Digital Health Open Doors: Digital Health offers solutions for a sustainable health system
- More than 300 specialists meet at the Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site to take part in Digital Health Open Doors #DigitalHealthOD #TechSpiritBarcelona
- Exponential development also poses new challenges in making full use of the potential of this technology.
- New digital health applications are already being used to improve fair access to the health system and are leading to a change of paradigm, focusing efforts on disease prevention rather than treatment.
The auditorium at the Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site became the focus of attention for health innovators for a whole morning. It was the venue for Digital Health Open Doors (#DigitalHealthOD), an event part of the #TechSpiritBarcelona movement that arose to fill the gap left by the cancellation of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) and 4 Years From Now (4YFN), the big event of the year for startups. The event, organized by Barcelona Health Hub (BHH) together with ECHAlliance, Healthio and the Santa Creu i Sant Pau Private Hospital Foundation and sponsored by Lener, brought together more than 300 specialists to deal with the challenges of digital health. The conference was fully booked within 48 hours and the waiting list was kept open until the last moment.
“The need to continue to offer a framework for carrying out the activities planned for 4YFN arose after the cancellation of the event. We decided to jump in and offer this forum after the opportunity came about spontaneously with #TechSpiritBarcelona, a movement of which we are an active part of the digital health arm. We are definitely very satisfied with the response we have obtained,” said Luis Badrinas, CEO of BHH, who also highlighted the importance of the city of Barcelona as a hub of technological talent. “We always say innovation is in the city’s DNA. Now, examples like this one show this is more than just words – Barcelona really does know how to host these initiatives related to innovation and the most disruptive technology.”
“There is tremendous talent in Barcelona and today’s conference is an example of that. This talent also motivates us to carry on working to improve people’s health,” said Joan Cornet, Director of the Digital Health Observatory and Coalition of the Willing at ECHAlliance, an initiative that arose ten years ago to create relationships between the different actors in health systems in order to foster ecosystems to tackle the health challenges of the future.
Speaking the same language
The panel that opened the conference took an in-depth look at one of the big problems repeatedly mentioned by startups: a lack of understanding with the Big Pharma industry. “That’s why we wanted to take advantage of the presence of specialists on compliance and clinical validation from companies like Bayer and other Big Pharma companies to tell us how to bring startups in line with the industry and see that we are all speaking the same language,” said Frederic Llordachs, partner in Braincats, who was in charge of moderating this panel.
For a product to be minimally viable for the pharmaceutical industry, it is very important that it meets certain requirements. Startups are not always very good at considering compliance. “In this respect, many of them end up making it up as they go along, and this works against them. We are in a market where there are many possible solutions. If you want to be in the top positions, the way things like this are done can sometimes make all the difference,” added Frederic Llordachs. He insisted on the need for startups to learn the key words that can speed the progress of a product up or stop it in its tracks.
The chance to innovate
Medicine was one of the most innovative sectors in the last century and doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health agents have been seeking ways of improving their patients’ results. “30 years ago, this innovation was based on new drugs and medical devices. But now, the picture we see is more complex, with new scenarios like digitization, which will be a key element in transforming health services,” said Joan Cornet, who moderated another panel at the conference focused on offering experiences and advice for everyone wanting to innovate in health.
One of the main challenges, in line with the previous panel, is the gap between startups and access to public bodies, Big Pharma and hospitals in terms of relationships. “Digital health has led to positive chaos which has made many innovations possible, but at the same time it is not easy to know how projects can be transferred to health organizations. Once on the market there is also a legal vacuum which needs filling to provide security both for those developing these solutions and those buying them,” said Cornet.
Digital health for a sustainable system
The final panel dealt with the situation of the global digital health ecosystem today. “Digital health truly democratizes health care. It does this by offering access from the most remote areas, but also by encouraging sustainability and providing more opportunities to people who have access to it,” explained Jordi Serrano, founder of Healthio and promoter of various startups, who was in charge of moderating the final panel.
The aging of the population, with increasingly complex patients, represents a big challenge to health systems with limited resources. To ensure sustainability being able to make the most of all the advantages offered by digital health will be crucial. “And although it may seem paradoxical, many of these solutions will allow us to humanize health care. The existence of symptom checkers and apps directly transforming speech into data allow professionals to spend more time looking into their patients’ eyes and less time looking at their computer screens,” insisted Jordi Serrano.
Prevention will undoubtedly be one of the crucial points where all these digital health apps can help to make the difference. “At the moment only between 2% and 3% of health budgets are spent on prevention. Use of the data offered by these devices will help us improve prevention and that will be crucial for making systems viable. It will undoubtedly involve a real change in health culture, and this will be possible thanks to digital health,” added Serrano.
Launch of startups and the Adoption Awards
The conference also served as a platform for the public launch of several startups as up to 20 of them had a forum for setting out some of their innovative solutions. They gave details of projects intended to make it easier to find patients for clinical trials and to improve adherence to treatment, as well as others focusing on telemedicine and facilitating communication between health professionals.
The conference also saw the presentation of the I2M Adoption Awards 2020, which were to have been part of 4YFN. These are a European Commission initiative begun via Innovation to Market (I2M), part of the WE4AHA project. This initiative seeks to put the spotlight on success stories in the implementation of innovation in active, healthy ageing. This horizontal action is part of the European Commission’s strategy concerning the digital transformation of health and healthcare in the single digital market.
After a public entry process attracting 16 applications from six European Union countries, I2M selected three to be presented at the conference, awarding two prizes: one by popular vote and the other decided by a jury.
The popular vote prize went to É-saude, a project begun by the Galician Health Service (SERGAS) and developed by DXC Technology. It involved the establishment of a health website for Galician health service patients so they could have easy access to all their health data. The jury prize went to the project carried out by the NHS Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group together with Docobo. This offered an integrated solution to provide elderly patients with different apps to help them manage their diseases in their own homes. The third app was Near Me, developed by the Scottish government and the company Attend Anywhere, aimed at reducing travel for doctors by making use of video conferencing.
About Barcelona Health Hub
BHH is a non-profit organization founded in 2018 and intended to accelerate the transformation in digital health, promoting interaction between startups, health corporations and investors. The organization’s aim is to become a leading international centre in digital medicine, attracting innovation and talent. After just a few months in operation, it already has more than 170 associates.
BHH is based on impressive architectural site designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner which operated as the Santa Creu i Sant Pau Hospital for almost 100 years. BHH occupies more than 2,000 square metres of the Sant Manuel pavilion, combining art nouveau with the latest technology in coworking and showroom areas.