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Health 2.0: how connected devices will transform healthcare, wellness and pharmaceutical industry

by Nitin Dahad

Health and wellbeing is a key area where technology can potentially innovate monitoring and diagnostics and delivery of treatment. But is the traditional health care industry, which includes the pharmaceutical companies, ready for it?

Not yet, says Aline Noizet, general manager of Health 2.0 in Barcelona. She explains, “Although pharma companies say that they have a holistic view of the patient, there are areas for improvement.  For instance, every pharma company is running towards orphan drugs as it is more tractable than chronic diseases. Nonetheless, they need to understand the patients better, and place them more at the center of the processes. Both patients and payers are key groups for pharma companies.

The actual challenge is not so much to innovate but to define patients’ needs in a way that promotes smarter innovation.  And this is one of the spots that definitely has room for collaboration between pharma and health tech companies.”

She says that pharmaceutical companies are starting to look at the health tech industry, especially connected objects, seeing them as a new market access point. “But many pharma companies are still in the ‘stand-by’ phase- they don’t have an innovation department that could actually embrace health tech. Their main concern towards connected objects remains compliance.” See the full article here.

This will be a key topic of discussion at the 6th annual Health 2.0 Conference in May 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. The conference will explore everything from gamification to help enhance wellness goals for patients, to integrating technology in tools for care in hospitals, how doctors access data and how they engage to treat patients. It will also look at the startups and investors playing in this space.

Challenging the old guard, embracing open source technology benefits

A key factor in next generation health technology is to look at the whole human/patient experience, and the ecosystems – one session for example will explore how public health players can create a new landscape for interoperability by leveraging a system built on open source. Another will challenge existing EMR (electronic medical records) platforms – which are over two decades old and struggling to keep up pace with archaic architectures, millions of lines of code and minimal to no differentiation to their client base today – and how they can embrace next generation technology. For example, the smart ones are looking to open up their API’s (application programming interfaces), integrate body generated and genomics data combined with environmental data at a personalized level, so that precision medicine can be provided at point of care.

Smart insoles monitoring chronic diseases like diabetes

Smart connected insoles help monitoring of chronic conditions like diabetes

Smart connected insoles help monitoring of chronic conditions like diabetes

Health and wellness monitoring, and the rise of the ‘consumer health interface’ is also a major focus. Looking at diabetes, for example, which affects more than 347 million people worldwide, there is potential for improvement in monitoring as well as cost savings through preventative care. A recent press release from UK-based HCi Viocare Technologies highlights that in England alone, the treatment of diabetic foot conditions costs the NHS UK£600m a year, with 6,000 mostly preventable amputations per year. Up to 70 percent of diabetic patients will suffer some form of neuropathy in their feet, and up to 25 percent will develop a diabetic foot ulcer. In the UK, amputation occurs in about 1 in 1,000 diabetes patients.

The UK-based bio-engineering firm has pioneered a new connected insole designed to give real-time feedback to the wearer preventing injury and, in extreme cases, surgery. The company is looking to commercialise its ‘smart insole’ this year in two key markets – healthcare and sports. The insole fits into a standard shoe or running trainer and uses a network of tiny electronic sensors to send data back to a smart device or mobile for real-time feedback or for later analysis. It can also be built directly into the shoe.

It monitors the stresses and strains on the feet of diabetic patients and professional or amateur athletes who want to improve performance and prevent knee injury. It is expected to retail at under UK£200 and may be prescribed or reimbursed by healthcare providers to diabetic patients at risk of foot ulcers.

Christos Kapatos, chief technology officer of HCi Viocare Technologies said, “2015 is the year that both industries and individuals will truly begin to feel the impact of connectivity beyond the smartphone and PC. The internet of things is happening and we are already witnessing it in our everyday lives. We are developing a portfolio of game-changing and even life-changing products that will take wearable tech to the next level of detail and sophistication.”

The smart insole relays information to a patient, monitoring the pressure and shear experienced by the foot over time, sending warnings to take remedial action when required. People with diabetes often suffer from neuropathy – causing loss of sensation in the foot – meaning they don’t receive the body’s natural signals when they are exposing their feet to conditions that are known to cause foot ulcers, the cause of thousands of preventable amputations every year. Further analysis on connected devices or PC’s can help monitor daily trends and provide data that could lead to patients adopting specialist footwear or orthoses to reduce their risk of developing an ulcer. The data can be shared with their doctor to complement the monitoring of their condition.

This is just one example of how wellness monitoring and ‘smart connected health products’ can help monitor or even prevent deterioration of chronic conditions. At the Health 2.0 conference, investors and entrepreneurs in health technology will sit alongside patient advocacy groups and policy makers to explore how health technology’s stakeholders can benefit from driving more informed, educated, and connected patients. For more information, and to register for the conference, click here.

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