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Laurence Olivier of LifeQ: 5 Things We Must Do To Improve the US Healthcare System

An Interview With Luke Kervin

The first change would be to implement wearables in all medical institutions, clinical settings and for consumers in their daily lives as well. Complementing the medical community with a continuous “dashboard” on the human body in order to best diagnose, treat and help patients will lead to better overall care. Everyday people want to better understand their health as well — from knowing if they have COVID, heart disease or a sleep disorder. By consistently monitoring the body on a deep systems level, wearables can monumentally change US healthcare by enabling a proactive and preventative approach for all who use them.

As a part of our interview series called “5 Things We Must Do To Improve the US Healthcare System”, I had the pleasure to interview Laurence (Laurie) Olivier.

Laurence (Laurie) R. Olivier is the Chief Executive Officer of LifeQ, the leading independent provider of biometrics and health information derived from wearable devices used in world leading health management solutions. Mr. Olivier leads the firm’s growth and overall vision, including investment, strategy and partnerships with global leaders in wearables, silicon manufacturers, digital platforms, and insurance companies — leading the movement toward improving health and wellness around the world. Mr. Olivier brings over three decades of global technology and business leadership, thirty years of venture capital and private equity experience, and has served on the boards of more than 50 startup, private and public companies around the world, including the largest industrial conglomerate in South Africa. As the Atlanta-based partner of 4Di Capital, the South African based early-stage venture capital management firm, and the US-based partner of Veritas Venture Partners, a pioneering seed stage Israeli VC firm, Mr. Olivier is passionate about developing new technologies into startups that positively impact people and society. Founded in 2014, LifeQ has two key value propositions: enable wearable devices to provide business and near clinical-grade health information streams; and generate health and wellness solutions for consumer, business and clinical applications. Mr. Olivier earned his Bachelor of Science in Electronics Engineering from the University of Pretoria; a Bachelor of Commerce in Finance and Strategic Marketing; and a Diploma in Datametrics and Operational Research from the University of South Africa. Mr. Olivier’s work has been recognized by Dow Jones Venture Reporter, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and the American Israel Chamber of Commerce. A native of Groot Marico, South Africa, Mr. Olivier lives in Atlanta with his wife.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into our interview, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I grew up outside the technology world, in South Africa near the border of Botswana. We had no electricity in my house, no TV and no modern amenities, so I became fascinated with technology from a young age. I studied electrical engineering at university and got involved in venture capital. Today, as CEO of LifeQ, my mission is to harness technology to create a healthier world.

As a VC investing in groundbreaking technologies, I have remained close to the impact of various technology waves over the past three and a half decades that have monumentally changed the world such as the internet, mobility, cloud computing, big data, AI and others — it’s been an incredibly exciting career. What I find fascinating is the real impact silicon has had on the world, and how it has revolutionized almost everything. Technology and innovation had transformed almost every sector, yet due to the more conservative nature of healthcare, some significant opportunities for impact have not yet been realized. From cars to factories and digital marketing, data is collected and presented for better decision making — the human body needs to be tapped as well. Once the human body is integrated in real time, significant new medical advancements may be achieved. This will help health and wellness to become less opaque.

Our vision with LifeQ is to help people live healthier lives through simple, powerful insights derived from everyday wearable devices. At LifeQ, we’ve figured out that if the human is connected to software, programs, and digital systems, we can make better predictions and recommendations, and enable systems to self-regulate to higher efficiency.

When I met two computational systems biologists in 2014, the whole idea of digitizing human bodies became real. We found a way — through wearables as an electronic interface — to measure and leverage computations systems biology to model and track the different physiological systems. At the same time, we wanted to respect privacy and be GDPR-compliant from day one — putting the end-user in the driver seat. The result is a small but powerful wearable device that can generate deep, clinical-grade health insights.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

While I grew up in an environment with just the most basic amenities and without electricity, I left for school and decided to become an electrical engineer. Ten years later, I was on the board of the largest industrial conglomerate in South Africa.

