot of attention and time.

One of the major pitfalls a startup can fall into are pilots that end up getting stuck in one country/division/function and never scale globally. For example, if startups knock at the marketing door, chances are that their job priority in an affiliate or region is to launch a drug and deliver targeted numbers. Their focus is miles away from scaling up a newly experimented digital health innovation, often perceived merely as an add-on to their drug-selling business model (unless it’s an app that can be used immediately as a marketing channel to support drug branding).

“There is some unavoidable investment time”, says Fredrik Debong, co-founder of mySugr, a startup focused around diabetes. “It is important to define and agree on the KPIs with your C-level pharma contacts right from the start and maintain an up-to-date discussions you will most likely shorten the timeline.” If you start the relationship with no incentives for the pharma management to drive a project with vague uncertain envisioned results, you can be guaranteed your pilot remains a pilot for a long time.”

One success of mySugr with Novo Nordisk relies on the clarity of the promise from the start: educating the market fast based on a trusted loyal base of patients. MySugr B2C model represents a recurring loyal user base of close to 1 million patients. And recent news proved it right: Swiss Pharma € 50 bn Roche acquired MySugr in June 2017 at an estimated € 70-80  Million sale prices to advance with MySugr Roche’s own digital strategy on the diabetes market.

Medtech – alternative gate way to the health care system?

However, with medtech it appears that pilots are not needed and the timeframe between the date of initial discussions to rolling out the digital health solution can go down to 6 months, as demonstrated by mySugr in partnering with Roche. Traditional medtechs are currently in transition: they must adapt to several metrics shifts in reimbursement regulation, consumer empowerment, digital enablement and their competitive landscape. As a result they are opening up faster to increasing partnerships with the digital health startup ecosystem. Here are the 7 driving factors:

1)   New European MDR Medical Device Regulation

The 5th April 2017 EU Medical Devices Regulation requires more information transparency to consumers, vigilance and market surveillance, safety and reliability in medical devices. This is leading to portfolio rationalization at medtechs and represents an urgent incentive to invest “in new capabilities such as data analytics” EY 2016 medical technology report

2)   Shrinking revenues, pricing pressure from influential payers and hospital systems, in European socialized markets

This has forced medtechs to co-develop and partner with tech companies outside of their traditional boundaries to deliver shared-risk and value-based outcome to payers and patients. Omar Ishrak, CEO Medtronic, at JP Morgan Health Care Conference January 2016 already mentioned his “New Partnerships and Business Models based on Joint Accountability”. A few months later, Medtronic partnered with the digital brain of IBM Watson to improve diabetes treatments.

3)   Data as a common language

Christian Krey, CEO of Emperra, explains to us that “Medtech companies in our ecosystem have always been familiar with creating and using data for patients’ benefit. They understand the value of data and how to use and combine them to find new business models. Most Pharma companies still see their future in selling molecules, having a longer way to data-driven business models. For a digital health startup a partnership with a medtech company will leverage both partners.

patient centered care

4)   A “patient-centric offer” as the baseline

between medtechs and digital health startups, says Gabriel Enczmann, Director Business Development at mySugr. “They are both allowed to market and speak to patients directly while pharma is highly regulated on what can be said or not said about their product to patients “

5)   Moving “beyond the product“ into long-term Integrated health solutions.

Andreas Joehle, CEO & Chairman of the board of directors at Hartmann, stipulates clearly that his industry must re-think healthcare to create sustainable solutions: “we need to drop individual agendas and have an open-minded conversation about how to make real improvements. This needs to involve stakeholders from the entire healthcare value chain, as well as having people from outside the industry to bring new perspectives”. “Mobile apps have quickly established themselves on the healthcare scene and can help monitor everything from blood sugar levels to heart rates and cholesterol levels”

At Frontiers Health 2016, Dierk Beyer, Partner and co-founder of TransAct Advisory who see real-life digital health exit transactions confirms “If you combine a gadget with an IT platform, this can be interesting for both Medtech and startups. The links to disease monitoring represents a tremendous value to Medtech”

6)   The unique value of proximity and relationships built by startups with their end-users

Pritt Krus, CEO of Dermtest, from Estonia emphasizes how relationships catalyze sound  discussions: “As a digital health startup employing software and hardware solutions we have several potential cooperation points; yet quite often the extent and relevance of cooperation possibilities become clear only after a good relationship has been established with our main stakeholders first – doctors and patients – and there is initial traction with the service.”

This growing loyal community of doctors is what Touch Surgery, founded by CEO MD Jean Nehme, succeeded in building. Its cutting-edge surgery simulation app helps surgeons train ahead of complicated surgery procedures, or to familiarize themselves with new surgical procedures. Jean highlights that “The key to startup success is the ability to articulate the “new” and the “old” way in the startup “pain killer” value proposition to your Medtech partner. The winning agreement between both sides lies somewhere between the new disruptive way and the traditional model looking at long-term and existing practice”, which Touch Surgery did with J&J Ethicon, Stryker, Smith& Nephew and Zimmer to name just a few.

sm_digital-health_hilchshutterstock

7)   Medtechs and Digital Health Startups are ready from both an organizational and investment perspective to build strategic collaborations

Creating a global and local synergy in the partnerships

As Gabriel Enczemann from mySugr reveals, their successful startup approach has been on two levels as they are expanding from Austria, to the US, Germany, Italy, Belgium and Canada with the big Medtech Roche Diabetes. Speaking with champions and affiliates from two continents did help them build a global offering service that includes as well ready-to-pick options for country affiliates.

Synergy between startup R&D and medtech Regulatory know-how

“Partnering for a startup with a big medical device organization is like having an external regulatory department, and the startup is like the medical device organization’s innovation External lab” says Frederic Lordachs, co-founder and partner at Doctoralia from Spain.

One thing is sure: Roche’s acquisition of MySugr predicts further digital health acquisitions by Life Sciences companies, increased digital health valuations and investor interests. What digital health startups have recently built with Medtech companies will pay off in a shorter timeframe.

tram

About the author
Tram Trinh combines executive entrepreneurial and corporate health tech industry experience, as well as non-executive roles across Fortune 500, Privately-held Medium-Sized Business to Not-For-Profit organizations. She has lived and worked worldwide and founded VITANLINK to bring societal impact, co-founding and co-developing ventures in Medical Devices & Diagnostics | Telemedicine | Digital Health-eHealth | Artificial Intelligence

Picture sources
https://medtechboston.medstro.com/blog/2015/02/23/massachusetts-bets-on-digital-health https://www.healthcare-informatics.com/blogs/rajiv-leventhal/are-consumers-ready-patient-centric-healthcare
http://www.kpcb.com/blog/six-truths-digital-health-entrepreneurs-need-to-know