eHealth needs more support from big data experts and state executives

Today we have the pleasure of bringing you an interview with Jonathan Steel. He is the head of a non-profit organisation called Deliver ChangeAirSensaTM – the largest air quality monitoring network in the world is one of many creations he and his team can be proud of. We asked him questions in relation to eHealth technologies as he is one of the keynote speakers at the eHealth 360° Summit in Budapest, Hungary (14-16 June, 2016).

Could you introduce the subject and scope of your keynote and the reasons why you chose it?

I am speaking about some of the opportunities for IoT and sensor technology used at scale in the health sector to save lives and save money.

eHealth is an extensive topic, encompassing many aspects of how technology can help deliver better healthcare, such as:
– how technology will enable us to meet spiraling demands on healthcare systems driven by population growth and ageing demographics;
– how we can meet those demands within a necessarily limited financial framework;
– harnessing technologies to scale limited specialist resources, whether that be by enabling remote healthcare, or by codifying specialist knowledge.

There are many existing and developing technologies being used to address these, and many other challenges, but most are still focused on treatment – how to provide better services to people that are already sick.

I will be talking about how sensor technologies can enable both early interventions and, critically for the future of affordable healthcare, preventative action.

A significant proportion of expenditure in the health industry is potentially avoidable: preventable illnesses, disconnects at the point of provision, and non-compliance in treatment regimens are just three examples.  This is where sensor-based technologies – fixed networks, in-home care monitoring, wearables, etc. – can play a major part.  Sensor technologies deployed correctly can achieve two very desirable outcomes for the health sector – saving lives, and saving money.

Johnatan Steel
Jonathan Steel, CEO of Deliver Change Ltd.

What do you see as the biggest challenge that eHealth is currently facing?

There are multiple challenges, but perhaps the greatest challenge is around data – its availability, application, and exploitation (not to mention security & privacy).

The advent of ‘big data’ was supposed to provide opportunities across the spectrum of many industries, from targeted marketing to smart cities and all points in between.  The reality however is that most current IT systems are in some way broken; data structures are also diverse and lack suitable metadata, undermining the ability of organisations to reliably merge multiple data sources.  And even when data are reliably available, there is a yawning skills gap in systemic thinking and data science capabilities, making the effective use of massive data resources a challenge.

What does your work bring to the table in the eHealth area?

My organisation is concerned with building large, scalable IoT systems, using a variety of multi-sensor equipment to enable monitoring and measurement of key personal, structural and environmental data.  Building such systems is non-trivial – scaling large automated and self-healing networks and the underlying software platforms, for example, requires the solution of multiple challenges.

We create mostly white-label solutions for large partners, who have significant customer bases and need to deploy innovative IoT solutions quickly and reliably.  One example, deployed through the organisation I am representing today, Deliver Change, is the AirSensa network, which is achieving what so many others have tried (or are trying) to achieve – large-scale dense air quality sensor networks, generating real-time, continuous, granular data to power pollution avoidance and mitigation strategies.

What are your hopes and dreams for the future of eHealth?

I hope that those responsible for long-term planning for the health systems of European countries truly try to understand the capabilities of new and emerging technologies and their potentially achievable outcomes – and also how to scale IT (and IoT) deployments successfully.

There are some strong examples of service innovation already in the market; Artificial Intelligence (like IBM’s Watson) are enabling rapid advances in diagnostic support for example.  Combined with remote and automated early alert sensor-based systems that anticipate and help to prevent life-changing (and expensive) medical treatments, we have an opportunity to transform the way we do, and experience, many aspects of medicine in the future.

Registration for eHealth 360° Summit 2016 is open! Find out more.