Innovation for Health offering optimism in difficult times

The ninth edition of the Innovation for Health conference - finally back as a live event in 2022 - was a reflection of how far the AI and healthcare ecosystem has evolved over the past two years. The challenges are still there, but because all stakeholders were able to meet and inspire each other in real time, the potential felt almost limitless. Meanwhile, Smart Health Amsterdam, host of the event, continues her well-known role as a cheerleader, connector and conversation starter.

The time is right: data-driven innovation as a team sport

It’s hard to read a Zoom room. In contrast, the mood during the first live edition of Innovation for Health in two years was easy to read: optimistic. The leading conference for key players in healthcare and life sciences took place on April 21, 2022 in the Amsterdam RAI and brought together 900 innovators, entrepreneurs and thought leaders to network, exchange best practices and learn about the latest data-driven innovations in health care.

Sure, it’s been an eventful few years in the healthcare world. The COVID-19 pandemic forced an acceleration of data-driven innovation – from the rapid development of vaccines to the spread of telemedicine. Data science and AI have proven their potential to transform health and healthcare in the short and long term.

But there’s more to it than just coping with a global pandemic. Partly it is a matter of timing. At this point, several developments have reached critical mass, such as more effective algorithms, improved data infrastructure, ongoing funding, new business models and increasing success stories across a range of medical disciplines. But it is also the zeitgeist: people in the field recognize that innovation in healthcare is the ultimate team sport.

However, there is still much work to be done. In particular, confidence in new developments and methods needs to be built and established – both among physicians and patients – before a true revolution in favor of both treatment and prevention can be unleashed.

Continuing to build on past results

The welcome speech at the conference came from Amsterdam Deputy Mayor – and former microbiologist – Egbert de Vries, who expressed his appreciation for “the great collective achievement of the health sector during the pandemic to find solutions in such a short time”. He added:

“While people often take this for granted, we must continue to work together to build on these successes.”

With the war in Ukraine in mind, he also noted that “It was actually some 150 years ago, during the Crimean War, that Florence Nightingale was committed to the modernization of nursing and hospital management – which we still know today.” reap the rewards.”

In other words, good can come from bad. Few realize that Nightingale was also a data pioneer who presented her data analysis graphically to make it easier for medical professionals to draw actionable insights.

Thriving ecosystem

Meanwhile, the exhibition space reflected an entire ecosystem in bloom, with not only bigger pharmaceutical players like Janssen in attendance, but also a broad spectrum of support companies often essential to bring innovation to the bedside: investors, healthcare organizations, shared lab suppliers, patent – and regulatory experts, specialist talent scouts, and so on.

Another change was noticeable: the organizations involved in advancing innovation in healthcare, which had traditionally been in each other’s way, are now aligned. Maaike Osieck, responsible for community strategy at Smart Health Amsterdam, commented: “A lot has changed. We are all now committed to the national mission to help citizens live healthy five years longer by 2040. And different regions within the Netherlands each have their own advantages – so it’s up to individual organizations to decide where they fit best.

Launch and scale up

The real drivers of innovation sit at the table of Smart Health Amsterdam. These are startups and scale-ups that are ready to take the next step, such as EmmaDr , a self-care app for the chronically ill, and Cardiomo, a real-time heart health monitor.

Their table companion, CareXS founder Cliff Bos, was still in a festive mood. The Connected Infusion Care from CareXS, with which people can receive infusion care safely and efficiently at home, has just won the North Holland round of the National Care Innovation Award. As the award jury put it: “It makes a difference not only to the shortage of healthcare professionals, but also […] to patients’ daily lives.”

And after years of research, finding suitable partners, development, testing and passing all regulatory requirements, the device will also be officially launched in May this year. Bos attributes much of his success to his failure to reinvent the wheel. “Our technology builds on the pumps of our larger partner B Braun – digitizing the process,” says Bos. “And now we can build on them again to help us enter their foreign markets. And we’re focusing on looping in AI so we can move into prediction and prevention as well.”

He added: “It’s actually a very emotional time for me. It’s personal. A lot of my motivation comes from losing my mother at a young age due to a drug confusion.”

Getting everyone on board: building trust

Smart Health Amsterdam also hosted a varied but tightly curated session on how AI and data-driven innovation can transform healthcare. Moderator Gerty Holla , lead health at the Amsterdam Economic Board , skilfully steered the discussion towards one overarching theme: how do you build trust for these new innovations throughout the healthcare chain.

The first presentation set the tone by asking, “Will we ever trust AI with our health decisions? Towards reliable AI in healthcare’. Clarisa Sanchez is Professor of AI & Health at the University of Amsterdam and presented several examples of how AI is surpassing humans in assessing medical images. However, she also notes that doctors and patients alike remain wary. “And what’s most frightening is that patients still prefer a human doctor even when they know they’re more likely to be misdiagnosed.” Hence, she pointed to the need for open discussions throughout all medical education, as well as throughout the healthcare lifecycle — “from data collection to validation and regulation.” In his presentation on how to scale a deep tech startup, ENPICOM founder and CEO Jos Lunenberg was able to largely sidestep the trust issue as its technology is tailored to support the highly specialized work of antibody discovery processes. He emphasized the importance of transparency. “And that’s why we don’t filter the information, but rather recommend it — like Amazon does.”

The following presentation also cut the bull by the horns: ‘Evidence-based eHealth is much better than e-nonsense’. As an academic researcher and Chief Innovation Officer at the European diagnostic service Unilabs , Esther Talboom-Kamp sees eHealth as essential “for promoting patient independence while easing the burden of an overburdened healthcare system”.

But unfortunately, the whopping 350,000 eHealth apps currently available have not been thoroughly vetted for their effectiveness – ie reliability. Her solution is to build and test apps in close collaboration with medical professionals to create a more “hybrid or blended healthcare” – and build trust in the process.

Digitally transform or die

“The stories we’ve heard today are from survivors. Because there’s no industry where it’s more difficult to innovate. You just have to keep going and keep going and keep going,” said the last speaker, Leonard Witkamp .

Today it can safely be said that Witkamp has built up confidence. He is director of Ksyos – essentially the largest hospital in the Netherlands – which, with a network of more than 20,000 healthcare providers, conducts more than 450,000 teleconsultations per year.

“The hospital as we know it will be bankrupt by 2030 if digital transformation is not embraced,” he says. “Banking, travel and hospitality have all made the leap, why not healthcare? It actually fits perfectly because healthcare is all about routine. It’s about bringing doctors and patients together. It’s about being friendly and efficient. So it’s kind of strange that healthcare is so slow on this.”

“I always say that the first four hospitals that are serious about digital transformation and partnering with new innovative companies will be the only four hospitals left in ten years. – learning everything that is involved. That doesn’t happen by itself,” adds Witkamp.

And real trust will be built in the process. “If you think about it, with traditional care, we never knew what the doctors were actually doing. We had no idea of their quality. But now, with the digital transformation, for the first time in history we will be able to actually put data there. to get over.”

How optimistic is that?

29 April 2022

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