During my early venture capital days, I partnered with the first VC team in Israel where I skilled myself in the Transatlantic VC model and the commercialization of cutting-edge technologies. Now years later, healthtech is truly changing the world — it is an exciting sector and I am proud to be a part of the movement toward a healthier world.

Today, LifeQ is the leading independent provider of biometrics and health insights derived from wearable devices, helping people live healthier lives. By providing a 24/7 lens into the body, LifeQ’s solutions go beyond an everyday smart watch, generating business-grade biometrics for consumers, athletes, and the acutely and chronically ill to detect health problems earlier, manage their existing problems, and prevent illness. Consumers, wearable device companies, insurers and reinsurers, health-tech companies, clinicians, researchers and analytics companies all benefit from LifeQ’s powerful capabilities — representing the future of healthcare.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

In the early 1980s, while still in my twenties at my first month on the job at the industrial conglomerate, I was invited to listen in at the meeting of the very experienced executive committee of the board. After the meeting, in front of the whole group, the chairman asked what my impressions were. Naively I told them, “I think you’re leaving a lot of money on the table.” The chairman thought this comment was amusing and to have some fun with me amidst the other elderly statesmen, instructed me to join future executive meetings to teach them how to make more money! This task was comically added to the committee agenda going forward — here I was, a young adult participating in the leadership meetings. Through my prior consulting work with the South African government, I happened to gain a lot of knowledge on tariff issues and how to offset tariffs with exports. Long story short, I did save the company money — a few million on their imports, and eventually, a lot more than that. After the money had flowed, the task was removed from future committee agendas and I was invited to continue attending the executive meetings as an observer. I was lucky they were amused rather than annoyed when I stated my no-filter opinions to senior leadership in meetings.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“When I have nothing to lose, I’m at my strongest.” — Laurie Olivier. Like so many people, I’ve experienced many ups and downs in life — from health to work — and often find we can unexpectedly end up at very difficult crossroads situations. This quote reminds us that we are the strongest when we have made peace the worst possible outcome in a difficult situation.

“Anything worth doing, do with your whole heart”. — Unknown. I don’t believe in doing anything with half effort. Pick your goals carefully and go for them with your full effort. Believe fully in your mission and you will achieve greater success.

How would you define an “excellent healthcare provider”?

The world of healthcare is growing and changing quickly, but excellent healthcare is still somewhat inconsistent. An excellent healthcare provider is patient-centric. Providing a high quality of patient care with a focus on improving their health is the number-one priority. Second, an excellent healthcare provider is current. The best healthcare providers know and understand the latest treatments, technologies and landscape of care. Third, they are excellent communicators. Being a good communicator and listener is a major part of healthcare and ensuring the patient walks away with a greater understanding of how to treat their issues and the tools needed for better health.

Great providers are conservative and understand the power of prevention. There is a widespread practice of overtreatment, which can be toxic to the healthcare landscape. Overtreatment is often driven by a litigious society — doctors worried about being sued due to lack of action. Performing procedures that are not absolutely necessary in an effort to avoid being sued down the line, is a very inefficient and costly means of avoiding a lawsuit — not to mention the pain and suffering it causes the patient.

As we’ve proven at LifeQ, all bodily systems are interconnected. LifeQ-enabled devices provide patients a score on their systems — from cardiovascular, sleep, fitness and beyond — as these health systems are interconnected. The best health practitioners recognize the systems interplay and can harness this knowledge for better care.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better healthcare leader? Can you explain why you like them?

Generally speaking, I find health leaders and influencers on social media — such as Eric Topol, one of the most cited researchers in digital medicine — very interesting to follow and read. I love to attend out of-the-box medical conferences such as the Exponential by Singular University. These events are a great way to stay apprised of ground breaking innovations in the medical and health space. I also love Ted Talks, some of the most informative and inspirational presentations available today.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

My most exciting project is heading up LifeQ, where we are busy digitizing human physiology. Having recently closed $47 million in funding from top investors around the world, we look forward to changing the landscape of healthcare for the better. The capital from this recent investment round has significantly expanded our working capacity and will drive higher reach, growth and profitability.

