There is No Question If Digitalization will Disrupt Healthcare. The Question Is HOW.

 There is No Question If Digitalization will Disrupt Healthcare. The Question Is HOW.

“We do healthcare like in the middle ages”, I heard at the first SAP Personalized Medicine Forum that took place on July 6-7, 2016 in Bonn, Germany. This statement may sound extreme. But it is much less in the eye of the ambitious goal to provide the highest value for patients, globally.

The main challenge today is that doctors usually don’t have a holistic view on a patient’s situation. On the other hand, complex diseases like cancer require an individual approach to every patient according his or her exact biological and lifestyle traits. Digitalization has the potential to leap the hurdle – this was a strong consensus shared among representatives from politics, healthcare organizations, health insurances, biotech and pharma companies at the conference. The big question lies on the how. And on how to get there.

Putting the Human into the Middle

To understand the dynamics of health and illnesses, physicians and researchers need access to much more data. How do genomes, proteomes, metabolomes, different medications, behavior and the environment influence health or a disease? How does a patient’s state evolve long term after he or she left the hospital? Are there any similar cases in the world where we could learn from? With wearables and electronic health records, a big part of the desperately needed data could be generated already. The vision thought would be to share and connect the data in an intelligent way that reveals medical insights.

A first move into this direction is the new partnership between Validic and SAP, which was announced during the event. The two companies join forces to integrate patient-generated health data from clinical devices, wearables and consumer health applications into care treatment plans, clinical research studies, remote monitoring programs and preventative wellness initiatives. Another example is CancerLinQ, a non-profit subsidiary of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). CancerLinQ connects and analyzes real-world cancer data from electronic record sources, and combines the expertise of oncologists with big data analytics technology in one platform.

Fearless Collaboration

This means, the technology to generate, aggregate, and analyze big data on health is available. Now, we need to get to “fearless collaboration”, as Magnus Peterson M.D., PhD at Uppsala University, pointed out at the congress. There is not only a technical challenge of different data sources and formats, the silos are existing in the heads of different researchers and institutions as well. The carrot-and-stick approach to increase willingness to share data, especially when it was gained through public monetary support, seemed to be a preferred solution among the congress attendees. Of course there is also the other side, the patient. If patients suffer of deadly diseases, most of them are willing to share their health data for R&D purposes – for the benefit of themselves, and for future generations. But there may be other cases when patients are more protective of their sensitive personal health data. And here the solution again lies within the key message of the forum: Consequently put the patient at the center, and go from there.

Giving the Data and the Power into the Patients’ Hands

The patient should be the one owing and determining the use of his or her data. There was no doubt at the conference: Data security and data privacy should be on top of all discussions when considering collaboration on health data. It is pretty understandable if a patient does not want to measure and share health data “for free”. It is the responsibility of care providers, insurances, and the life science industry to provide a real tangible value for patients as a reward. The patient needs to understand what the data means and which conclusions can be drawn for the patient’s health and for a broader patient group. With that, patients can make educated decisions which data to share with whom and when, and acceptance to do so will grow. This would help the ultimate goal to move the conversation towards improved health rather than focusing on curing sickness only, like still often happening today. On a side, note, one nice example that proofs that prevention is better (and more cost-efficient!) than the cure, is Gesundes Kinzigtal, which translates “health Kinzig valley”. With their focus on health prevention, they receive an anticipated payment by insurers, and they get a premium if total heath cost can be proven to be less than in traditional approaches – according to their website, this seems to work out pretty well!

So, starting to think from the patient perspective, giving them the power to collect and share health data in real time, and to collaborate across institutions on medical research will lead to a big step forward towards value-oriented healthcare. To put the patient at the center, and to facilitate collaboration is also the main idea of the SAP Connected Health Platform. This platform allows developers, researchers and healthcare organizations collaborate and accelerate the development and delivery of new patient-centered solutions. Through this approach, the unexpected may be uncovered, and it may contribute to develop new ways to focus on health – ideally before illness beats us.

What are your thoughts on precision medicine and value-based care? Please join the conversation in the chat field below or on twitter by following @SAP_Healthcare.

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