On 8th November, Healthware Group and EVERSANA invited some of the biggest names in health innovation to the heart of Rome, Italy, for Frontiers Health 2023.

The event was an opportunity for experts, investors, patients, and other stakeholders from across the industry to come together and explore ongoing challenges, strategic trends, and scalable solutions likely to impact healthcare.
In an upcoming booklet, pharmaphorum and Healthware explore 20 of the biggest trends and learnings from this year’s event. Below is a sneak peek at five of these key takeaways.

Self-care is healthcare

Patients are increasingly looking to manage their own healthcare using evidence-based interventions and tools. Lucas Scherdel, global vice president of external innovation and partnering for Bayer Consumer Health, illustrated this growing appetite for healthcare information and highlighted that Google receives approximately 200 billion health-related searches each year.

“Self-care is not just about bubble baths and looking after yourself. It is one of the biggest socio-economic opportunities that we have in this century and one of the greatest opportunities to impact patients in their care continuum and change the way that we approach healthcare innovation in the 21st century,” he said.

Self-care offers a significant opportunity for digital health, as it is an affordable way to improve people’s lives. Integrating digital therapeutics with wearables and artificial intelligence will help people manage their health more easily. Moreover, partnerships between companies and governments will encourage people to adopt healthier lifestyles by addressing cultural barriers that keep people from making positive changes.

The rise and fall of AI in drug development

AI has long been a key talking point in healthcare, but in 2023, generative AI (GenAI) is taking over the spotlight, becoming an integral part of healthcare. With GenAI, clinicians can streamline arduous tasks and improve patient care with data-driven insights into dose optimisation and treatment selections.

“AI is changing in a very big way,” explained Alex Zhavoronkov, Insilico Medicine. “But, while there is much hype surrounding GenAI and AI in consumer applications in AI-powered drug discovery, we are currently living through a winter of doom and gloom.”

According to Zhavoronkov, the decline in AI drug discovery is partly due to the fact that no AI-discovered and AI-designed drug has completed phase II for a broad disease since ImageNet 2014.

Many big pharmaceutical companies still do not believe in AI software’s power to create new therapeutics. With GenAI, however, drug developers can identify patterns in data in a matter of moments to accelerate the application of precision healthcare. But GenAI’s success in drug development and patient care won’t come from technology alone. We need quality data, effective change management within organisations, educated and upskilled workforces, and powerful tech to realise its true potential in healthcare.

Precision medicine + AI = personalised healthcare

During his keynote address on the topic of AI Enhanced Care Pathways, EVERSANA CMO Dr Pierantonio Russo illustrated how the way we evaluate risk has come a long way since the days of Babylon.

“Today, the large volume of data, powerful computers, and mathematical models converge to support the production of predictions through various forms of AI,” he said. “Indeed, most of the applications in medicine use machine learning in various forms to support personalised medicine. The right treatment, for the right patient, at the right time, by the right doctor.”

He explained that achieving the ambitious goal of delivering precision medicine through traditional care delivery systems had been difficult, but there was increasing evidence that machine learning techniques and artificial intelligence-assisted pathways would get us to the point of value care.

Elevating the patient experience

While it may seem like an obvious statement, improving the healthcare journey for patients is a fundamental task. Closed Loop Medicine’s CEO and co-founder, Hakim Yadi, clearly demonstrated how digital tools can help address patient challenges head-on during his presentation on how a data-driven approach to dose optimisation can improve the effectiveness of treatments.

Historically, we have prescribed medications for their average effects in a population, rather than how they perform for each individual in daily life, he explained. Evaluating the accurate dose using this non-existent average individual (largely based on research in white males) means that women are often overdosed, and people over a certain weight are receiving an insufficient dose for their individual needs.

Consequently, there is a huge opportunity to use digital tools to fine-tune and understand the balance between efficacy and side effects for therapeutics and patients.

“Treatments should be data-driven,” says Yadi. “We live in a world where we can collect high fidelity information from biomarkers, wearables, and patient-reported outcome measures that matter to patients, rather than ones we define ourselves. So why can’t we bring these two ideas together?”

Investing in this area can improve adherence and engagement, but it takes effort. Ultimately, though, solutions that don’t bring with them a strong patient experience are doomed to fail in execution, no matter how well they might work on paper.

A grand new world tour of healthcare

The days when healthcare only took place in traditional medical locations are long gone, said Jessica DeMassa of WTF Health during a talk on The Hot New Spaces of Health in the US: Big Retail, Virtual Pharmacies, & The American Stomach.

“These new spaces of healthcare in the US are really coming from the confluence of three trends [consumerisation, digitisation, and economisation] that started before the pandemic and really found a tailwind during the pandemic. Now, especially in the US, we are enabled by technology and consumer choice, and that environment is creating new spaces of health.”

With the entry of big names in the consumer pharmacy world, such as Walgreens and CVS, into primary care and the agile subscription model and virtual pharmacies offered by Amazon transforming patient experiences, DaMassa said there is a clear shift in how and where healthcare is delivered. Importantly, she explained that consumers now expect healthcare to be easily accessible wherever they are in the country – both in and out of the home.

For more insights and trends from the floor of Frontiers Health 2023, keep your eyes peeled for the upcoming booklet, ‘Frontiers Health 2023: key takeaways for health innovation’.

About the author

Eloise McLennan is the editor for pharmaphorum’s Deep Dive magazine. She has been a journalist and editor in the healthcare field for more than five years and has worked at several leading publications in the UK.

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