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The Yin and Yang of Technology and Healthcare

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Earlier this month in Singapore, I had the privilege of speaking at the Healthcare Innovation Summit Asia, an annual event that evaluates the value of technology in improving health outcomes for our region. Both science and technology continue to have a positive impact on our lives while converging on so many levels, so it was a valuable opportunity to explore how this interconnectivity can deliver innovative solutions that address unmet medical needs.

Big Data is enabling our industry to process large amounts of unstructured data more efficiently than ever before, which is allowing our researchers to more quickly identify connections, causes and effects. We’re also seeing more opportunities with wearable devices to help patients manage chronic diseases. In Australia, we are partnering with a local company on the development of a wearable device to help predict falls in the elderly before they occur. As well as helping patients, this has the potential to reduce the enormous annual cost burden for injuries that are caused by falls in Australia.

But in an era defined by profound technological advances, the practice of medicine remains an art as well as a science. Each chronic disease has its own set of considerations beyond the patient-physician relationship, so technology platforms and applications that are created for patients must be authentic, insightfully targeted and developed in partnership with everyone who has a stake in managing that particular illness.

I participated in a panel session with representatives from Microsoft, SAP, Birst and the Care Visions Group in Singapore to explore how technology can help improve the disproportionate chronic disease burden we face in Asia. We debated examples of health technology applications that have failed, and all of us agreed that the majority had one critical element in common: they were not patient-centric enough. We know from our work at Janssen that the most successful solutions to unmet medical needs must always start with and be driven by the needs of patients.

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From left to right: Dr. Wai Chong Loke, CEO, Care Visions Group, Singapore; Jason Bissell, Managing Director, APJ, Birst; Callum Bir, Director, Healthcare Industries, Microsoft Asia; Andy David, Director, Healthcare, APJ, SAP; Kris Sterkens

After the panel discussion, I was proud to present a successful mobile health program that our Global Public Health team has been implementing in rural India.

Through our commitment to helping people living with HIV/AIDS in resource-limited settings, we identified a simple mobile health solution to address a complex public health challenge. In partnership with the Indian Institute of Technology, the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the Grameen Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and several HIV experts and clinics in India, we created and tested a very localized, interactive TAMA (Treatment Advice by Mobile Alerts) system that incorporated IVR (Interactive Voice Response) treatment reminders as well as health advice and information.

We learned from this pilot study that the majority of participants developed good habits that enabled them to stick to their prescribed treatment, so we expanded the project into what is now an ongoing clinical trial in India. We are also exploring how we can roll out similar mobile health platforms to other countries in our region and are also considering applying this to other chronic illnesses.

This project reinforced our firm belief that effective disease management programs must be holistic, flexible, personalized and localized. This is best achieved by casting a wide net to capture the views and insights of everyone who understands the real issues that each patient is facing. We have a lot to contribute to this discussion because we put patients at the heart of everything that we do.

The best innovation happens when we move beyond our traditional thinking and embrace unchartered territory. It is an exciting time for scientific advancements and for the endless potential of technology to advance every aspect of healthcare. We welcome opportunities to connect and collaborate with technology partners to find innovative and meaningful solutions that help improve the lives of patients in our region.

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