Collaboration Is Redefining The Future Of Healthcare
The scramble for diagnostics, personal protective equipment (PPE), and vaccines have given rise to a new era of multi-stakeholder collaboration, which is ushering in a new era of discovery.
The COVID-19 crisis has showed us that no matter how good one organization is, we cannot solve the world’s problems in isolation. The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is a case in point, and the spirit of collaboration looks set to define the next chapter in the world’s journey towards medical breakthroughs.
In the early months of the pandemic in 2020, the world needed a breakthrough. A global shortage of respirators saw the Ford Motor Company join forces with 3M and GE Healthcare to develop a new kind of powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR). Ford located some of its off-the-shelf parts like fans from its cooled seats, whilst 3M used its HEPA air filters to filter airborne contaminants such as droplets that carry virus particles.
Transformative collaborations are also shaping the future of testing– and there appears to be a common theme: strategic partnerships between academic research institutions and commercial companies. It was announced in April 2021 that the University of Oxford, the diagnostics company Prenetics, and the Oxford Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research (OSCAR) are collaborating to further develop OxLAMP, a molecular testing technology for infectious diseases. The three-year project aims to establish a scientific and long-term partnership that will advance diagnostic testing for unmet global needs.
Ford and GE Healthcare continue to work together to expand the production of a simplified version of GE Healthcare’s existing ventilator design. The hope is that the collaboration will deliver a technology that can support patients with respiratory failure or difficulty breathing caused by COVID-19.
Collaboration is just one of three major developments that are collectively redefining research and development. The accelerated digital transformation is another. As digital solutions advanced in 2020 amidst the pandemic, health information systems (HIS) became more powerful. They are key to healthcare transformation: they enhance efficiency, boost productivity, lower costs and directly deliver better clinical outcomes. In April 2021, 3M introduced a new technology that has again come about through collaboration. The platform, which is called 3M Social Determinants of Health Analytics, allows healthcare providers and payers to prioritize care and allocate resources for high-risk individuals and patient populations. It has been created using social risk intelligence from a company called Socially Determined. The collaboration has delivered a piece of HIS software that brings together clinical, social, and population health data to enable public and private health stakeholders to visualize a holistic, fully-rounded picture of patient health. This is critically important in being able to identify those who are at greater risk of disease.
Understanding social risk factors is all part of the journey towards preventative healthcare– if we know who is at risk, from what and why, we can create early targeted interventions. We have seen many examples of how social determinants of health have left some social and ethnic groups more vulnerable to COVID-19 than others. HIS systems are set to be a crucial tool for prevention and treatment post the COVID-19 crisis.
If we can understand who is most at risk and where, we will know how to direct certain therapeutic interventions like the vaccine adjuvant, 3M-052, developed by 3M. It boosts the immune response and enhances the efficacy of vaccines being developed. It is a trailblazing development that, when combined with HIS systems, opens up new possibilities for prevention and intervention where it is needed most.
“Where” is the third post-COVID-19 trend that is dramatically and irreversibly redefining the future of healthcare. It is now far less important where a patient is, thanks to the explosion of remote and virtual healthcare provision. To reach communities in rural locations and to overcome the obstacles of social distancing and lockdowns, virtual provision has become the norm for many. Across industry, we see healthcare insurance companies and healthcare providers recognizing the enormous benefits of artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, and remote provision, particularly in widening access to consultations and advice. According to new data released by the UAE division of the international telehealth provider, vHealth, UAE residents are embracing telemedicine, with virtual consultations through its mobile application increasing by 500%. The public is hungry for technological change.
The good news for policymakers is that when they choose to collaborate with corporations, the public is increasingly on their side. The 2021 3M State of Science Index (SOSI) shows that scientific advances made during the COVID-19 crisis have heightened the world’s expectations for what is possible. Science is becoming more of a uniting factor as the world moves toward a common mission to build a safer, greener, stronger, and more equitable future.
It is patently clear from the world’s incredible progress that scientific miracles can happen when great minds think alike. Data and AI have combined with a new spirit of collaboration between corporations and state players. If science is unleashed through such an approach, we can move closer to realizing our shared dream of equitable healthcare. Perhaps then humanity will have the tools it needs to reach even the most vulnerable when the next pandemic emerges.