Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Uncertain Health in an Insecure World – 47

“Digital Infidel”

Traveling back from Harvard Business School (HBS), sitting (delayed) in an airport terminal skiving Wi-Fi, I probe the impressive deluge of digital health social media content at my fingertips.

My Twitter feed quickly links to a Healthcare IT News post announcing that the “third wave of digital” will be coming to healthcare first. “Liquid expectations” derived from consumers’ other digital experiences will extend to healthcare.

Accenture Interactive forecasts an era of health “living services”, attainable only through ‘wearables’ and so-called ‘nearables’. A revolutionary “new wave of transformative digital services” is coming, fueled by the ‘quantified self’ movement. Meeting such high expectations “… may be key for the healthcare industry – and something it’s not quite used to.”

Pivot to the 35,000+ member Digital Health LinkedIn group providing a stream of news and opinions about wearables, EMR’s, telemedicine, artificial intelligence, etc. for a range of wellness and illness applications. The group creates a safe space for established digital players and aspiring start-ups to tangle hands-free over this ever-expanding high tech marketplace.

Group leader Paul Sonnier (above) teases relevant topics, primes provocative questions, and intervenes when discussions get too testy. The group is all about wearable tech.

A mood-altering wearable from Thync (above) technology uses algorithms to relax you by activating parasympathetic pathways. Chilled out… or addictive?  Voice monitoring apps from the University of Michigan detect mood swings in bi-polar individuals. Mood equalizing… or altering? I've contributed to this real-time dialog, and have occasionally ‘liked’ others’ comments.

But despite strong peer oversight, some Digital Health messages feel like a marketeer’s drumbeat.

McKinsey Quarterly’s insights app alerted my iPhone to the Novartis plan for “digitizing medicine in an aging world”, and how this will drive innovations in healthcare. As the world’s population swells by >1 billion over the next decade, >50% of that increase will be people >50 years old. CEO Joseph Jiminez points to big data analytics as a critical Big Pharma capability for genomics-targeted drug development in personalized medicine, and for precision prescribing in complex chronic diseases. A 2014 Novartis-Google partnership produced a digital contact lens (below) that monitors blood sugar in diabetes, while refracting vision.

Mr. Jiminez guesstimates that 25% of global healthcare spending is wasted; digital data-feeds and predictive analytics could drive business efficiencies in response to downward pressures on R&D costs and drug prices. He predicts positive outcomes from Novartis partnerships with data & tech companies, offering a final C-suite thought, “… you get rid of everything else, and physical (sic) medicine is going to be part of that.”

Oddly enough, Novartis’ CEO did not mention any academic health center research partnerships. 

The week’s HBS executive program on Business Innovations in Global (BIG) Health Care gathered colleagues from around the world. Whether it was tech sector Cisco manager Cem from Europe or consumer-facing entrepreneur Kunal from India, in-class pitches focused on innovations in digital health platforms. But it will be the integrators who will usher in the ‘Third Phase’ of global health by financing global scale innovations in the digital sector.

And as reinforced at HBS, there is a BIG shift of the smart money towards digital health sector opportunities. Professor Michael Chu put it bluntly to the class, “… resources are reserved for the winning ideas.” While private equity firms with strong initial business positioning come and go, new industry sectors are created (and sustained) by above-average commercial returns. A recent internet of things (IoT) analytics industry sector report projected market growth from US$4.85B to US$16.35B between 2015 and 2020.

My delayed flight is finally boarding, as I open the New York Times.

An article on ISIS and the Lonely Young American by Rukmini Callimachi chronicles the textbook ISIS radicalization of a young woman living in rural Washington – call her Alex (above). Alex’s social media and Skype conversion ended with her Twitter witnessed recital of the Shahada, “There is no God but Allah…” Her handlers pointed out that following non-Muslim ‘kuffar’, or infidels, on social media was no longer tolerable. Alex’s family eventually intervened, and the ISIS recruiters went dark… until she reconnected months later, only to resume the chatter. Alex’s ISIS ‘friend’ had promised her family that he would cease all on-line communications…

But I lied”, he later revealed.

Social media forecasts & figures on digital health are not lies. But this industry sector desperately wants to convert us into believing that they are telling The Truth.

As currently configured, no health system in the world is viable through 2025 – continued status quo spells disaster! In the face of such dire Future Watch scenarios, the digital health sector is doubling down on health system salvation via the ‘integration of things’.

While at HBS, financier Francois Maison-Rouge cautioned that, “If doctors find something that works for patients, they will not change to adopt a new technology.” The only viable conduit to cracking this healthcare inertia is innovation.

We in the Square desparately want to believe. But if "Video killed the radio star" in the 1970's, then will "Digital kills the clinical star" in the 2020's?

The flight attendant has unexpectedly taken away my hand held device... Didn't see that one coming!

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