What can the Internet of Things (IoT) do for Healthcare? At the IoT Asia 2016 Conference held from 30-31 March 2016, APBN was honoured to interview two experienced leaders in the industry, Mr. Eugene Borukhovich and Mdm. Véronique Pequignat, for their insights on IoT’s latest trends and its impact on healthcare.
Interview with Eugene Borukhovich
SVP & Global Vertical Practice Leader, Healthcare, SoftServe
Eugene Borukhovich is Senior Vice President and Global Vertical Practice Leader, Healthcare, at SoftServe. He is an international expert on healthcare information technology innovation and a frequent speaker at various healthcare conferences and events, including HxRefactored, Health 2.0, Doctors 2.0 & You, etc. Eugene's articles and blogs have been published in numerous healthcare resources including HITECH Answers, mHealth News, CTO vision, MEDCITY News, EE Times, and many more. You can find Eugene on Twitter at @HealthEugene.
- Could you share with us the latest digital health technology and product development from SoftServe?
It was very kind of IoT Asia to invite me to speak here and I look forward to exploring the market, and understanding the healthcare market in Asia.
SoftServe is a technology solutions provider and consulting company, and we work with our clients on everything ranging from ideation, prototyping, design, experience building for particular platforms, to digital transformation. We also deal with data analytics. SoftServe does not sell products, instead, we provide services. My role at SoftServe is to look at the latest trends and technology within healthcare ecosystem, so that we can help our clients make decisions. We have over 4,000 personnel working in representative offices and development centres worldwide, mainly in the U.S. and Europe.
- Can you comment on the current IoT trends globally?
Every market is different; however, the underlying needs across the globe are relatively the same. From the trends perspective, there are a couple of major ones. The biggest trend right now is user experience – how we make the journey of users of healthcare systems better. We will see more and more medical devices in the next couple of years, and a lot of these platforms will be built to help healthcare staff engage the patients better.
Secondly, things are just things. We as humans need to interact with the technology to analyse the information and make sense out of it. Hence, this trend is not just about collecting data but also about data aggregation and analytics.
The third trend is personalisation. A typical R&D process for the biosciences and life sciences industry can take many years and cost a lot; but with the help of IoT, we can potentially get real-time evidence data from human beings, which can benefit digital health. A lot of pharmaceutical companies already have initiatives to connect life sciences to digital health.
- From your point of view, what impact can IoT have on the future of healthcare industry?
I think the biggest impact in the short term is mainly on the elderly. As the global ageing population grows, a more important question is: how can they age at home comfortably?
The possibilities that IoT can bring are endless. For example, I have seen a prototype of a light bulb with built-in environmental sensors from a Dutch company but there are also devices that can measure people’s heart-rates through walls such as the one designed by MIT engineers. You can even think of the NFC chip that I have embedded as means to manage the elderly data though it does become an ethical conversation. If you have an elderly with Alzheimer’s disease at home, should we insert this chip into our parents or grandparents? I think this is a conversation that we need to start – how do we monitor patients to improve their health and enable them to age comfortably at home? This is the area where IoT is definitely going to have the biggest impact in the short-term perspective.
- How do you think IoT can help children with special needs or chronic diseases?
IoT could potentially help with early diagnosis. For example, an electronic patch could monitor the blood glucose level and administer the right dosage of insulin to be injected, while a corresponding app could communicate this to the child’s parents. Already today, we have a non-invasive ear device to monitor blood glucose levels, negating the need for an invasive blood test. These are just some examples of how IoT could help young patients with chronic diseases, such as diabetes.
- Do you mind sharing your company’s plans to drive the adoption of IoT in the healthcare industry?
I run the healthcare vertical for SoftServe, which makes up about 30 percent of our overall business. In addition to Healthcare, SoftServe caters to a cross-section of other industries. We counsel clients across industries on IoT adoption and technologies. We have an R&D team that is looking at everything from sensors to devices, investigating ways to integrate data and scale big data analytics platforms to provide insights for decision-makers.
We get a lot of queries from the healthcare industry about integrating wearable devices and environmental sensors, as well as technologies that could recognise human emotion. There is so much happening as IoT is still a fairly young industry.
- Is SoftServe planning to expand its operations to the Asia Pacific region?
Personally, I would love to. Being here for IoT Asia afforded me great exposure, and I can see many opportunities to help healthcare providers in this region take better advantage of IoT. However, currently, 90 percent of our clients are based in the US, and we expanded our team in Europe just two years ago. For now, it is still too early to consider entering another new continent, but we will keep an eye on Asia for sure.
- What challenges does your company face in utilising IoT in the healthcare industry? How is SoftServe delivering its technology solutions to clients in healthcare?
One of the biggest challenges in the IoT industry is in getting devices out there securely and then collecting the information produced by these devices securely. Especially in healthcare, we have a very strong security practice - we have Certified Ethical Hackers (WhiteHats) who conduct independent evaluation and penetration tests as a service for our customers. We also conduct a lot of security audits and enforce a strict timeline of security and privacy checks throughout the development lifecycle of any software that we design.
