Healthcare expenditures are a growing piece of the pie for economies across the globe. We spend around 10 percent of GDP on healthcare, and by 2040, the world will spend around $150 trillion every year on healthcare, representing a 150 percent increase since 2014. This is three times higher than general inflation, according to figures cited by Grace Park, Co-Founder and President of DocDoc, a HealthTech company with expertise in patient intelligence.

With the pandemic giving rise to increased demand for healthcare services, companies like Oncoshot, DocDoc, and Aktivolabs–winners at the ORIGIN Innovation Awards for 2020–are providing innovative services that take advantage of data, intelligence, and meaningful partnerships, in improving the healthcare industry for all stakeholders involved.

Incentivizing participation in clinical trials for cancer research

One of the key challenges in healthcare involves the development of effective therapies against cancer, which involve lengthy and extensive clinical trials.

Huren Sivaraj MD, Co-Founder & CEO,Oncoshot
Huren Sivaraj MD, Co-Founder & CEO, Oncoshot

“Access to innovative and potentially life-saving therapies that are in the understandably lengthy and rigorous development phase is poor for cancer patients globally and particularly in Asia. According to estimates derived from a 2017 study published in the American Society of Clinical Oncology Educational Book, less than five percent of cancer patients in Asia participate in clinical trials,” Dr. Huren Sivaraj, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Oncoshot, shared with TechNode Global.

It is thus estimated that only 5 percent of real-time data from healthcare institutions is utilized in the decision-making process for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies as well as Clinical Research Organisations (CROs) in conduct clinical trials, he added.

“We do not yet have an incentivization model that allows cancer institutes to participate in safe and secure data sharing with industry partners. I believe that the ability to structure such a model will precipitate hyper-efficiency for the entire cancer clinical trial process and possibly elevate cancer care,” said Dr. Sivaraj, a medical oncologist.

Founded in 2018 by Dr. Sivaraj along with data scientist Ruslan Enikeev, Oncoshot helps patients, caregivers, and oncologists accurately find suitable cancer clinical trials around the world through its semi-automated, data-driven patient-to-trial matching technology. The platform thus empowers individual patients, private and public hospitals, as well as pharmaceutical giants and genomic service providers such as ACT Genomics.

These partners, which typically work in silos, have been brought together through Oncoshot’s collaborative Project EISE (Enhanced Clinical Trial Initiation, Screening, and Enrolment) ecosystem wherein they harness Oncoshot tools to either locate clinical trials for cancer patients or gather population-level anonymized insights on cancer patients to help plan their own cancer clinical studies more efficiently. The company primarily operates in Singapore and aims to expand this ecosystem to cover Southeast Asia.

This involves a marketplace model that provides fair value to both cancer hospitals and industry partners, Dr. Sivaraj shared. “This allows efficient screening and enrolment of cancer patients into the relevant clinical trials through the Oncoshot patient-to-trial matching tool, thus creating greater efficiency and efficacy for trial sites while expanding treatment options for patients.”

For Oncoshot, the opportunity lies in using technology and innovation in finding impactful solutions in a timely manner. This includes “the breaking down of legacy obstacles within healthcare systems to facilitate data sharing, the harnessing of innovative startup solutions, and a greater push to overcome geographical limitations imposed by events such as the ongoing Covid19 pandemic in bringing clinical trial access to patients,” added Dr. Sivaraj.

He concluded: “Increase in recognition and acceptance of a data-driven and automated system within public healthcare systems will accelerate the introduction of new and innovative trials within a landscape.”

Unifying healthcare delivery along with AI-driven user engagement

Increased expenditure in healthcare does not necessarily lead to an improvement in healthcare quality, which makes for an unsustainable model in the context of a growing population.

Grace Park, Co-Founder and President at DocDoc (TechNode Global)
Grace Park, Co-Founder and President at DocDoc

“Our societies are still plagued with chronic diseases, patients remain dissatisfied with the healthcare system, and a majority of healthcare systems were not ready to deal with external shocks like the COVID-19 pandemic,” DocDoc Co-Founder Grace Park told TechNode Global.

Thus, there is a need to redesign the healthcare systems to empower the end consumer–the patient–with relevant information so they can make intelligent decisions.

Headquartered in Singapore, DocDoc is a patient intelligence company that combines AI with human expertise to deliver powerful healthcare solutions to insurance companies, employers, and governments. By combining AI-powered doctor discovery, telemedicine, and cashless services on a unified platform, the company helps patients to optimize healthcare outcomes and costs, as well as enhance the patient’s end-to-end healthcare journey.

