My focus over the summer has been an early stage health spinout called Triscribe. We are just about to start product development so no idea how the business will work out yet. Triscribe is all about analytics based on ePrescribing systems in hospitals and the founders are 3 world class academics from the University of Edinburgh. No concerns about the quality behind the analysis!
Triscribe will help optimise the use of medicines and make a big difference to the cost efficiency of hospitals. This is a great example of the power of analytics and it makes me believe we are missing a big opportunity in health.
Analytics in Healthcare
Think about this:
- In general we do not track real time data on the use and effectiveness of medicines. While medications are tested with great care before a new drug is released; clinical trials will cover up to 3,000 patients yet the level of acceptable risk is around 1 in 20,000. A recent UK report estimates that one quarter of UK antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary; what’s the implication of this even just for the stewardship of antibiotics?
- It’s difficult to get a complete view of any patient with complex health problems. Medical records have tremendous detail on the status of each condition but not a whole person view. During the illness of his final years even Steve Jobs was not able to find a Doctor who could give him this well-rounded perspective.
- Health is like everything else. We are generating more data, more often and it’s much easier to share and access than ever before.
Could this Data be Better Used?
The answer must be a resounding “Yes”. I am not a medical expert but this feels like a “must have” and not a “nice to have”.
Let’s take one example: The use of antibiotics. We face the risk that a powerful class of medicines will become obsolete through overuse and evolved resistance; yet we have little idea of the volumes, patterns or actual success of antibiotic usage. We know we have a problem but we need analytics to tell us where it lies and how it is growing.
The scale of the opportunity is so large that it goes beyond just a market where startups could make a difference. This is a chance for technology to build a whole new industry with plenty of room for innovation but also for large corporations and institutions.
Trust of Citizens and Patients is Essential
Otherwise we will waste the opportunity. Everyone in the health analytics sector needs to take the right approach and I would like to suggest some basic principles:
- The patient always owns the data. Patients will allow clinicians and health professionals to use their data almost as a matter of course but ultimately the patient owns it. Currently, this is far from accepted in either the software sector or the medical profession.
- All data is based on open, shareable standards. Central systems or closed silos will restrict the benefits. Experience in the UK shows they can also become negative.
- Products and services need to be about patient outcomes first and then about money and efficiency. Cost is a massive issue for healthcare but it must not be allowed to lead.
- Mobile, mobile, mobile. Patients and clinicians move all the time therefore analytics which are static and tied to a desk will not work.
The good news is that a few big companies are already tackling this space. Take a look at the Predix platform from GE Healthcare for example. Their approach is to open this up to all third parties and aim to build an ecosystem. A nice example of the corporate establishment building a business and creating an opening for innovation at the same time.
Lots of startups are aiming at health too. Most of the PR is aimed at lifestyle type apps right now but I know that there are others working on more direct clinical conditions. For example in the past year I have met two startups looking at the use of old data to re-imagine treatments. One is targeting a cure for Parkinsons and the other is revisiting the use of antibiotics. Not small ambitions by any standard.
Health is one of the Biggest Opportunities
Opening up verticals will play a key role in the future of analytics. From tragic situations in war zones to the most sophisticated clinics in the world, data can make a real difference. It will accelerate improvements in patient outcomes and help deliver more effective and efficient use of resources; both financial and clinical. Every expert in analytics should get involved.