I think the biggest challenge facing the whole industry and society is, how do you balance the benefits of data collection, which could potentially improve the health of millions of people, with the need for privacy?
Interview with Véronique Pequignat
Director, International Actions & Key Technologies, AEPI: Invest in Grenoble-Isère, France.
Véronique Pequignat is Director for International Actions & Key Technologies at AEPI, managing a team that assists investors in establishing operations in Grenoble-Isère, France. She also directs international strategies in sourcing for projects abroad, working with teams of consultants across Europe (UK & Germany), Asia (Taiwan and Korea) and the USA, and is an active member of Grenoble’s Digital community and the local French Tech initiative Digital Grenoble.
At AEPI, she facilitated leading companies such as Invensense, Sun Microsystems, Novellus, Applied Materials and others in their regional development and actively supports dialogue and cooperation between micro/nanoelectronics clusters e.g. Albany (US), Dresden (Germany) and Grenoble. She sits on the Board of Directors of the Semi Europe Grenoble office and is a full partner of the Silicon Europe Alliance which works at uniting major European microelectronics clusters towards developing a leading-edge cluster for innovative electronics in collaboration with the French cluster Minalogic.
- Can you give us some background information on your institute?
Grenoble-Isère is a centre for research and development in advanced technologies. The Centre addresses three of modern society’s major transformations: the emergence of an information society, the transition to renewable energy, and the changing face of healthcare.
Grenoble-Isère is not strictly a ‘technical’ institute; we are an agency focused on economic development. Our main mission is to globally promote the technologies developed by companies we work with.
We have international offices in the U.S., Europe, Taiwan and Korea. Asia is a very important region for us to both attract investors as well as source for industrial integrators who are interested in incorporating technologies developed in our ecosystem. In addition, we partner with other agencies and companies in Asia to better understand and address needs within the region.
As for me, I head the International Action department and my expertise is oriented towards micro/nanoelectronics.
- From the institute's perspective, what roles are you playing in the face of change in the healthcare industry?
We work with a lot of start-ups and technologies. The start-ups we work with are developing the technologies we develop locally to address the needs of different markets and industries, such as medical and healthcare. The information technology and microelectronics markets are going to change the medical and healthcare sectors. We see a lot of technologies and devices used in the healthcare market every day – heart defibrillators, pacemakers and other devices dealing with heart conditions, wearables, etc.
I would say our specialty in the region is combining healthcare with information technology. Some examples include computers that aid with imaging in surgery, mixing macro- and nano-technologies in healthcare, as well as biochips, among others. Therefore, it is not only about data or IT, instead, it is a platform of technologies. Integrating software within healthcare means that hospitals can now have all relevant patient information at their fingertips, as well as share as required with other healthcare professionals. EMR, or electronic medical records are now common place and standard technology that is being used in healthcare.
At AEPI, we bring people from different industries together as we help promote technology from companies in our scientific hub. For instance, we look for partners or integrators who might be interested in incorporating these technologies into their products. That is one of the areas that we are focusing on, and to that end, we are working on collaborative projects between governments, companies, research and academic institutions. In our work, we help surgeons to work with microelectronics, and nurses to speak to IT people. The challenge here is not the technology per se, rather, it is the mixing of different cultures together and getting the right business model that works.
- From your point of view, what is the impact of digital health devices on consumers? What behavioural changes may occur if patients have access to these devices?
I think the big change is that users will be more well-informed, able to give more feedback, and will not be as passive as they used to be, because they have access to more information. However, we have to be conscious that technology does not eliminate the need for the human factor. When bringing in corrective IT devices for home care, we have to be very careful to keep the users at the centre of everything.
- Seeing that connected healthcare devices bring more benefits than setbacks, could you elaborate how connected health devices could benefit various types of people – those who are fit, the elderly, and those with disabilities?
There are a lot of things that we can do to improve health monitoring. The idea is to be able to avoid going to the hospital when not necessary. A lot of people are going to hospitals not because they need it, but because there aren’t any systems or devices at home that could help them determine if they require further medical attention. Having connected healthcare devices is likely to provide greater assurance to care givers of the elderly and patients with chronic diseases, such as diabetes.
If you start using these devices when you are young, you will find it much easier to use these devices as health monitors. On the other hand, the elderly are currently finding it difficult to use these devices because of their lack of familiarity with the technology. At the same time, some of these devices are not as user-friendly or intuitive as they could be.
- What are the challenges you think companies are facing in adopting IoT in the healthcare industry?
The biggest challenge is finding the right business model. For example, what services need to be introduced or offered alongside a new technology or device? Who is going to provide the service and how can value add be delivered to various users in the ecosystem? These are some of the challenges that companies may face in adopting IoT.
The interviews were conducted by APBN, Carmen
Jia Wen Loh and Catherine Domingo Ong.