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Solving Healthcare's Greatest Challenges: The essential wrap-up of ICT Spring Day 2

Using technology to solve some of the health sector’s most pressing issues was the focus of the afternoon session of ICT Spring Day 2. The talks showcased some of the most innovative and collaborative projects in the field today, bringing together experts from the Luxembourg Ministry of Economy, medical officers, doctors, health policymakers, and others.

The afternoon session of ICT Spring day 2 officially began with Master of Ceremony Carole Brückler (Head of the Digital Health Technologies, Luxembourg Ministry of Economy) welcoming the crowd. She then invited Luxembourg Minister of the Economy Franz Fayot for an introduction talk where he remarked that this might be the first time health and digitalization is discussed at a conference. “It shows how important this link has become,” he said. “We are living through a period of true medical revolution.” This revolution is being spurred by the availability of health data, he said, which puts the person at the center of their own health. “It is this environment we want to further develop in Luxembourg.”

“How to forecast the next pandemic?” was the central question of the first session, featuring Dr. Sylvie Briand (Director, Infectious Hazards Management Department - WHO) joining from Geneva. The answer? AI, big data, and machine learning. But as with any AI system, Briand said, you need good data to put in. “If you don’t have enough data to put into your model you won’t have a good outcome.” In addition to monitoring risk, she said data will be able to help with something that is almost as dangerous as a pandemic itself—an infodemic. This describes an overabundance of information—not all of which is accurate—which has proliferated throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. An AI tool which helps to combat this, called “social listening,” allows WHO officials to understand what fears, uncertainties, and concerns are being expressed on social media. “Nothing spreads like fear,” she said, adding, “Listening is absolutely key.” 

Then Ralf Hustadt (Member of Luxembourg Gaia-X coordination team) came on stage to share the ideas he and his team have come up with for building resilient and sustainable digital infrastructures. “Data is the new oil!” his presentation began. Harnessing the power of data will require a common infrastructure, standards, and compliance tools. “If we don’t keep the governance on our data, we risk losing the data control,” he said. His organization, Gaia-X , aims to develop these common requirements for a European data infrastructure. “It’s about the growth of a digital ecosystem based on European values,” he said.

In the next talk, Dr. Jasmin Schulz (photo) (Strategic Programme Officer, Luxembourg Institute of Health) provided a definition of Clinnova, a trans-regional digital health effort, and explained how it can unlock the potential of AI and data science in health care. “AI will transform the health care sector of the future. We have to be on board now and navigate the paradigm shift,” Schulz said. To support this shift, Clinnova is defining use cases from the healthcare sector for building out meaningful data—serving as a nucleation point for a common data infrastructure. “The creation of this data integration center will bring together major hospitals and practitioners working around the medical use cases,” she explained.

Continuing the discussion on value-based healthcare partnerships was Leesa Soulodre (Xennial deep tech pioneer, General Partner, R3iVentures), who said collaborations in the healthcare field could be the key to solving some of our society’s deepest issues, such as COVID-19 and climate change. “AI is enabling a shift to value-based care,” she said, describing a host of breakthrough solutions—from an app informing people when their aging parents are in decline to a robot that reminds us about social distancing measures. Luxembourg provides an important market for healthcare innovators aiming to improve outcomes, reduce costs, and increase transparency, Soulodre noted. “We must do this for our children’s future. We believe we can accelerate impact,” she concluded.

A roundtable was then kicked off on the topic of “Emerging technologies transforming the digital healthcare space” with experts François Recorbet (Chief Strategy Officer, Bodyo), Kelly Benning (Vice President Sales and Marketing, LiveMetric), and Christian Oberlé (President and Director, Caisse nationale de Santé). Moderator Dr. Jochen Klucken (FNR PEARL Chair and Head of Digital Medicine, University of Luxembourg), who described himself as a “doctor thinking digital”, asked the panel how the healthcare sector can be more successful with integrating digital technologies. Oberlé was able to provide insights from the point of view of a health insurance company. “Today, we have to find new ways to think about financing and that is one of the big challenges when discussing with young entrepreneurs,” he said. Recorbet, whose company created a device that can provide remote health check-ups, represents that entrepreneurial spirit. “We can prevent disease and we can prevent costs. The patients are pretty much the same—so let’s do it,” he said. Benning, who joined remotely from Colorado, explained how Luxembourg-based LiveMetric is innovating around the treatment of hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Their wrist-worn blood pressure device provides a passive way to monitor blood pressure at home, even at night. The need for remote monitoring methods such as Bodyo and LiveMetric have increased due to COVID-19, she said.