The company claims to have Asia’s largest and most comprehensive doctor network spanning 8 countries across the region, with offices in Indonesia, Hong Kong, and the Philippines.

“In healthcare, consumers are often forced to make decisions in an information vacuum. Patients are expected to choose a doctor without any relevant information on medical prices and doctor’s backgrounds or expertise in treating a particular condition or procedure. As a result, patients default to the most expensive hospital in town, assuming a higher price correlates to higher quality of care. Unfortunately, it does not, and we have evidence to support this,” said Park.

She added: “This information asymmetry in healthcare between patient and providers translates to undue stress on patients, increased healthcare costs, as well as increased complication rates and readmission rates. Case in point: In the United States, one of the world’s most advanced healthcare markets, medical error is the third leading cause of death. Finding the right doctor often makes a difference between life and death.”

DocDoc aims to bridge this information asymmetry, thus transitioning healthcare from anecdotal relationship-based to an approach that is quantifiable and algorithmic-based, which greatly improves the quality of care, expands access, and reduces healthcare cost.

Park added that there needs to be a shift in focus toward the consumer rather than the service providers, who currently hold much of the decision-making power:

“Historically, driving innovation in healthcare has been a challenging task due to misaligned stakeholder incentives. Healthcare is a unique sector. Unlike other industries, the consumer (patient) does not pay for the majority of their healthcare expenses and therefore holds little purchasing power. Third-party payers such as insurers, employers, and governments are in charge of payments and hold a majority of the purchasing power. Until recently, payers had little incentive to invest in innovation.”

She concluded that the pandemic has driven attention toward healthcare, particularly the virtualization of the industry. “Healthcare providers are now more willing to adopt and utilize digital health platforms. Patients are expecting personalized on-demand services from healthcare providers and insurers. Insurers are being forced to rethink reimbursement models and invest in innovation. An amalgamation of these forces will drive a new wave of real innovation in the healthcare industry,” said Park.

Data is driving more value into wellness initiatives

Businesses are increasingly appreciating the value of data in their respective industries, and healthcare includes several verticals that benefit from data-driven insights. “Insurance, reinsurance, banks, corporations, and telecommunication companies and banks face an issue with getting up to date data on their policy holders and customers,” said Gourab Mukherjee, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Aktivolabs, in an interview with TechNode Global.

Gourab Mukherjee, Co-Founder & CEO, Aktivolabs
Gourab Mukherjee, Co-Founder & CEO, Aktivolabs

He added that data is typically obtained only during the inception of a policy, at point of sale or at the point of a claim. However, it usually stops there. Aktivolabs targets to help insurance, reinsurance, banks, corporations, and telecommunication companies to understand their clients’ health in real-time.

A device- and platfom-agnostic solution, Aktivolabs offers three solutions that enable service providers to better understand their users’ needs:

  • The Aktivo Score®, which is a proprietary digital biomarker for health and longevity, addresses the challenge of analysing real-time physical lifestyle data to scientifically quantify the risk of developing chronic disease on a daily basis.
  • Aktivo® Health’s suite of products are device agnostic and can be used by simply using a smartphone, thereby solving the massive challenge of bringing large populations using different devices and mobile OS onto a single platform.
  • The Aktivo® Gamify solution allow users to understand and make positive behavioural changes in a fun and meaningful way.

Aktivolabs was recently approved for a grant from Enterprise SG for Aktivo® Mind, which improves mental wellbeing. Aktivo® Mind is slated to be released at the end of Q1 2021.

The company has also secured contracts as digital health partners for one of the largest banks in the world and a leading global reinsurer. The announcements are to be officially released in Q1 2021.

Mukherjee said that Aktivolabs targets both service providers as well as consumers in its data-driven initiatives:

“Insurance, reinsurance, banks, corporations, and telecommunication companies are increasingly looking to stand out in a competitive market by leveraging the rising permeation of digital technology in everyday lives, particularly real-time digital health data to better manage risk on their books and build innovative and hyper-personalized products to acquire and retain customers. Consumers are also demanding value-added services from their insurers and banks, which further drives innovative products and solutions and the growing self-quantification movement in health and wellness.”

In the end, it’s all about building a conversation around health and wellness, powered by data.

“Enterprises and especially insurers in general face difficulties in building up engagement with their customers. Wellness initiatives provide a context-appropriate medium of engagement for Life and health insurers. By adapting best practices from nudge theory and gamification frameworks, Aktivolabs is transforming how populations are consistently engaged in a conversation around health and wellness,” Mukherjee concluded.

Featured image credit: Unsplash