One of our prime goals is to provide insights to the medical community that they’ve never had. The medical community has never had the privilege of access to ongoing 24/7 physiological data. Aside from technological advancements, the medical industry has not had any tectonic disruptions in a couple of decades. I was born in the 1950s, and often think of how basic healthcare was in the era when I was growing up. Today, for the first time, we have the ability to look into the human physiology with a simple wristband and access longitudinal data — this can be revolutionizing.

With computers linked to people on an ongoing basis, highly personalized medicine will be taken to the next level. This will cause a major disruption for powerful positive change. For the healthcare community and users alike, it will be the difference between a snapshot and a movie of their health — a monumentally powerful difference.

While so many firms are trying to replace doctors by automating healthcare, we’d rather enable doctors to make them more effective — resulting in the best possible patient outcomes. This is what LifeQ’s remote patient management will do — providing real time access to human vitals and biometrics and generating highly personalized treatment models. There’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all when it comes to medicine.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this study cited by Newsweek, the US healthcare system is ranked as the worst among high income nations. This seems shocking. Can you share with us 3–5 reasons why you think the US is ranked so poorly?

First and foremost, cost! In the US today, healthcare represents almost 18% of our GDP. Second, the practice of overtreatment so common today is costly and ineffective. Third, we are not focused enough as a society and culture on preventative care.

COVID has claimed many lives, and has had a devastating effect on our country and world. But it’s also been a wakeup call — it has forced us to think about health proactively. In the US, 95% of healthcare efforts focus on the cure, while only 5% on preventative care. We know that chronic diseases affect 50% of our nation and account for 85% of healthcare costs, and that a small portion of people represent the bulk of medical expenses. Bearing this in mind, something needs to change — and it starts with improving preventative care.

The US is among the costliest healthcare systems in the world — it is concerning how expensive it is. The people that have the biggest problem aren’t the poor or rich, it’s the people in the middle. If you are poor, hospitals will still treat you and will not come after your assets. The middle class gets squeezed for everyone. The US health system is exclusive, not inclusive. There is a lot of room for improvement and that improvement can scale through technology.

While the US still leads the world in terms of quality of care, the opaque nature of the healthcare system complicates the healthcare landscape for both doctors and patients. We need to improve transparency and efficiency with the system.

As a “healthcare insider”, If you had the power to make a change, can you share 5 changes that need to be made to improve the overall US healthcare system? Please share a story or example for each.

The first change would be to implement wearables in all medical institutions, clinical settings and for consumers in their daily lives as well. Complementing the medical community with a continuous “dashboard” on the human body in order to best diagnose, treat and help patients will lead to better overall care. Everyday people want to better understand their health as well — from knowing if they have COVID, heart disease or a sleep disorder. By consistently monitoring the body on a deep systems level, wearables can monumentally change US healthcare by enabling a proactive and preventative approach for all who use them.

The second change would be to better organize healthcare administration and infrastructure to create a more efficient and less top-heavy healthcare system. We can do that by having more efficient treatments and realtime information available in these treatments with wearables. Remote patient monitoring can be very effective. For example, a person recovering from COVID can be monitored in their home via remote patient monitoring, without taking up a hospital bed for a critical care patient. Without remote patient monitoring, you might keep the patient there three days in the hospital even though they may be recovering quickly. The cost of keeping that patient in the intensive care unit, the insurance costs and the hospital administration costs, are all astronomical. The current healthcare system fuels this bureaucracy.

The third change would be to rethink the legal landscape. Having worked around the world, so much about the US healthcare system is litigious — and it begins in the psyche. We must also consider the impact of lobbying. There is an imbalanced push by pharma companies. If you go to some other countries, there are strict laws which limit influence and impact of big pharma.

