The future of healthcare, digitalisation and health equity

Sunny beautiful May, plants on my balcony are blossoming. It is almost summer. Almost a month ago, I went to the first BOOM summit, run by DayOne in Basel, and MC’d by the fabulously impressive DayOne Director of Innovation: Caoimhe Vallely-Gilroy.  The topic of the event? Igniting the Health-tech revolution. There were many fascinating presentations, however, a few things stayed top of mind which I wanted to share with you. A testimony to the fact that great things stay in our minds, even months after we hear them. 

Today’s Topics:

  • BOOM Summit takeaway 1: GenAI and sustainability
  • BOOM Summit takeaway 2: How to bridge gaps and build futures
  • BOOM Summit takeaway 3: Health equity and digital transformation in the WHO EU region
  • Leadership: The traits of an inspiring leader

BOOM Summit Takeaway 1: GenAI and sustainability

The BOOM summit had some stellar presenters, brilliant presentations, deep subject matter expertise and competent, engaging delivery. There was so much content that it is impossible to share it all here, but there are certain topics that were raised, that I think of every day.

The first topic was water and energy consumption of Generative AI.

Samantha Gordine, Sustainability Solutions Lead, Arcondis, Switzerland shared that

  • ChatGPT uses 0.5 litres for every 20-30 questions it processes and that by 2027 AI’s water demand could be 50% of the UK’s national demand
  • GenAI uses 4-5x more energy than a conventional web search and that within years, large AI systems are likely to need as much energy as entire nations.

I think about this every time I use GenAI, or read about companies adopting GenAI across the globe, and I wonder.

A nature article posted on Feb 20th, 2024, addresses this topic in more depth “Generative AI’s environmental costs are soaring – and mostly secret (Link)

Key takeaway: My personal take-away is to ask myself when I need GenAI and when a regular search will do.

BOOM Summit Takeaway 2: How to bridge gaps and build futures

In the session: Bridging gaps, building futures: The intersection of Health Tech,
Gender, Medicine, and Additive Manufacturing Naomi Nathan, Head of Medical, Mobility, Medical goes Additive e.V., Germany shared her thoughts.

What stayed with me from her talk was the exhortation to the audience to do the following:

  • Break silos: bring together experts from diverse fields, healthcare, technology, engineering and beyond to cross-pollinate and tackle challenges from different angles.
  • Co-Creation: patients, clinicians, researchers, industry partners should co-create new health tech products.
  • Share knowledge: create collaborative ecosystems and avoid reinventing the wheel
  • Scalable solutions: interdisciplinary teams enable the development of solutions that can be deployed across diverse healthcare settings and communities.

I readily admit that in my case Naomi was preaching to the choir and my enthusiasm for her suggestions stems from my not only wholeheartedly agreeing with everything she said, but my also having said the same things over the years, repeatedly. My first panel discussion on digital islands was a case in point, both panelists have a broad background, they code, they are data scientists, they understand data, data science and systems but they also understand business from fintech, to NGO, to pharma, to CRO, national intelligence and beyond. It is easier than ever to bring thinkers together, all it needs is the willingness to explore different ways of thinking and working and to take nothing for granted.

Hopefully, these ideas are now becoming mainstream.

Key take-away: Accelerate towards success by integrating ideas across industries, countries and cultures and making something new.

BOOM Summit Takeaway 3: Health equity and digital transformation in the WHO EU region

Clayton Hamilton representing the DATA, Digital Health and Evidence WHO Regional office for Europe spoke about health equity and provided the following definition of health inequities: health inequities are differences in health status or in the distribution of health resources between different population groups, arising from the social conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age.

He asked the following questions:

  1. What impact is digitalisation having on health equity?
  2. Why does this matter?
  3. What can we do to shape the future of digital healthcare that is available, accessible, and affordable for all – and make sure that we do not lose the humanity in medicine?

From a patient perspective it is easy to understand that a lack of digital literacy and digital access impacts health outcomes. In addition, underserved and marginalised populations, could benefit hugely from access to digital health tools.

An aspect I did not consider is that if underserved population data is not captured, any AI solutions that are built using the data that is captured, once again, only represents a subsegment of the population further impacting how underserved populations healthcare needs are managed.

While we focus on patients, thinking of the charity I volunteer for, there are also clinical officers around the world serving patients, these clinical officers also do not have the same access to internet and digital health information as their peers. Who has access to data, when and to what quality and volume, is relevant not only for patients but also for physicians.

About ten years ago I was doing some work to design a training course on market access, and I remember looking up a McKinsey or PWC report on smart-phone use worldwide amongst HCPs – the topic was – when and how do doctors consume information. At around the same time pharma companies were providing physicians in South America with access to international scientific publications because of the cost of these publications making them less accessible to physicians in certain populations.

We are so used to having access to everything online all the time that it is easy to forget that this is not a global reality.

There was so much more content that Clayton shared, and I cannot go into it here, however, he shared a link to a WHO Online introductory course on Ethics and governance for AI for health, you can find the link here.

Key take-away: If we don’t address digital health inequity, health inequities and social disparities will grow.

Leadership: The traits of an inspiring leader

Leadership,  is as much, if not more about managing yourself, than it is about leading others.

In a nutshell, if you can manage yourself—your emotions, your engagement, your energy levels—and if you know what you can and cannot do, bringing in others with complementary skill sets without begrudging them their abilities, then you are already in a great position.

If you can work with others who possess diverse skills, delegate effectively, temper any need to micromanage, can offer praise but also provide candid, fair, and constructive feedback, and communicate honestly about what you can change and what you cannot, your position is further strengthened.

Finally,  you need to be able to make difficult decisions, avoid blaming others when things go wrong, take accountability, and be honest and human to the point of recognising and accepting you have strengths and weaknesses. Know that it is easier, and I believe more sensible, to build on a strength than it is to fix a weakness. Whatever the topic of your end of the year review.

The traits described above, I believe, are those of potentially great leaders, who can inspire loyalty in others and the desire in them to follow you.

Naturally, you also need to be able to communicate effectively, set goals, have a meaningful vision, and manage all the business aspects.

Key take-away: learn from others but know you are a unique leadership instrument, and you need to find out who you are as a leader, of one, or of many, yourself.

I hope my post provides you with useful insights. If  you need support with a project, or are interested in coaching, why not give me a call to see how I can help. Find out what clients say about working with me here link.

My very best wishes

Isabelle C. Widmer MD

Image credit: Jason Dent @Unsplash