How the flow of real-time data could change our lives when it comes to our health
Sensors are everywhere. They are inbuilt into everything from smartphones that record temperature and vibration, to water pumps underneath your street that monitor the flow of water or the pressure of sewage. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the exploitation of sensorcaptured data to effect a smarter action, either automated or not. Harnessing all this wonderful data presents opportunities in healthcare to reduce cost, improve efficiency and deliver better patient/physician outcomes. I envision are four examples here.
Keeping us at our best at work
Businesses today are busy experimenting with IoT technologies with the aim of reducing sick days to improve workforce productivity and to reduce risk (you don’t want an unwell banker making a mistake with your pension investments). What if you could share these private datasets with a healthcare provider? There are arguments on both sides about whether an employer should share employee health data directly and this will be one to watch.
On one hand, we have a loved and cherished National Health Service in the UK; but demand for that service is always under pressure (at least from what I know!). Patients arriving into all initial touchpoints such as GP surgeries and A&E units come with little information to support their care. But what if the working patient is a connected employee? If the employee’s health data is accessible by their employer and their healthcare provider, the onset of an illness can be predicted, treatments immediately recommended and all three parties (employee, employer, provider) get a great outcome. Any recommended medication can be delivered to the office, home or picked up. Likewise, medical assessments can be automatically scheduled for a time that suits all three parties, depending on the seriousness of the problem. All the digital technology is available today to do this, and I believe it’s not a case of if, but when.
Connecting people’s support networks
The connected family, friends and support network is important if, for example, a patient has a fall at home and may forget to take their medication, or for people with dementia who might go for a walk and get disorientated.
The connected support network is something Atos has invested in for many years with prominent universities and local communities across Europe. We have easy-to-implement and non-invasive approaches to monitor people’s safety and progress. This has lifestyle benefits for everyone.
Connected wristwatches and bands can be used for remote monitoring. Research shows that the wrist is the preferred location for wearable devices (65% of respondents prefer IoT wearables on the wrist – Source: research company, SSI). Sensors capture if they have fallen, in which case the device automatically alerts 999, a physician, family and any carers. The same device can track if the wearer has walked outside a set boundary and trigger text messages to family who can then track in real time where they are, or even make a telephone call to the device.
Pharmaceutical companies are already optimising their drug R&D through these kinds of interactive living assistants and this is all available on a secure digital platform (Atos Codex) with tangible outcomes for everyone. Alfred (www.alfred.eu) is a great example of our collaborative work in this area.
Analytical insights as a tool for clinicians
Modern medical science uses complex analytics capabilities combined with powerful computing to overcome the vast challenge of turning immensely complex and variable data into something that is actionable for an individual patient.
High performance computing (HPC) speeds up the processing of all this data, while data analytics is used to correlate the outputs from many of these processes in order to extract meaningful insights from them. In current clinical settings, these two domains are closer than ever. We’re seeing examples in recent major advances in high-throughput technologies, such as next-generation sequencing, mass spectrometry, and imaging and scans. All these technologies are producing tremendous amounts of ‘omic’ (microbiology) and other data that all needs to be processed, managed, secured, accessed and analysed. This requires a combination of high performance computing, security, network, integration and big data analytics capabilities.
Atos’ ground-breaking Omics & Medical Integrated Compute Systems (OMICS) platform is an enabler for translating research into clinical practice. The platform supports capabilities such as cognitive computing to create ‘decision support systems’ that help clinicians to make effective diagnoses. Doctors can develop highly personalised drugs and treatment protocols by combining the most recent and most complete patient data (including Electronic Health Records, imaging data and diagnostic procedures data, pharmacological data, medical devices data, data gathered by sensor enabled wearables), together with references to relevant textbooks, scientific papers and clinical trial information. This helps to avoid clinical error and prevent adverse drug reactions.
Getting value from data
While the case for getting new value from data and analytics may be clear, pressing forward with the right strategy is perhaps more complex. Analytics is firstly a business or service issue: what do you need to achieve and what data will support this goal? Then it’s a technical issue: how to collect and analyse large amounts of data and interpret and present it meaningfully to different stakeholders.
The Analytics space today abounds with new technologies, and many players address it with a tooling rather than with a business-driven approach. In contrast, Atos has consulting teams and expertise centers (including Data Scientists) to help organisations identify the best analytics opportunities.
Our approach to all things data-driven is a framework called Atos Codex. This is designed to provide organisations such as health providers with a collaborative approach that gives each use case the best chance of success and return on investment. It includes data expert consulting around areas of interest, proven methodologies such as completing rapid Proof of Values to ground a business case prior to investment. This comes with an independent offering on what technology is needed if existing technology can’t be reused. Atos Codex is all about delivering the tangible return on investment and outcomes with proven Digital Healthcare experts.