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London Tech Week: The digital change in healthcare

24th June 2019
Anna Flockett

London is the centre of innovation, technology and networking when it comes to the UK, and therefore it makes sense to host a whole week of events based around all three of these aspects, and so welcome London Tech Week. London Tech Week is important for the country as we are currently in the middle of the 4th Industrial Revolution, which is transforming society and businesses alike.

The UK is a big player when it comes to this as it continues to innovate at such a rapid rate, and is one of the most welcoming and opening markets out there, with one end goal of designing and scaling new technology and talent. 

This year was slightly different in that a flagship event was held at the Excel across two days called TechXLR8, which was a miniature show in itself. With dedicated areas focusing on AI, 5G, VR and AR, IoT, smart cities, blockchain, the cloud and startups - to me it had it all.

How digital is transforming the healthcare sector and how MERCK is preparing for this change
Christopher Revirron, CIO Chief of Staff at MERK Healthcare, explained that when it comes to technology in the healthcare sector it is all about moving things gradually, so that the impact is sudden. “The technology deployment dependency is high, and additionally it needs to be fast for the customer. The future involves digital nurses who can see patients at home, and virtual medicines (digital therapeutic methods), but it needs to be tried with virtual customers, so it will take time.”

MERCK I’m sure is not the only healthcare company to have gone through recent changes, as Revirron said: “We are in a time of very big change, that is happening now whether we like it or not. However, driving change in this industry is not easy. The digital revolution impact is massive and made even more difficult with GDPR.”

In his talk Revirron explained the first step when innovating through AI is working in teams. “By working with people and cross referencing between teams and activities is one of the best ways to tackle something new, like AI in the health sector. We are all learning what’s the best way forward, together of course!”

Innovation is the end result, but how do we get there? Driving digital forward.

Research and development
R&D plays a key role in driving digital innovations, as digital technologies enable access to quick analysis of large volumes of data, thereby accelerating R&D activities. 

Supply management
By collecting all data centrally, you have access to crucial real-time data, which enables predictions of supply bottlenecks around the world.

Interactions with customers
Thanks to modern data collection and analysis methods, now customer-relevant data can be used more efficiently.

Digital product innovations
Digitalisation enables us to broaden existing product portfolios, for example to include new digital services. Moreover, the future plan is to promote health awareness and improve patient treatment through innovative e-health offerings.

There are four elements you need when it comes to driving digital forward:

  • Being connected – inside and out
  • Being autonomous
  • Real-time data
  • Thinking outside the box

This all sounds achievable, so what are the negatives and what is holding us back?

 As the performance ability of a solution increases, so does the risk, and within the healthcare industry especially you need the risk to be as low as possible. Revirron said: “In this industry you have to be able to explain why you have made every decision.”

The risks and ethical issues Revirron highlighted included:

  • What if an AI outcome is counterintuitive or counter-empiric?
  • If and when AI takes erroneous decisions
  • Who is responsible when AI supports or makes decisions?
  • The risk of latent bias in the data used to train machine learning and AI systems
  • The constant risk of data security and privacy

Returning back to one of his first points Revirron reiterated: “It’s about moving gradually, then suddenly and through this method here is what we have learnt so far. There are three steps, the first is to fix the past, more specially catching up the old infrastructure, which in turn will allow us to leverage existing technologies – this is step two in digitalising the core. The first two steps are about moving gradually which leads us to step three which is preparing for the future – which is where the sudden part comes in. The future will be sudden, it will be a huge change and it is the gradual movement beforehand that prepares us for the digital future. To complete these steps, you need the correct elements - the processes, the people, the tools and the investment.”

To conclude Revirron said: “Digital is an enabler to drive business value, it is not a stand-proposition. Do not look for the ‘silver bullet tool’, as it doesn’t exist, instead focus on management and business adoption. Finally, technological pace is becoming faster every day, and we need to keep investing in knowledge, as this is the source of a competitive advantage.”

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