Snippets from Europe’s digital health leaders: data, patient care and whether AI is up to the job.

Yesterday we gathered 15 leaders in the digital health space to discuss how to build health services for the future.

Last weekend the UK witnessed the “health” of the digital backbone of the NHS as a cyber attack hit outdated technology. There is considerable risk in how we manage patient data. Yet there is also considerable risk in not collecting data, or doing so poorly. The less the medical profession is informed of patient conditions, the more likely it will be that that patients are put at risk.

We gathered 15 experts from leading health tech companies (including Clue, Antidote, Push Doctor, and My Recovery) to discuss how to drive innovation while ensuring that the services offered to patients are both sustainable and lead to better outcomes. Here are some snippets from that conversation.

1. Patients will know more about their own bodies than their doctors.

“We’re reaching an inflexion point where patients know more about their own conditions than doctors. We know of customers who turn up to their doctors with months of data on their body to show to them. There is still a power gap, but this is changing.”

Ida Tin, CEO of Clue

2. Healthcare is being demystified.

“Healthcare is being demystified. Previously, healthcare was associated with emergency care at a late stage of health. By 2023, 50% of the patient base will be millennials or younger. They’re not going to operate that way. They will have a different framework for perceiving health. Why can’t I manage my health in the same way I can shop online?”

Susanne Given, Chairman, Push Doctor

3. Opening up healthcare access is happening worldwide.

“We found the buy-in was far faster in India than anywhere we have gone. Enabling immediate communication between patients and doctors is hugely valuable to low to medium income countries.”

Erin Haf Davies, CEO, Aparito Health

4. And it will become more user-centric.

“We’re going to start seeing health services going to the patient, rather than the other way around.”

Andy Blackwell, Chief Scientific Officer of IESO

5. In the UK, the NHS will change its relationship with citizens.

“The NHS is going to move to become a contract between the citizen and the state, because that is the only way to make the system sustainable. Very simple things like we will be more obliged to keep healthy and wear sunscreen to prevent skin cancer, so that money can be directed at those things we don’t know how to prevent or cure.”

Alex Kafetz, COO, ZPB Associates

6. And transparency and participation will change the way it works.

“Digital will enable two things to enable the NHS going forwards. The first is transparency, the idea that we will know which clinical trials worked, for example. The second is participation: booking our appointments online, managing our prescriptions online, online conversations. People will fall into two categories: high touch and high tech. Those that can, will access through tech, while those who have dementia, those who have severe learning difficulties, or those who have severe conditions will access it through a high touch service.”

Alex Kafetz, COO, ZPB Associates

7. The quality of the data is crucial.

“We don’t yet agree on what a valuable output looks like. This should be a huge focus for the industry. How do we change what we are measuring to make it more effective?”

Elin Haf Davies, CEO, Aparito

8. And collecting data is critical to driving quality up over time.

“There’s a jump to machine learning, but learning from data and creating actionable insights for physicians can create huge efficiency. In IESO’s context, we have 5,000 patients at any given time. It’s impossible to quality control that manually. There has to be a technology between the clinician and the patient that monitors that, and then helps drive up efficiency and performance over time. Mental health has been the least measured practice in all of medicine and actually I think over the next two years, it will be the most measured practice. Some of that could be machine learning, but equally it could be simply about collecting data and measuring results.”

Andy Blackwell, Chief Scientific Officer, IESO Digtial Health

9. Machine learning expertise and startup thinking needs to be adapted, rather than adopted, for health tech.

“We need to be responsible when bringing in technology and a startup culture into health care. Machine learning experts generally have a completely different mindset compared to doctors when thinking about health care. For a machine learning person, a 5% error rate would be fine, but that could translate into 5 deaths. So controlling for the unknown and the uncertainty is important. Knowing where the boundary between a human interface and a computerised interface is critical. Machine learning can help us with consistency, but there is still the need for a doctor.”

Peter Kecskemethy, CEO, Kheiron Medical

“Exactly. If Facebook or Amazon use bad data, the worst thing that can happen is that they show you products you don’t want to buy. It can just be funny, the downside is not hugely damaging to anyone. But if that happened in a medical diagnosis, the downside is much harder to protect against.”

Vishal Gulati, Venture Partner, Draper Esprit

10. Patients need to trust the brands we build and to see what they get in return for sharing data.

“We see patients who are prepared to share extremely personal information via our platform, when conversing with our therapists. We take protecting that data extremely seriously. It comes down to the relationship with need, and what you get in return for sharing data. Do you get from a life sucking illness to wellness? Well, if that’s the case, you’re more likely to want to share. It’s about establishing trust.”

Andy Blackwell, Chief Scientific Officer, IESO Digtial Health

11. We need to stop thinking about people as either ill or healthy, we’re all on a spectrum. Think about management, not treatment.

I’m ofetn asked about which market in healthcare is the biggest, is it something like diabetes? I always say, it’s healthy people. There are billions of people worldwide to provide products for people to keep them healthy. The focus needs to be on managing health, not just curing people when it’s gone wrong. The system as it stands is far too reactive, and often it’s too late. We need to move away from rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Dr Vishal Gulati, Venture Partner, Draper Esprit

12. And finally, health tech must not be about hype, we need to play the long game.

“We have found it hard to mobilise, even in simple ways, around climate change. Healthcare is an order of magnitude more difficult than that. I think we need to recognise that we all play a small role in chipping away at this but it will take 20 years. We have to be careful about creating the hype too early, think of Theranos. We have to play this game for the long run, there’s no silver bullet.”

Andrew Lynn, CEO, Fluidic Analytics

If you’re an innovative health tech company, get involved with our upcoming workshop on “How to sell into the NHS and other health providers” by contacting isabella.cookson@draperesprit.com.