Accenture has named 11 companies as finalists for the Accenture HealthTech Innovation Challenge, which brings together leading-edge startups with prominent health companies to tackle some of North America’s greatest health challenges.
Attracting more than 2,200 startup applicants in its first three years, the Accenture HealthTech Innovation Challenge supports innovative approaches and solutions for improving the way people access, manage and finance healthcare in North America.
“This annual HealthTech Challenge creates an exciting opportunity to connect healthcare incumbents with emerging businesses to drive health system evolution focused on improving the lives of consumers and clinicians by enhancing access, affordability, quality and experience,” said Brian Kalis, managing director of digital health and innovation services at Accenture. “We are all looking forward to the final round and awards ceremony on February 6, 2020 in Houston when the finalists will present to an exclusive panel of healthcare executive judges.”
Among the innovative solutions being developed by this year’s finalists is a digital coaching program that uses evidence-based methodology to monitor and motivate people working through drug addiction, as well as a solution that harnesses social determinants of health (SDoH), economic, behavioral and environmental information to help payer and provider organizations achieve profitable growth while optimizing healthcare delivery and outcomes.
The finalists were selected by a panel of leading executives from some of the world’s largest health companies during regional events held recently at Accenture’s Innovation Hubs in Boston and San Francisco. The finalists are:
Already, there are high expectations for 2020. The start of this next decade will see the election of a new president in the United States, the expiration of the United Kingdom’s membership in the European Union, the launch of NASA’s Mars 2020 Mission, and undoubtedly many significant advances in the healthcare space.
Before we look ahead, it’s important to take a moment to reflect on 2019. This year saw notable disruptions in the healthcare industry–many of which were spurred by companies outside the healthcare space.
Here are a few of healthcare’s biggest moments of 2019:
Amazon Launches Healthcare Clinic
One of the biggest tech players expanding its footprint in healthcare is Amazon. This year, Amazon launched Amazon Care, a pilot healthcare service for its employees in the Seattle, Washington area that offers in-person services and a virtual primary care clinic. With the tagline, “Healthcare built around you,” the service aims to provide personalized health services and improve access to care for its employees. The initiative grew out of Haven, Amazon’s joint venture with Berkshire Hathaway and J.P. Morgan which was announced in 2018 as an effort to reduce healthcare costs without compromising quality.
Related: Amazon Launches Medical Transcription Service
Some industry experts speculate that the service is a way for Amazon to test healthcare products in its own clinics; others believe it is a way for them to explore new market opportunities in population health management. Both may be accurate. Amazon has already invested significantly in this project, having recently acquired the company Health Navigator whose services will be rolled into the Amazon Care offering.
In addition to Amazon Care, the company began rolling out its PillPack pharmacy service to Amazon Prime members in 2019. The service provides free home delivery of prescription medicines; the only cost is the user’s co-pay. Amazon reportedly has another healthcare product in the works as well: Alexa wireless earbuds that integrate with a fitness tracker. Look for more to come on this development in the year ahead.
Apple Unveils ECG-enabled Watch
Apple’s annual new product announcement is one of the most anticipated events of the tech calendar year, and 2019 did not disappoint. Usually the announcement by Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces the company’s latest smartphone, but this year a new Apple Watch took the spotlight, with the company touting the device’s ability to detect irregular heart rhythms and other health issues. The watch is the first consumer wearable with a built-in electrocardiogram (ECG) monitor–software that was cleared by the FDA. By holding a finger on the device, users with the new Apple Watch can access a feature to identify atrial fibrillation, a common form of an irregular heart rhythm. The watch’s ECG app will notify users if it detects an irregular rhythm.
It is important to note the Apple Watch’s new tool has limited capabilities. It will not help detect most heart rhythm abnormalities or worsening heart failure and will not reliably detect the electronic changes associated with a heart attack. If you think you are having a heart attack or any other serious medical condition, always call 911.
The new Apple Watch also contains a feature targeted at the elderly; those 65 and older. A built-in tool recognizes when a user falls and automatically notifies their emergency contact. Experts describe the device as a “game-changer” that can potentially make patient monitoring easier and more regular.
Google Acquires Healthcare Wearables Pioneer
Google also made significant headway in healthcare this year, most notably with its announcement to acquire Fitbit. With Google’s resources and global network, the acquisition is expected to accelerate the company’s innovation in healthcare wearables. Through collaborations with academic medical centers and pharmaceutical companies, FitBit has been studying applications that may potentially enable the device to detect atrial fibrillation, assess sleep quality, and track menstrual cycles among other health applications. The deal, valued at $2.1 billion, equips Google with a device to more directly compete with the Apple Watch’s healthcare capabilities. The FitBit acquisition is expected to close in 2020, pending regulatory and shareholder approval.
We can expect the momentum seen from Amazon, Apple, and Google in 2019 to increase in 2020 as these companies and others seek to further integrate digital technologies in healthcare offerings. With growing industry focus on personalized care and tech disruptors continuing to make waves in the market, the next decade promises to bring a new age of innovation in healthcare. The ‘Big 3’ of tech may very well soon become some of the biggest players in the healthcare space.
Amit Phull, Medical Director and VP of Strategy and Insights at Doximity
With 2020 just around the corner, and value-based care steadily encroaching upon fee for service, the omnipresence of digital health technology can't be ignored as the industry remains laser focused on enhancing healthcare delivery even as it reduces costs. Health technology's increasingly wide adoption brings with it vast opportunities for providers looking to harness it and for patients who find themselves no longer observing as much as participating in their own care as partners.
The broad umbrella of health technology covers categories including mobile health, robotics, wearables, remote monitoring, 3D printing, electronic health records, big data, virtual and augmented reality, telemedicine, the Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence (AI).
