Health 2.0 global panelist: 'Innovation happens at the edges and all around us'

Panelists at Health 2.0 in Santa Clara, California talk about the world wide innovation culture and why its important to look toward emerging markets for new health technologies.
By Laura Lovett
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Healthcare innovation is sprouting up all over the globe. From Israel to China, investment dollars are pouring into digital health — in fact, many emerging markets are now leading the way in healthcare technology. 

“Innovation happens at the edges and all around us,” Eugene Borukovich, global head of digital health incubation and innovation at Bayer, said at the Health 2.0 Conference in Santa Clara California on Monday. 

Those innovations and ideas are also being shared with a global market. 

“I think this is an extraordinary moment of globalization, how we are building in different regions and then hopefully seeing how [the technology] can be deployed in different ways,” Pascal Lardier, vice president of content and thought leadership at HIMSS, said. 

The shift towards innovation is also a cultural change. In recent years, Borukovich said that in Europe the culture has shifted from skeptical to supportive of startups. 

“In [the] US, if you say you are going to start a startup you get a pat on the back and people say, ‘yeah you go.’ And in Europe seven years ago people were saying, ‘what are you crazy? You are going to leave your job, leave the comfortable space?’ I think in the last seven years I’ve seen that ecosystem overseas grow, much more entrepreneurship driving from within,” Borukovich said. “That is something very positive I’ve seen growing in both Eastern Europe and Western Europe.”

But the innovations also differs and morphs based on needs, national health system, and stigmas. For example, the UK’s National Healthy System is a single-payer system that ensures healthcare for every UK citizen and legal resident. 

“I think an interesting market for me is the UK and NHS,” Monique Mrazek, senior investment officer at the International Finance Corporation, said during the panel. “They are managing their limited healthcare budget, and so they have a big push for digital adoption. They run an accelerator program, they have innovation labs, they are looking at ways to … monitor these devices as we deploy them in their system.”

But systems like the NHS vary drastically from what is set up in Ukraine, where there is no national health system and many residents don’t have private insurance, meaning many pay cash for services, according to Borukovich. However, that hasn’t necessarily stopped innovation there. Borukovich cited a remote monitoring solutions invented by a local company that has become popular in private Ukrainian hospitals. 

“Those models tend to evolve very much to address the gaps in local markets and evolve in different ways,” Mrazek pointed out. 

Moreover, while the world at large faces an aging population, Japan in particular has seen the impact of this with 27 percent of its population over the age of 65. Due to this fact, it can be difficult for doctors to physically see every patient. But this could lead to innovators creating more home care technologies. 

“Now the big market approaching is home care medicine,” Dr. Yuuri Ueda, director of Health 2.0 Asia, said at the conference.  “I am seeing and expecting that market to be the best adoption for digital health. … Elderly people are the best adoption for the digital market.”

Overall, panelists agreed that markets outside of the typical Silicon Valley “bubble” are also seeing enormous growth. For example, in 2015 China had around $40 million worth of investments in digital health. That number is expected to reach $1 billion this upcoming year, according to Unity Stoakes, president and cofounder of Startup Health. Stokes went on to say that while 80 percent of Startup Health's current portfolio is made up of US companies, he anticipates that changing. 

“We expect in the future a lot more of our portfolio to coming from places like China and India, throughout Africa, and really all over the world,” Stoakes said. 

Focus on Innovation

In September, we take a deep dive into the cutting-edge development and disruption of healthcare innovation.