Tiny Snippets of Giant Wisdom

A few days after the GIANT Health event last week, our heads are still spinning from the sheer amount of information, innovation and collaboration exhibited. We gained perspectives on health tech from pharma, tech startups, finance/investors, HCPs and even fashion (see next post). From the mass of information over three days, Sasha Dworkin shares just four important points made by various speakers over the course of the event.

1. Our health literacy is NOT up to scratch

In her talk about changing internal culture in pharma innovation, Emma Sutcliffe, Director of Patient Engagement and Innovation at NexGen Healthcare Communications clearly put to us that as technology becomes faster and more streamlined, our attention spans are shortening, and our expectations of services in general become much higher. These high expectations are transferred to healthcare which cannot necessarily be viewed in the same light as consumer goods, for example. To highlight this, Emma used the example that often, “People expect a cure if they take part in a clinical trial”.

We need to educate people on the realities of healthcare in order to manage these expectations. “We can’t expect to give people the keys to the car and not give them driving lessons… we really need to upscale health literacy”.

Emma Sutcliffe on understanding today's "GAFA generation" of patients.

Emma Sutcliffe on understanding today's "GAFA generation" of patients.

This point was supported by Junaid Bajwa, Executive Director of Healthcare Services at MSD, however this time in the context of maximising efficiency of healthcare in terms of time and hospital visits, particularly for patients with comorbidities: “No one has educated patients how to access healthcare”.

2. The narrative of “Human vs. AI” in healthcare needs to go.

Throughout the event, we frequently heard phrases to the effect of  “human vs. the machine”, “pharma is worried about AI” or “friend or foe?” when it comes to machine learning and AI. These work well as exploratory subheadings of talks but the question in general should be paid little heed as the subsequent discussions invariably led to the opinion that AI should be embraced and incorporated into standard practice as a useful tool to accompany expert opinion.

So, as Lester Russell, Senior Director Health & Life Sciences EMEA at Intel put it, “Human plus machine is the new narrative, we’ve moved on from human vs. machine”.

Lester Russell on how we need to embrace AI in health.

Lester Russell on how we need to embrace AI in health.


3. We don’t need to understand AI-generated results or data to trust or use them.

Continuing our theme of the mistrust of AI, it’s understandable that we may intuitively be cautious of this data, but ultimately it should be judged by whether the results are accurate - not how they were produced.

This parallel was drawn by two speakers:

  • Lester Russell: “I am a black box, they (patients) have no idea about the algorithm in my head.” The point he was making here is that patients don’t question the clinical decisions of a medically trained professional although they do not know the ins and outs of his/her thought process. It should be the same with AI - as long as the results are accurate.

  • Professor NJ Sebire, Professor of Pediatric and Developmental Pathology at G.O.S.H. made the analogy of the mistrust of SatNavs which gradually faded over time - initially people did not know how the routes were generated and how reliable they were but over time their accuracy has proved itself and now, that’s really all that matters.

Some AI has been shown to read chest scans to recognise a number of diseases with more accuracy than radiologists. AI is also making waves with identifying cancerous skin lesions. Given this degree of accuracy that humans cannot achieve alone, it is just not constructive to ignore these useful results - we need to incorporate AI into health decisions and not focus on the “hows”.

4. We need to be fast.

As Jamie Ritchie, partner at IBIS Capital put it “Agility is the biggest strength that the disruptor has - you need to be fast.” This is at the heart of what we do, so really resonated with us, but more importantly it is fundamental to health, a clearly essential area where digital innovation is far behind other industries.

Jamie Ritchie on Digital in Pharma.

Jamie Ritchie on Digital in Pharma.

The time to act is now. If you are in the area of health tech or digital in general and are having some trouble with momentum, please feel free to get in touch.

Dominic Pride