August 14, 2018

Innovation and Mindful Implementations Driving the Future Health - HealthXL Global Gathering London 2018

Hanna Phelan

This week we celebrated HealthXL’s fourth anniversary with our member community in London at our Global Gathering in partnership with Imperial College Health Partners and Silicon Valley Bank (SVB). The event has a rich history of bringing together industry leaders who are revolutionizing modern heath, including world class health system representatives, clinicians, investors, pharma executives and start-ups, and this gathering was no exception.

At this year’s gathering, some key themes populated multiple panels, key-notes and coffee break discussion including:

  1. Each day we are moving closer to genuine implementation of patient centered care
  2. Adopting innovation from other sectors and geographies is integral to success and crucial in reducing wasted efforts and capital
  3. Evidence will never go out of style

For those who couldn’t make the gathering and attendees looking to revisit the shared learnings, we have put together a roundup of some of the salient perspectives and participants below:

New Models of Care: Chatbots and Digital Therapeutics

The event’s kick off session on chatbots featured practicing NHS clinicians, futurists and innovators leading the charge in building products to address the need for smart triaging and decision support. There was unanimous agreement that while there is great opportunity to reduce unnecessary readmissions through supportive roles and even the eventual takeover of entire pathways, the industry needs to be patient and not expect the finished product to appear overnight.

"We expect AI and Chatbots to be perfect 100% of the time, but we know and accept that humans make mistakes. So, are we setting the wrong standard for now?" - Dr. Indra Joshi, NHS England

Chatbots offer the chance to deliver on the empowerment and democratization that we have been promised by digital health – allowing easy access to health information and clinical decision support to empower individuals. Evidence is difficult to pin down in the chatbots space, but the panel stressed the need to rigorously evaluate the honest impact of the offering for it to truly reach scale.

Empathy and a human touch will always be needed – chatbots will not act as an outright substitute for clinical care and human understanding. The panel raised the point that where chatbots can be particularly useful is caring for individuals who are missing out on diagnoses and treatment because of access barriers like stigma. When it comes to sexual and mental health this could be a breakthrough.

The session concluded with participants taking a look into the future of chatbots and AI supported health systems. The panelists agreed that chatbots will be a part of a broader systemic innovation aimed at meeting patients where they are, supporting intersystems management and relieving unnecessary burden from primary care services.

Frugal Innovation: Looking Beyond Traditional Borders


Professor Darzi is a leading voice in the field of global health policy and innovation, most recently holding the Paul Hamlyn Chair of Surgery at Imperial College London, the Royal Marsden Hospital and the Institute of Cancer Research. He is also the Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London and Chair of Imperial College Health Partners.

This session reflected a running theme across the gathering – the need to look beyond traditional borders for new insights and ideas. Frugal innovation according to Dr. Ara Darzi is necessary if we are going to reform the healthcare system. Looking to environments that have been forced to innovate across the globe, particularly in low and middle income contexts, gives us a firm reminder on the root of innovation – necessity.

During the conversation Dr. Darzi spoke about the difficulties he has faced in driving adoption around robotic innovations for laparoscopic surgery, citing the challenge as similar to trying to “teach old dogs news tricks.” While he recognized that any new technologies may face initial skepticism, he warned about letting a lack of understanding get in the way of innovation, stating “you can question the validity of the technological innovations we have in healthcare now, but that shouldn’t stop us from innovating." He also emphasized the critical role education can plan in the innovation process. He highlighted the importance of clearly and consistently communicating back the value of innovations and new models of care to the clinical community, and to the public, even if there is a risk of failure.

Returning to the topic of frugal innovation (the art of doing more with less), the elephant in the room –the economics of innovation – remained center stage. Dr. Darzi addressed the issue stating that not all initiatives require finding new funding pathways and new capital, but existing money needs to utilized more efficiently. For example, leveraging existing resources and assets that are widely available to drive change, borrow proven technologies in one sector and adapt them to make new products in healthcare. In this instance, reinventing the wheel is a fruitless exercise.

Precision Medicine and Deep Learning Discussions

The Future of Population Health

Deep Learning Discussion How are we learning from health data of various forms to inform better drug discovery, medication management and treatment at every stage of a disease?

The Global Gathering’s Deep Learning and Precision Medicine sessions both mapped the potential across the continuum of human health and disease from personalising wellness plans and health approaches based on one’s genetic ethnic insights and on the other end of the spectrum how drugs are being discovered and repurposed with time on our side through deep learning capabilities.

The discussion around Deep Learning addressed the large scale collection of genetic data across populations in Asia and England and the great potential it holds for disease prediction and early intervention, with new drug developments catering to rare conditions or offering more targeted therapy for existing conditions, the conversation also addressed its potential for understanding correlations between human populations. Genomics Medicine England and Genome Asia 100k are both collecting hundreds of thousands of data points to enable initiatives exactly like these.

"How can precision medicine be precise if we don’t precisely know who we are" - Dr Stephan Schuster, Professor of Biological Sciences, Nanyang Technical University (NTU)

The Deep Learning panel outlined the use cases of deep learning, which served as a perfect continuation to the earlier discussion on large datasets to enable personalized medicine. Without shyness or hesitation, the group voiced concerns (or lack thereof) around data sharing, and professed their love for the UK (NHS) as a hub for innovation in this space.

"We have seen the ability of AI to assist the healthcare provider to arrive at a correct assessment of a patient’s status. Artificial intelligence will not supplant human physicians, rather assist healthcare providers to be more efficient and accurate." - Joanne Hackett, Chief Commercial Officer, Genomics England

HealthXL Global Gatherings showcase innovation on a global platform by bringing together people with ideas, resources and desire to contribute to the evolution of healthcare and this year’s London event was no exception. We look forward to continuing the conversations and the collaborations with our members at our next event in San Francisco on October 4th

Event Report

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