Fourth, we need to think of healthcare from a prevention point of view. Preventable conditions, such as cardiovascular and sleep disorders, can be treated from different angles. We believe that we need to empower the general individual with more information to make them conscious of their own health. We have to change the current mindset of most people, which is the idea of “instant healthcare” or the ability to treat something quickly with a pill. So much about healthcare is behavioral, and our mission is to create a healthier mindset at individual level. People should enjoy life but in a healthy way. Wearables are so good for this. You can provide the insight and visibility, which they need, in an unobtrusive way. It comes down to choices. Sometimes we make knowingly the bad choice, but the more we provide the mirror, the more we can enable the consumer to make better choices. Wearables can be gamified.

Lastly, creating a better healthcare system will involve user delight and engagement. Let the technology do the work and the user reap the benefits in an engaging way. LifeQ has made efficacious anomaly detection a focal point of our biometrics. We also gain the ability to do screening and alert the consumer in a GDPR-compliant manner that can benefit them every day. This device is like having a doctor tracking your body 365 days a year, not just once or twice. The wearable device doesn’t sleep, it’s not emotional, and doesn’t get tired — it just works. The user is provided with actionable metrics from which they can make better decisions. For example, we can say that based on your heart and fitness metrics, you are as healthy as the average person of your age, older or younger. We’re going to give a person very specific recommendations as well, even going so far as to “add” or “subtract” quality days from their life — allowing them to “increase” their lifespan! We want to make it fun. People can even compete on a specific metric. We are trying to make it easy for them to achieve goals, and most importantly, become healthier. We start with minor changes. If we can help people create small changes in a non-offensive way, we can help them create larger, more monumental health changes over time. And we do it all through a simple wearable device.

What concrete steps would have to be done to actually manifest these changes? What can a) individuals, b) corporations, c) communities and d) leaders do to help?

We must ensure the interests of the individual comes first. We envision a future where all people have a wearable device that can enable detection of disease, a greater understanding of the body’s vital systems, and better overall health.

LifeQ has two key value propositions: enabling wearable devices to provide business-grade and near clinical-grade health information streams; and using this data to generate health and wellness solutions for consumer, business and clinical applications. LifeQ is rapidly becoming the preferred health enabler and benchmark for the world’s top consumer electronics companies, powering the next wave of digitally enabled insurance and health management, and has already had significant, life-changing and even life-saving impact on real users’ lives.

For corporations, wearables can be used very effectively. Productivity and safety are a top priority. It’s in their interest to have alert, coherent people, so they must be healthy, well-rested, and COVID free. We are offering a powerful tool that will help them with early detection, and even allow them to sleep better. They can truly benefit from it right away. At the end of the day, on the corporate side, you have to align the interest of the corporation with the individual.

On the clinical side — where the majority of our impact is in surveillance, early detection, screening, and monitoring during treatment — we can powerfully enable remote patient monitoring, as well as onsite at hospitals and in clinical settings. There are currently no other platforms for real-time access to near clinical grade vitals of consumers via affordable wearables. Furthermore, there are some things one can only capture at home, such as sleep patterns (as a sleep lab has various factors that are unlike our home environment). Meaning, our technology uncovers some medical things you can only uncover at home, which helps clinicians see health as it truly is.

In the case of COVID, it’s different. Employers are now legally exposed in this. They want to ensure the maximum protection of fellow workers and their loved ones. Suddenly, you have the corporation scrambling to follow COVID protocols and spend money on precautions. Consider for instance the risk taken by a mine with 50 people cramped together on an elevator while going down a shaft. When we think of the economic impact of only one employee infecting others, it’s not just thousands of dollars lost, it’s millions. This is beyond the disruption of employees that then need to be quarantined for 2 weeks from loved ones. Most companies want the best for their employees: beyond being productive they want a person to live longer, and it’s in their interest you have an incentive to remain healthy as well. They can incentivize you, with your permission. Most of these things are there to incentivize better behavior; For life insurers it is in their interest to have healthy policy holders.

