From finance to healthcare: 5 fintech trends that will benefit digital health products
The success of technology innovations in the financial sector has seen fintech become a global boom industry, topping $31B in the past three years. As the healthcare sector increasingly looks to technology to deliver service innovations, providers can learn from the challenges and successes that have shaped fintech. Among the trends we’ve seen at the recent London Fintech Week, there are five that stand out in their relevance for healthtech:
1. Access to information
At its heart, fintech success lies in adopting disruptive approaches made possible by innovative mobile first technology. From earliest ventures, apps empowered customers by offering 24hr access to information that had traditionally been controlled by financial sector institutions.
As the fintech market has grown and matured, customer empowerment and control continue to underpin the fintech product approach. From private banking and investment products, to money transfer and contactless payment, mobile first products liberate customers from restrictive opening times on the high street, time consuming appointment-based advice and consultation models and cumbersome cash or chip and pin transactions.
Of course, this convenience comes with significant security issues and this is where fintech blockchain solutions support highly secure data storage solutions. As Fard Johnmar highlights, blockchain innovations increasingly support AI applications, and data stores in electronic medical records, mobile health apps, wearables, even genomics.
The relevance for healthcare is clear, as providers and consumers seek more convenient and secure ways to engage with health-related data.
2. Data tracking and performance:
The success of wearable technology largely rests on the ability to track and enhance personal wellness through performance, and Fintech has tapped this trend, empowering individuals to fine tune personal performance across everything from managing budgets to investment portfolios.
While finance tracks money, the fitness industry is driving advances in biometric wearables that monitor and record steps and active minutes, heart rate, calories burned, even sleep. The relationship between tracking fitness and larger health issues has always been implicit, and the traction and success of personal performance products provides a bridge to more dedicated health technology.
Today, the self-generated tracking and performance trend is driving a proliferation of health-related apps that encourage and empower customers to proactively engage with their wellness. From cardio trackers, calorie counters, ovulation and menstruation apps, and pregnancy trackers, developments in more sophisticated clinical solutions are leading to technology that combines with wearables and mobile apps to monitor chronic conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stress and mental health. And with advances in biometric accuracy, data analysis, machine learning, and AI algorithms, products and applications that tap this high value data is forecast to proliferate.
3. Personalised programmes:
As individuals become more comfortable with tracking and sharing the finer details of their lifestyle, big data can be harnessed to analyse and predict both short and long term impact of lifestyle choices. A recent presentation by Babylon Health about their BUPA partnership to develop a Digital Twin application illustrates the scope of ambition in this field.
While this medical assessment method is still in its early stages, it will only get increasingly sophisticated. Intended to mirror a real system, a digital twin provides a safe virtual environment in which to test the impact of changes in a system.
As such highly tailored applications become accessible to consumers, a digital twin can alert an individual and their medical practitioners to potential changes in the system, and encourage and motivate patients to make better lifestyle choices. The drive to offer personalised programmes extends to developments in AR and VR (Augmented and Virtual Reality) technology, which is making it possible to provide detailed personalised sensory treatment and recovery programmes to support pain management, anxiety and mental health.
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4. Democratising data:
When Fintech entrepreneurs recognised the empowerment potential of services that provided access to information historically owned and managed by institutions, they transformed the dynamics of the relationship between service provider and customer.
In the same way that access to and management of information, as supported by Open Banking and the recent GDPR legislation, have had profound implications for the financial sector, the healthcare sector too will be forced to democratise access to information. Ultimately, this means becoming more transparent and flexible in how services are delivered and supported, and how patients and customers choose and engage with those services.
This is illustrated by transformative mobile first products and platforms that have come to market since 2016. Apps now offer digital access to a range of information and services traditionally provided by GP surgeries and clinics, including digital triage, virtual healthcare assistants, symptom checkers, GP appointment bookings, online GP consultations, prescription reordering and delivery, diet and lifestyle advice, etc.
And in the same way that established banks, like HSBC, have launched standalone digital counterpart in First Direct, the NHS is now launching mobile first apps that are democratising access to services and choice. Indeed, the NHS is now partnering with private healthtech companies like Babylon Health and insurance providers, like BUPA.
Perhaps most interesting in terms of democratising data is the NHS support for private products like Evergreen Life PHR, an app launched in 2016 by Evergreen Health Solutions that enables individuals to keep their patient information, vaccination records and test results on the app, and seek advice, consultations and referrals through this mobile and tablet portal.
While these are big integrated platforms, smaller more specialised companies are making their mark. An interesting example of how the democratisation of data can tap into health innovations is Biosay. A Boston-based start-up with a big vision, Biosay’s founder Rachael Donald has a vision to support individuals, communities and clinical research through personal data tracking and voluntary data donations.
Due to launch later this year, Biosay’s state of the art biometric trackers combine with environmental markers to support and enhances an individual’s ability to manage stress and emotional responses.