Just as Philips' Future Health Index 2019 proclaimed, evolution and developments in digital health technology really can help pave the way to achieving the Quadruple Aim—usually defined as enhancing the patient experience, improving health outcomes, lowering the cost of care, and improving the work life of care providers. Sounds like a win-win all around.
Managed Healthcare Executive® spoke to three health technology leaders about what they're doing and why they do it in their respective industry categories and gleaned their advice on how to profitably embrace this disruptor now and during the next evolving decade.
Telemedicine: Answer this technology's call
"We do what we do because every life matters," says Joel Barthelemy, CEO of GlobalMed, a telemedicine company in Scottsdale, Arizona. He says the company powers the world’s largest, most advanced virtual health programs by designing and manufacturing integrated software and hardware telemedicine solutions that support a patient at any point in the continuum of care, and at any place, because that's what the marketplace demands.
To hear him describe it, telemedicine has come a long way from humble beginnings in the late '60s. Now, telemedicine's goal is to make primary care available right when patients need it.
"The population isn't going to wait long when we can do so much with technology," he says, forecasting that even better evidence will be attained more quickly without attachment to wires.
By nature, telemedicine has to be everywhere. "That means in Haiti, on Air Force One, at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, at overseas military bases, at Johns Hopkins Medicine, or at [Veterans Affairs] locations everywhere," he says. To that end, the company has developed a simple dashboard that integrates and aggregates relevant information—and not just from vitals machines. It includes cameras, and not just video conferencing, as well as precision general instruments that capture images from a patient exam.
With more than 15 million virtual visits, and more than $100 million invested in research and development (R&D), GlobalMed's goal is virtual care "touch points" across the continuum for patients from early-stage symptoms to end-of-life hospice care. "It's the only platform capable of consolidating disparate systems with the integration of hospitals, homes, and clinical locations," he says.
Healthcare is moving away from solely symptoms-based diagnoses, to those with rich data behind them and augmented intelligence, says Barthelemy. Smart health technology executives should always be looking to invest in areas such as AI, as well as dental telemedicine, service lines, and vital signs systems that don't need connectivity, and in technology opportunities in pain management and opioid and substance abuse solutions. GlobalMed, based in Scottsdale, Arizona, most recently acquired TreatMD and ORCAS.
Technology is here to stay, so welcome it with open arms and be flexible, Barthelemy suggests. "This healthcare system will collapse due to high costs if we keep doing things the same way expecting different outcomes," he says.
The Internet of Things (IoT): Something big is happening here
The IoT is considered a system of interrelated computing devices. The advantages of hospitals and health systems using that kind of connectivity technology for better outcomes are huge, but security still has to be intact, says CEO and co-founder Jonathan Langer of Medigate, a medical device security firm, with locations in Tel Aviv, Israel, New York and San Diego, considered an IoT trailblazer, with main bases in Tel Aviv and New York.
"Executives know that part of 'taking care' of patients means ensuring there's no risk posed to them anywhere, and that poses a great challenge," he says. It also means protecting every clinical network from cyberattacks.
According to HealthITSecurity, as of July 2019, more than 25 million patient records were breached, most due to third-party vendors and phishing attacks against well-known companies such as Quest Diagnostics and American Medical Collection Agency.
Managing medical devices demands the highest levels of complexity while being connected to networks, along with more sophisticated equipment, more specialized maintenance, more challenging vulnerability tracking and remediation, and heightened compliance and safety requirements, he says.
Covering the bases, says Langer, means "looking for deviations in patterns from a simple network-level message like, 'Hey, computer, I'm on the network,' to patients' health data needing to get from company A to company B."
So executives must consider the wide array of devices inside and outside of the hospital: radiation machines, blue code meters, patient monitors, security cameras, and infusion pumps.
"It's not just one central computer," says Langer. "A cyberattacker can not only steal medical records but also place ransomware and find a really good network route to do more damage."
In spite of inherent risks, he's a big proponent of data networking overall. "If we're to harness the true power of data analysis, we can provide better care, better doctors' decisions, and faster diagnoses, and make it all more affordable. Using telemedicine for home health—especially in rural areas—is also very promising."
To effectively and safely use all the options technology presents also means cybersecurity is definitely here to stay.
AI: Be smart about this technology
Just like its name implies, AI can facilitate behaviors associated with human intelligence. As president of Acorn AI by Medidata (a Dassault Systèmes company) and the executive vice president of AI and digital solutions for Medidata, which helps life science companies and academic researchers accelerate value, minimize risk, and optimize outcomes, Sastry Chilukuri leads the charge to analyze clinical trial data in real time and deliver actionable insights to life science clients conducting trials—and there are plenty of those.
It's a father–son kind of organizational structure, since Medidata has provided data management and technology platform capabilities to R&D organizations in the pharmaceutical industry for 20 years.
"We have access to more than 18,000 clinical trials involving 5.2 million patients," says Chilukuri. "As we start to use this data, we can build AI solutions on top of it that can make data 'liquid' across the entire lifecycle and answer the most important questions." That's definitely a plus.
He believes four major categories can fundamentally change the trajectory of a company entering 2020, and executives might want to keep these top of mind:
Chilukuri envisions health technology offering up much earlier disease detection with targeted AI algorithms powering diagnoses, along with smartly tailored treatments for precision medicine, and filling the need for the right body of evidence to drive reimbursement for value.
At the rate technology is advancing, innovation will continue to be the name of the game, and this is clearly no time to get left behind.
Stephanie Stephens, MA, is a journalist, producer, and host in Orange County, California.