“Digitalisation of the Healthtech sector” was the next talk led by Sara Bouchon (Director Market Intelligence, Luxinnovation GIE) who discussed market trends specific to Luxembourg.

The shift from disease treatment to prevention is one of the biggest trends linked to digitalization, she said, from fitness level assessments to apps that can provide personalized dietary recommendations. In addition, customer-centric care delivery models, such as Doctena, are at the heart of creating personalized care journeys within the Luxembourgish health system, according to Bouchon. The goal of all these initiatives is to create an environment that “leverages data, collaborates with customers, and rethinks regulatory compliance.”

Kyriacos Hatzaras (European Partnerships Manager, BioMind) dove into the topic of new technology adoption in healthcare and offered ideas on the best ways to get it right. First and foremost, he said, these ideas need to have high impact on intervention, reduce costs, and improve technology. As a case study, Kyriacos highlighted the work of BioMind, which aims to provide more accurate diagnosis of life-threatening diseases. He said key to the process of innovation adoption at BioMind has been trialability (how easy it is to try the tech with minimal commitment), advantage (do the benefits outweigh risks), compatibility (does it fit with our systems), complexity (how difficult is the technology for us to understand), and observability (what can it deliver). “It helps when we simplify tasks. and that keeps us moving forward more smoothly,” he said.

The idea of Care 2.0 was brought forth by Borzo Baradari (Vice President, Global Clinical Services, All.Health) in his talk on the global health-tech surge and the golden opportunity the health care field finds itself in. He said though COVID-19 surfaced significant shortcomings in healthcare, the silver lining is increased investment in health-tech innovations. “Similar to what the telecom/music industry underwent, healthcare is also beginning this similar wave of disruption,” he said. The wave will be carried by data, Baradari predicted, requiring “sophisticated AI models to provide action-driven insights to care teams.”

“Doctors as co-innovators” was the central theme of a round table discussion moderated by Suzanne Vanweddingen (Journalist, Letz be healthy) and featuring Baradari and Dr. Michael Witsch (Chief digital medical health officer, CHL). Twenty years ago, Witsch created an electronic health system, and since then has advocated for strong systems to share information. In his pediatric practice, he has seen huge benefits with diabetic patients whose data are taken continuously and sent to the cloud. “Imagine a parent with a one-year-old with diabetes that can automatically have it checked five times a night,” he said. Doctors should take the opportunity to really learn from the data, he said, and make the digitalization process more fluid.  Borzo supported this, providing an example from All.Health’s work integrating data to a central platform for a diabetes clinic in Dubai.  “We are in almost daily communication with the clinical team, and we are trying to learn how we can save more time so they have more time for quality patient interaction.”

The conference ended with a keynote speech by Thomas Gregory (Shoulder Elbow Wrist and Hand Surgeon, Professor at Paris Sorbonne University) who, in 2017, was one of the first surgeons to perform surgery in augmented reality using a HoloLens. The device, created by Microsoft, is essentially a headset computer with two cameras. It is equipped with an AI censor that, combined with reality, allows surgeons to interact with gestures. Since 2017, a larger group of surgeons have tried the technique, with great success. “What is incredible is to analyze the fact that all the surgeons were satisfied or very satisfied, and will be prone to use mixed reality in their practice,” Gregory said. This technology can also be leveraged for surgical planning, using 3D holograph modes to see what is beyond the skin and “make the invisible visible,” he said.  “It is very exciting because it is completely transforming medicine.”

Article by Johanna Sorrentino

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