Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already being used in advanced medical settings and it has multiple applications including, wearable technology, precision medicine and virtual clinics. In some cases, it can even interpret test results more accurately than physicians. While most of us are just beginning to realise the full potential of AI, some entrepreneurs are way ahead. But how can they build trust with investors, what are the barriers for European startups and how can smaller companies get ahead?
Pascal Lardier, VP for International Events and Media Content at HIMSS moderated the session around 'AI Beyond the Buzz' at the HIMSS & Health 2.0 European Digital Conference, with the panel consisting of Neha Tanna, Investment Partner, Joyance Partners, Jorge Juan Fernández García, Director of Innovation, EIT Health, and Piotr Orzechowski, Founder & CEO, Infermedica in Poland.
Entrepreneurs must build trust if they want to gain investment, especially if they want to develop healthcare solutions, according to Tanna. She is an Investment Partner with Joyance Partners in the UK but previously worked in “startup land” and was a doctor before that. She thinks a lot of startups feel pressure to use the AI buzzword to get her attention, but she wishes they would not. It’s not necessary as her company will go further into the technology, do their due diligence, and they will figure out, where in the spectrum the solution lies, between patent recognition and all the way up to true AI.
She pointed out that it was important to work with doctors and nurses to get good quality data to drive the algorithms and that her investment decisions were not only based on technology, but her relationship with developers: “I’d say the biggest element is the truth telling aspect of the CEO and how honest they’ve been with us as investors, about themselves, the company, the markets and the solutions they are trying to solve.” She added that it was also important to work with doctors and nurses to get good quality data to drive the algorithms.
García, director of innovation, EIT Health said he had done extensive research into startups creating solutions for healthcare professionals in clinical settings. He said: “Europe was not lagging behind the US when it came to developing solutions but there was a difference in terms of success stories and scale”. He noticed that the currents GDPR regulations were “complicating things” too.
He said there can be a problem getting clinicians to adopt new technology and that even amongst the most innovative doctors, there were few who were involved in AI, especially at hospital level. This made it difficult for them to say whether one solution was better than another. He added that more training and education was needed on AI and biases that certain data sets contain.
Orzechowski, founder & CEO, Infermedica in Poland, the Silicon Valley of Europe, agrees that trust is a key factor for entrepreneurs who want to provide solutions for health systems. He believes that partnerships are the way forward for companies like his: “As a small company we have over 100 people but cannot compete with industry giants and if you are a US- based health system, you might not be willing to co-operate around some key technology with a small company, perhaps you would prefer IBM, Amazon, Google or Microsoft. “
Infermedica has just landed Microsoft as a key partner and Orzechowski said this had already brought benefits: “We can really feel the difference because if you are a 100 person company versus a 160,000 entity with all the sales capacity, marketing insight, network, connections and business relationships, the conversation is completely different.” He strongly advises other entrepreneurs to consider developing partnerships too.