I saw something very interesting in China, where in residential apartment complexes, included in the rent is their primary healthcare. Preventative monitoring of tenants is thus essential. I like the holistic approach to healthcare — and including the cost in these families’ rents.

For leaders, there has never been a better time to invest in the health of our communities. The world GDP is 85 trillion and medical is about 10% of this. US is a significant portion of it. Many forces on the system are pushing it in the wrong direction. Let’s get these back on track.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put intense pressure on the American healthcare system, leaving some hospital systems at a complete loss as to how to handle this crisis. Can you share with us examples of where we’ve seen the U.S. healthcare system struggle? How do you think we can correct these issues moving forward?

We have a saying in South Africa that points out the irony of complaining with “a white bread under your arm,” which indicates a certain kind of privilege. The US healthcare system has struggled during the COVID crisis, but by and large, here in the US we didn’t run out of respirators or ICU capacity.

Still, we need better tools, which would have enabled doctors and clinicians to treat more patients more effectively. At LifeQ, our hospital dashboard is meant to triage. When under pressure such as with COVID, the big thing in the hospital is selecting which people go to ICU and which do not. Using a wearable device, every person generates information that doctors and clinicians can monitor, even if they are at home. This is an infinitely more efficient way to treat patients who are improving, instead of taking up hospital beds and skyrocketing costs as well.

We want to let technology help doctors and medical institutions to care for and treat patients for the best possible outcomes.

How do you think we can address the problem of physician shortages?

Physician shortages are a common problem around the world. First, we must recognize the vital role of physicians in our healthcare system and enable them with better productivity tools. Second, we must reduce the need for more physicians by promoting prevention.

We must provide physicians with a proper online system so they can handle more patients in a responsible way. Utilizing technology, instead of frequent ward runs and having to catch up with nurses, will help reduce the imbalance of patients to physicians.

How do you think we can address the issue of physician diversity?

Diversity is incredibly important in healthcare! This starts in the communities and the schools. Educational institutions have made good strides in diversifying their students and graduates, but more work needs to be done. We need to start earlier with educating underrepresented individuals in our own communities about opportunities as physicians as well in healthcare. As a growing field, we need to recruit and empower more women. It has become apparent that many women physicians end up at home raising kids. Today you have better remote patient monitoring platforms, opening up opportunities for remote work as well.

Right now, we have two parallel tracks, mental/behavioral health and general health. What are your thoughts about this status quo? What would you suggest to improve this?

A big theme for LifeQ is that all of the body’s systems are interconnected. Most people don’t know how much their heart is a giveaway as to what is happening in their mind. While we are rooted in physical health, we know this is intrinsically linked to mental health. Wearables tap into your cardiovascular system, providing continuous data with significant insights on mental health. More focus is required on the whole environment of neurobiology — the biology side of neuro-disorders is still in a nascent stage. One of our key objectives at LifeQ is to further unpack the connection between the nervous and other physiological health systems.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Everyone should have a wearable device — it’s the future of healthcare, and a powerful preventative tool to improve and understand health. Without wearable devices, we are in the dark when it comes to our health. Imagine a world of hundreds of millions of cars without a proper dashboard. Humans are happy to live without a physiological dashboard, yet our bodies are so much more important!

Recently, I was in the Chicago area rushing in a rental car to the airport to make my flight home. I noticed there was a puncture in the tire. But because I had a sensor that told me how much pressure was in the tire, I knew I would be able to make it to the airport in time, and was able to monitor tire pressure until returning the car to make my flight.

We don’t necessarily think of the importance of such a “dashboard” but would be totally lost without it. It’s the same with the human body — wearables are there, but not there — they are working in the background until you need the information. It’s more than a dashboard — it’s the future of healthcare. Having a 24/7 lens on the body is a natural next step in the greater movement toward health.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Of course! Visit our website at www.lifeq.com, on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/company/lifeq and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/lifeqinc. We would love to hear from you.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was very inspirational and we wish you continued success in your great work.

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