Innovators in digital healthcare assembled at Sanotron’s third annual Interface Summit at Vancouver Convention Centre to wrap up the last couple of days of September and to connect technology leaps to global wellness.
A collective voice from many influential speakers addressed a strong demand for practicality in digital health innovations. No longer are stakeholders, practitioners and patients looking for “cool,” “complex” gadgets—they are looking for devices and treatment that “empower” people in all markets and wellness to take better care of themselves.
One area of technology worth highlighting is the design aspect. According to Dr. David Dunne of Rotman School of Business, in digital healthcare designers need to understand three key aspects in order to enhance the user’s experience and achieve the desired outcome: reframing the problem, understanding the user and the context and making is the way of thinking.
“Doctors are empathetic about diseases, they know what diseases and the effects are,” said Dr. Dunne. “I would argue that doctors’ empathy is about the effects, while designers’ empathy is about the experience.”
For chronic diseases, such as diabetes, patients don’t approach therapy and treatment as the “centre of their life.” People get disconnected with the treatment they have, so it is critical that digital healthcare—in order to be effective—must approach treatment through the user’s lifestyle.
Which leads us to the revolving-door-pharmaceutical experience, something we’re all familiar with. After all, approximately 600,000 Canadians visit a pharmacy in a day. We drop out and pick up with little to no information acquired. We take the daily dose as prescribed and cross our fingers, no questions asked. In an aging demographic, it becomes ever more important that doctors, pharmacists and the patients themselves participate in both the monitoring of health and the follow-up stages to ensure that the treatment is performing as planned.
Pharmacist and UBC grad Aaron Sihota believes the dispensary transaction-based paradigm has to change: “I heard a lot today about telehealth and telemedicine, but not too much about telepharmacy. There is huge potential. Take for example the clinic model; you can have the pharmacy work alongside the prescriber to identify safe and effective therapy. Once that’s been done, the person can just fire it off to a vending machine, where a technician can dispense it or that machine can automatically dispense it and do a live feed counseling. So it’s a completely different practice model. I don’t envision it taking over mainstream dispensary, but definitely working alongside it.”
Moreover, much of pharmaceutical medicine is trial and error, an ancient method that has lasted to this day. In a world where automobiles are tested repeatedly before hitting the showroom and airplanes are soaring 35,000 feet in the sky, it’s hard to accept that doctors and pharmacist are still playing the guessing game with our wellbeing. It seems that only technology can change that, and all that will start with experts from different fields joining hands.
“We have to understand that as much as we have to think about the cause, the solution is very important,” said Ali Tehrani, Zymeworks, “and that is the marriage of high-tech and bio-tech.”
Ultimately, changing one aspect will affect another. In the case of global health, there is much to be done in developing countries. If affordable treatments are a problem here in our industrialized world, it is seemingly impossible for those in third worlds. Digital healthcare should not, and cannot, be exclusive to the rich. Therefore, business models need to change along with the technology created.
“There is a view that you can only deal with these problems in developing worlds by having the money endlessly poured in by Gates Foundation or Grand Challenges Canada,” said Loki Jorgenson, LionsGate Technologies, “and it’ll simply be something the market will never be interested in. And so what we have defined as our mission is to make that market work; it’s a business innovation. How do we make money going into developing worlds? And make a lot of money saving those lives? The reason they die and continue to die is because the market is never interested. Why not?”
Digital healthcare is making significant strides, but there are still many leagues to go, a fact proven by all the paradigm shifts suggested at Interface Summit. If a product, a treatment or a solution wants to succeed and help people in the digital health space then it must be guided by those in need of it. After all, the coolest technologies are the one that saves lives.