With the aim to help individuals develop self-awareness and improved coping strategies Biosay recognises the role that social and environmental factors play in a person’s wellness, and provides sharing and data donation options that enable an individual to support community, and feed their data into clinical trials that will benefit public and commercial health programmes and. An approach that applies a crowdsourcing model to health and wellness data, products like Biosay have tremendous potential to contribute valuable contextual data to clinical trials.
5. AI and Analysis:
The fintech sector has been quick to harness advances in the field of Artificial Intelligence and machine learning with bespoke analytics engines. The health sector will also benefit from the same powerful algorithms and analytical tools when applied to identifying, diagnosing, monitoring and tailoring preventative and recovery programmes on an individual, community and global basis. And, a current research project by Stanford University computer scientists is applying a deep learning system called Decagon to help doctors prescribe more effective drug combinations.
Projects like these, that correlate big data generated by clinical information and research can reveal clusters and patterns that can benefit all aspects of healthcare. In combination with data generated by biometric wearables, GP records, lab results, DNA testing, travel records, diet and lifestyle, medical advice and interventions will become more effective.
On a global scale, data from private and public, commercial and NGO sources can be analysed to identify, monitor and predict disease clusters, viral outbreaks, and high risk populations, making regional and global healthcare planning and provision more strategic and targeted.
Healthcare is in transition. As the benefits of innovation and disruption in the financial sector prove beneficial to individuals, businesses and institutions, similar expectations of access to information, empowerment, performance, services and personalisation will demand innovative products and services from healthcare providers.
The great thing is that healthcare can learn from fintech – healthcare providers can learn how to harness technology, how to disrupt and manage disruption, how to design valued customer experiences that empower patients and lead to meaningful healthcare provision for everyone.
Getting ready for cloud data-driven healthcare
As healthcare continues to recognise the value of data and digital transformation, many organisations are relying on the cloud to make their future-forward and data-centric thinking a reality. In fact, the global healthcare cloud computing market was valued at approximately $18 billion and is expected to generate around $61 billion USD by 2025.
At the forefront of these changes is the rapid adoption of cloud-based, or software-as-a-service (SaaS), applications. These apps can be used to handle patient interactions, track prescriptions, care, billing and more, and the insights derived from this important data can vastly improve operations, procurement and courses of treatment. However, before healthcare organisations can begin to dream about a true data-driven future, they have to deal with a data-driven dilemma: compliance.
Meeting regulation requirements
It’s no secret that healthcare is a highly regulated industry when it comes to data and privacy – and rightfully so. Patient records contain extremely sensitive data that, if changed or erased, could cost someone their life. This is why healthcare systems rely on legacy technologies, like Cerner and Epic EHRs, to manage patient information – the industry knows the vendors put an emphasis on making them as secure as possible.
Yet when SaaS applications are introduced and data starts being moved into them, compliance gets complicated. For example, every time a new application is introduced into an organisation, that organisation must have the vendor complete a BAA (Business Associate Agreement). This agreement essentially puts the responsibility for the safety of patients’ information — maintaining appropriate safeguards and complying with regulations — on the vendor.
However, even with these agreements in place, healthcare systems still are at risk of failing to meet compliance requirements. To comply with HIPAA, U.S. Food and Drug Administration 21 CFR Part 11 and other regulations that stipulate the need to exercise best practices to keep electronic patient data safe, healthcare organisations must maintain comprehensive audit trails – something that gets increasingly difficult when data sits in an application that resides in the vendor’s infrastructure.
Additionally, data often does not stay in the applications – instead healthcare users download, save and copy it into other business intelligence tools, creating data sprawl across the organisation and exposing patient privacy to greater risk.
With so many of these tools that are meant to spur growth and more effective care creating compliance challenges, it begs the question: how can healthcare organisations take advantage of the data they have without risking non-compliance?
Yes, healthcare organisations can adhere to regulations while also getting valuable insights from the wealth of data they have available. However, to help do this, organisations must own their data. This means data must be backed up and stored in an environment that they have control over, rather than in the SaaS vendors’ applications.
Backing up historical SaaS application data directly from an app into an organisation’s own secure cloud infrastructure, such as AWS or Microsoft Azure, makes it easier, and less costly, to maintain a digital chain of custody – or a trail of the different touchpoints of data. This not only increases the visibility and auditability of that data, but organisations can then set appropriate controls around who can access the data.
Likewise, having data from these apps located in one central, easily accessible location can decrease the number of copies floating around an organisation, reducing the surface area of exposure while also making it easier for organisations to securely pull data into business intelligence tools.
When healthcare providers have unfettered access to all their historical data, the possibilities for growth and insights are endless. For example, having ownership and ready access to authorised data can help organisations further implement and support outcome-based care. Insights enabled by this data will help inform diagnoses, prescriptions, treatment plans and more, which benefits not only the patient, but the healthcare ecosystem as a whole.
To keep optimising and improving care, healthcare systems must take advantage of new tools like SaaS applications. By backing up and owning their historical SaaS application data, they can do so while minimising the risk to patient privacy or compliance requirements. Having this ownership and access can propel healthcare organisations to be more data-driven – creating better outcomes for everyone.