Healthcare systems worldwide are facing massive challenges that call for new solutions to ensure patients get access to the care they need. LEO Innovation Lab ventured across Øresund to the annual democratic festival Folkemødet on Bornholm to shed light on how technology can kickstart a new approach to healthcare in four different debates.
Can tech solve the global shortage of doctors?
According to the World Health Organisation, the world will be short of almost 13 million healthcare workers by 2035. In Denmark, about 300.000 people will be without a family doctor by 2023, and the number of patients with chronic diseases continues to increase.
At the same time, we experience a rapid development within health technology with health management apps, telemedicine platforms, and the capability to diagnose diseases with artificial intelligence. At Folkemødet, a panel debated how the digital health revolution can address the shortage of healthcare workers e.g. by augmenting doctors with AI-powered diagnosis and free up time and resources for patients who need better care.
“It’s important we recognise that there’s a need for new technologies in healthcare – but we have to do it right. We have to develop solutions not just for patients and doctors but codevelop with patients and doctors,” Kristian Hart-Hansen, CEO at LEO Innovation Lab, argued.
Can artificial intelligence save lives?
Artificial intelligence continues to gain a strong foothold on the political agenda globally. Countries like China and the US are investing heavily in new AI-powered technologies and in December, the EU Commission launched a plan to foster the development and use of AI with a “made in Europe” perspective.
Within healthcare, AI has the potential to promote a prediction and prevention based approach to disease management as well as more personalised treatments. Nevertheless, regulatory barriers and a hesitation to adopt artificial intelligence in healthcare make implementation slow.
One the one hand, new AI solutions pose ethical questions in particular regarding the use of personal health data. On the other hand, the ethical discussion will always be an ongoing process and shouldn’t put much needed technological advancements to a standstill, some of the panelists argued.
“Artificial intelligence is not just a benefit to healthcare. It’s a necessity. We’re faced with an aging population, chronic diseases on the rise, and a growing shortage of doctors. We need AI in healthcare,” Kristian Hart-Hansen, CEO of LEO Innovation Lab, said.
Challenging traditional healthcare with happiness
Folkemødet marked the launch of The Health and Happiness Research Foundation – a spin-out company from LEO Innovation Lab that seeks to change treatment priorities of traditional healthcare with happiness measures.
One of the shortcomings of today’s healthcare delivery is the strong focus on physiological symptoms in chronic disease management and failure to acknowledge the impact on mental and social well-being. Research has uncovered significant happiness gaps between healthy people and those living with chronic conditions. Among the latter, 20% are affected by mental health issues.
“We need to rethink healthcare. Do we only want to improve physical health or do we want to improve patients’ quality of life?” Michael Birkjær, Senior Analyst at The Happiness Research Institute, asked during the debate.
“Research shows that quality of life and happiness are good predictors for future healthcare needs. Prioritising happiness can therefore also reduce healthcare costs,” he continued.
The future of clinical trials is digital
Clinical trials are a prerequisite to make new and better treatments available for patients. Patient enrolment is essential to conducting a successful trial; however, it’s also the biggest challenge.
Patient recruitment is the single biggest cause of clinical trial delays. Only a fraction of the eligible population participates in clinical trials. Furthermore, many clinical studies struggle to keep their participants engaged. Up to 40% of participants end up dropping out.
This gave rise to a debate on Folkemødet about how the use of digital tools can make it easier for patients to participate and become more engaged which, in return, can optimise the clinical trial process as well as reduce the dropout rate and cost of conducting clinical studies.
“One of the major challenges for clinical trials is recruitment. Virtual clinical trials can help solve this challenge through a more patient-centred approach. Patients can participate from the comfort of their home and more patients can be represented in the studies,” John Zibert, Chief Medical Officer in LEO Innovation Lab, explained during the debate.