The European health innovation scene

  • An increasing focus on digital in Europe is driving a fundamental transformation of its healthcare sector

  • The safe circulation of data that digital health allows is proving to have many benefits, among them improving patient monitoring and treatment

  • To drive health innovation, connectivity and networking must be fostered between all stakeholders, from global life sciences companies to emerging start-ups

Europe has a promising and rapidly-developing health innovation sector and, as Healthware founder and CEO Roberto Ascione tells pharmaphorum, an ecosystem approach is crucial to continuing the digital transformation of health

Over the last few years the healthcare sector has been going through a fundamental transformation the world over as stakeholders grapple with how best to use digital technology.

Europe is no exception, and the region has been gradually increasing its focus on the digital area, driven by the strong institutional support for telemedicine, remote monitoring, big data-enabled personalised screenings and – soon – the adoption of artificial intelligence-based solutions for improving prevention and diagnosis procedures.

Someone who knows the European health innovation scene better than most is Roberto Ascione, a serial entrepreneur and global thought leader in digital health who’s also the founder and CEO of next-gen health consultancy Healthware Group.

“The digital health scene in Europe is still very young with many challenges to be addressed and issues to be solved,” he notes. “Among the most important players are, of course, the European institutions committed to promoting the digitisation of the sector, and the pharmaceutical companies that continue to work to innovate their products and services.”

Roberto adds that patient associations also play a key role within this scene, not only by promoting a more patient-centred approach to healthcare in general, but by supporting patients’ increased empowerment through their backing for new digital technologies.

He also sees the last few years as being key for the emergence of newer stakeholders with this digital health ecosystem, namely start-up accelerators and incubators, who are playing an increasingly important role. “They are the real drivers of this transformation because they’re more attuned to perceiving the market’s needs and transforming them into highly innovative solutions,” he says.

Alongside these stakeholders there are further important interactions from the world of health insurance, where companies want to either supplement their core business or completely transform the way they interact with members by adopting new and innovative digitally-enabled business models.

“The next wave of health insure-tech models is shifting the traditional role of a health insurance company from a pure payer into a healthcare provider, creating opportunities for them to attract new members, generate additional revenue sources, reduce cost and increase the company evaluation,” Roberto says.

Innovation and progress

The types of health innovations that have gained traction with these stakeholders are varied and often, explicitly or implicitly, data-led. As Roberto explains: “Digital health allows safe data circulation, monitoring patients out of hospital and improving everything from sleep habits to patient treatment.”

When it comes to digital health trends, in recent years there’s no ignoring mobile health as the technology is harnessed to try and help improve patient engagement, compliance, data monitoring, clinical trials and more. But here Roberto sounds a warning for those engaged in this space, saying: “The frequent lack of input from health professionals and patients during the design of health apps is something that developers of these digital solutions should look closely at and change.”

Casting his gaze nearer to the horizon and the next wave of innovations, he points to the convergence of artificial intelligence, robotics and other technologies which will, he says, “accelerate the development of solutions that are more responsive, empathetic and human-like, which benefit elderly care, mental health and other areas”.

“I believe that new digital solutions are emerging thanks in great part to the increasing opportunities for collaboration between traditional companies and innovative start-ups, and this is only the beginning.”

Driving the digital transformation of health

As the healthcare landscape evolves and absorbs digital innovation, Healthware places itself firmly on the side of those companies that have understood the extent and potential of this transformation. It provides a unique combination of expertise in the fields of health, marketing and technology to deliver transformational business results.

“We love to connect and foster networking between all stakeholders whether large global life sciences companies or smart emerging start-ups. We enjoy close relationships with the most successful events, accelerators, incubators and innovation hot spots globally, ensuring a constant flow of new ideas and opportunities tailored to the needs of our clients.

“Our great commitment to shaping the future of health is reflected in our partner event, Frontiers Health, one of the leading global conferences representing a unique platform to gather and discuss the latest trends, opportunities and challenges.”

The annual event, held in Berlin every November, has gone from strength to strength over the last three years, with the 2018 conference promising to be the best one yet as it brings together some of the brightest health innovation minds. On top of this, Healthware is also an advisor and founding partner of the Digital Therapeutics Alliance, a global network whose mission is to broaden the understanding, adoption, and integration of clinically validated digital therapeutic solutions into mainstream healthcare through education, advocacy, and research.

Roberto says: “We at Healthware strongly believe in having an ecosystem approach in driving the digital transformation of health. This means that we foster collaborations and convergence between traditional healthcare players – pharma, consumer health, devices/diagnostics companies – and innovative start-ups.

“Whenever possible, we always try to link these processes of open innovation to the scientific framework of the entire European ecosystem, which over the years has always managed to produce significant innovations in both the pharmaceutical and medical device areas. In this way, the entire ecosystem will benefit from new types of innovations and also expand the opportunities to improve access to care for all of us.”

About the interviewee

Roberto Ascione is CEO of Healthware Group. He is a regular keynoter at numerous conferences, has been president of the HealthTech Summit, and is founding advisor of the Digital Therapeutics Alliance and chairman at Frontiers Health, which emerged as one of the leading digital health conferences globally.

About the author

Dominic Tyer is a trained journalist and editor with 19 years of pharmaceutical and healthcare publishing experience. He serves as a contributing editor at pharmaphorum media, which facilitates productive engagement for pharma, bringing healthcare together to drive medical innovation. He is also creative director at the company’s specialist healthcare content consultancy, pharmaphorum connect.

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