Sector spotlight: Healthcare
Data-driven insights drive healthcare evolution
Healthcare has been front of mind for everyone over the last 18 months. Mukhtar Ahmed, an industry veteran with 30 years’ experience in biopharmaceutical, health sciences and technology industries, discusses how the acceleration of some trends may have positive lasting effects.
Time is of the essence when it comes to health. The last one and a half years helped many appreciate the need to get drugs, devices and therapies to patients quicker. “What we’ve seen with vaccines, in particular, is an acceleration of the regulatory approval pathways,” says Mukhtar, stressing that it has not come at the expense of quality or safety for patients. It’s shown that those processes are outdated, no longer reflective of where society is today. “This expedited process is a model we should take forward, getting novel therapies as quickly as possible to clinical practitioners that rely on these,” he explains.
It’s one of several developments during 2020, which he hopes and believes should continue. Another is that of productive collaboration, and he points to Oxford University working closely with the UK government and Astra Zeneca to develop and launch the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine. “Academia has played a huge part in R&D, and we see it more between both public and private sectors. We’ll see more of that going forward.”
A third point he’s noted since last year is about the power of well-harnessed data within healthcare. “There is an appreciation that it’s not about the data but about the insights. Having the right data to drive the decisions and ensuring the insights are personalised to the end-user (the patient) and the practitioner, at the right time.”
Data and insights
The benefits of these insights are manifold, but require properly harnessing the raw data first. Other industries have led the way, namely retail, which has been doing this through loyalty cards for decades. But the path for healthcare will require more careful informed consent.
The number of organizations trying to harness this data is increasing. “We’ve seen aggregators of data in healthcare recently, but now we’re seeing a new wave of vendors in this space who are very niche providers of analytics,” Mukhtar explains, adding that he expects further growth and specialism in this space. He points to Datavant in the US and Clarivate in the UK as examples. “Last year Clarivate launched a Coronavirus, Virology, and Infectious Disease (CVID) Data Lake to accelerate research, preparedness and response to future pandemics. This tool has driven a raft of research.”
The importance of data is reflected in the behaviour of some blue-chips. Mukhtar notes Novartis has shifted from being a traditional workbench for developing drugs to being entirely data-driven, even marketing itself as a data company rather than a classical pharma company. They’re not unique in this pivot. It can take place organically as well as through M&A. In 2018, Flatiron, an oncology-specific electronic health record (EHR) software provider, was bought by Roche to accelerate industry-wide development and delivery of breakthrough medicines for patients with cancer.
Insights from data can be used to improve outcomes, and AI can play a role here. “There is good innovation occurring now, with it really able to drive insights,” Mukhtar says, pointing specifically to medical imaging, where machine learning can assist radiologists in making faster prognoses.
Informed consent to drive progress
Looking ahead, there is great potential for data-driven insights in the healthcare sector to improve patient outcomes through driving efficiencies. It will be fostered by more innovation and more data: Mukhtar thinks an evolutionary shift is occurring now around informed consent for sharing personal data. This shift is driven by the youth and older people who have seen the benefits of data-driven healthcare in the last year. “The next generation – kids in school, those graduating university, those early in work life – it’s normal for them to have digital in their life and so they’re more comfortable with it. Maybe in five years time everyone is co-opting in, and it will help create improved care pathways.” He suggests that people may be convinced by knowing it could mean they don’t have to wait six weeks to get a simple scan back.
The last 18 months have made people more aware about how important a balanced life is, not just physical but also mental health. This ability to collaborate, share and use technology how, where and when we need it most will enable us to be more proactive about healthcare.
He thinks the opportunities will stem from this in a virtuous circle of improving healthcare. “We expect to see more academic partnerships, more scientific parks, more research grants and funding in years to come.” Such progress will also incentivise more innovation as start-ups get capital to address some challenges the sector has.
“The biggest thing coming out of this time is better treatments, drugs, care pathways, connectivity between healthcare and R&D (which are ultimately the same value chain for the patient). All of this awareness has been brought about in the last 18 months and it’s a real positive,” Mukhtar concludes.
Mukhtar is President, Science Group at Clarivate™. Clarivate is a global leader in providing solutions to accelerate the lifecycle of innovation. Our bold mission is to help customers solve some of the world’s most complex problems by providing actionable information and insights that reduce the time from new ideas to life-changing inventions in the areas of science and intellectual property. We help customers discover, protect and commercialize their inventions using our trusted subscription and technology-based solutions coupled with deep domain expertise. For more information, please visit clarivate.com.