Healthcare has evolved from mass treatments to personalised care thanks to sophisticated digital technologies that provide a holistic view of a person’s health from a wide variety of data sources. In this era of personalised healthcare, what does a data-powered ecosystem need to sustain itself? Roche Diagram magazine takes a closer look.

Electronic medical records, laboratory tests, clinical trials, doctor’s notes together with newer sources of digital information such as wearable devices, embedded sensors and mobile trackers can provide a comprehensive view of a person’s health. This complex web of data has the potential to drive better patient outcomes by enabling the right diagnosis and treatment for the right patient at the right time.

In its current state, however, data can often be disconnected and unstructured making it hard to glean useable insights and even harder to make effective decisions.

Yet, as the increasing number of collaborations between non-traditional healthcare players and medical incumbents show, a collaborative approach could well solve this present-day dilemma. Take Mesh Bio for example. The digital health startup, which specialises in precision healthcare analytics, has partnered with Roche Diagnostics to develop a cardiac patient management digital solution. The solution, which brings together Mesh Bio’s predictive analytics and data generated from Roche Diagnostics’ products, provides clinicians with automated risk assessment and continuous longitudinal monitoring of key biomarkers, such as Roche’s proprietary biomarkers.

Such insights allow healthcare professionals to provide continuous care instead of “one-off” treatments, eventually leading to better outcomes and even disease prevention. “Looking holistically at biomarkers combined with a patient’s history and other complementary modalities of health data delivers much better insights and has the potential to power better care delivery,” explains Dr Andrew Wu, Co-Founder and CEO of Mesh Bio.

Dr Andrew Wu is the Co-Founder & CEO of Mesh Bio, a digital health startup that helps manage chronic diseases through predictive analytics.

Touching on the importance of such collaborations for ongoing innovation in healthcare, Dr Franz Pfister, a clinician, and data scientist, says that startups and medical corporations each bring different strengths to the table. "Startups can be fast innovators and have the ability and risk appetite to challenge the status quo and rethink rigid processes, while established industry players bring a deep knowledge of commercialisation — market and regulatory requirements, nuances in stakeholder needs and market access.”

Dr Wu agrees, adding that technology startups play a valuable role as they have always embraced the philosophy of lean development. “You build prototypes and test with users, refining the solutions over and over until there is a clear fit, and then you scale. This approach has historically been impossible in the traditional medical industry.”

Culture of innovation

Don Mikkelsen, Service Manager of Laboratory Services at Middlemore Hospital, agrees that a collaborative approach can support this ambition. “Each player within the healthcare system can play a specialist role and use its expertise to address different, nuanced challenges.” Citing the example of laboratories Don says, “Laboratories typically face problems when there is a rapid influx of patients resulting in increased demand for testing.”

Don Mikkelsen is the Service Manager of Laboratory Services at Middlemore Hospital in Auckland, New Zealand.

In response, Middlemore Hospital built a new laboratory where they could configure modern equipment, including Roche’s front-end automation solutions. Mikkelsen and his team constantly tweaked the set-up for optimum results, eventually, managing to increase efficiency by fine-tuning the synchronisation of samples in the centrifuges — but that is not the end of their experimentation, he shares.

This is because “digitally controlled systems have an infinite number of possibilities of how they can be run”, Mikkelsen says. He emphasises the importance of combining data with clinical information to generate insights — valuable insights that can power clinical decisions and help physicians deliver better care.

Navigating the data landscape

To unlock the power of data, the sharing of data between different players across the industry is inevitable. Sensitivities around data privacy, data control and ownership can, however, make data sharing a tricky process. On top of that, the regulatory landscape in Asia Pacific is still very fragmented, with requirements varying from country to country. Clearly defined requirements, unified standards and rules around access of health data can enable the development of this data-powered ecosystem that will equally benefit all stakeholders, most importantly, the end patient.

Perhaps the decentralisation of data can help, suggests Dr Pfister. As we move from a centralised system where data is often siloed to a decentralised system, the privacy of patients’ data can be preserved, and individual ownership and control of information can be ensured and improved.

Mesh Bio’s Dr Wu agrees. He adds, “The reality of healthcare is that it takes a village to care for a person. Interoperability of data is key as we cannot just think about holistic assessment from a single snapshot of time, but rather, the patient's journey through a healthcare system.” This also paves the way for better patient engagement and improved trust in physicians, as they are now aware that their doctors not only know their medical history but can also advise them in terms of future healthcare plans, he explains.

“If you want to move towards value-based healthcare, the starting point is digitalisation,” says Dr Wu.

Dr Franz Pfister is a Clinician, Data Scientist, and Founder of Digital Helix, a digital healthcare and biomedical data science consulting firm.
Dr Pfister is also the Co-Founder and CEO of deepc, an artificial intelligence health diagnostics startup.

“Many markets in Asia Pacific have the opportunity to leapfrog — as they exhibit lower barriers for health tech integration with fewer legacy systems — and can shape the way healthcare will be delivered as they develop their data-powered healthcare ecosystem”, says Dr Pfister.

At the heart of it, “data is a tool for action”, Dr Wu maintains.

If healthcare partners can come together to build a reasonably regulated, data-powered health ecosystem where they can share data and make sense of it all with the help of innovations like Artificial Intelligence, they will be able to move the needle and provide holistic care, benefitting patients and society as a whole.

Read more about digital technology in healthcare at Roche publications.

*The information contained in this article was extracted from Edition 2020, Vol 7.

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