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Digital innovations for better health

How digital technology will personalise healthcare

Etienne Minvielle, CNRS Research Director and Professor of Health Management at Ecole Polytechnique (IP Paris) and Alexis Hernot, Co-founder and CEO of Calmedica
On November 7th, 2023 |
3 min reading time
Etienne Minvielle
Etienne Minvielle
CNRS Research Director and Professor of Health Management at Ecole Polytechnique (IP Paris)
Alexis Hernot
Alexis Hernot
Co-founder and CEO of Calmedica
Key takeaways
  • Digital technology has brought about a surge in innovation in the healthcare sector.
  • It is expected to improve the quality of patient care through remote monitoring.
  • Automated, digitised monitoring helps to prevent the toxic effects of a drug, personalise the care pathway for each patient and reduce the time spent in hospital.
  • In the long term, these advantages will help to meet the major challenges facing hospital structures, by relieving congestion in emergency departments and alleviating the shortage of medical staff.
  • These systems would free up 90% of a nurse’s time, improving the quality and quantity of patient care.

Inno­va­tions in the health­care sec­tor have increased expo­nen­tial­ly over the past few years thanks to the wide­spread use of dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy. A dig­i­tal­ly con­nect­ed world like ours not only enables tech­no­log­i­cal advances, but can also open the door to a whole new range of ben­e­fits that have long gone unno­ticed. “Dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy is hav­ing a num­ber of pos­i­tive impacts on the health­care sec­tor,” says Éti­enne Min­vielle, CNRS research direc­tor and pro­fes­sor of health­care man­age­ment at I³- CRG. “It enables patients to be mon­i­tored remote­ly, while increas­ing their auton­o­my in their care, because they can move around more eas­i­ly and con­tact a hos­pi­tal system.”

Accord­ing to stud­ies led by the pro­fes­sor, dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy improves the qual­i­ty of care. Through remote mon­i­tor­ing, “Dig­i­tal health is some­thing that has been devel­op­ing rapid­ly in recent years,” says Alex­is Her­not, co-founder of Calmed­ica. “And France wants to become the leader in Europe.” Giv­en the ben­e­fits that e‑health can bring to the med­ical world, Alex­is Her­not is con­vinced that: “Dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy has gone from being a threat to a tremen­dous opportunity.”

An organisational advantage

“When it comes to dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy and tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tion in health­care, the issue of organ­i­sa­tion is a fun­da­men­tal one,” insists Éti­enne Min­vielle. “So you have to be able to put it into its organ­i­sa­tion­al con­text straight away.” It was in this sense that the pro­fes­sor con­duct­ed a study at the Gus­tave Roussy hos­pi­tal. Fol­low­ing the devel­op­ment of a com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tem called CAPRI, can­cer patients receiv­ing oral treat­ment could be mon­i­tored more eas­i­ly from a dis­tance. “In oncol­o­gy, for exam­ple, patients spend more than 90% of their time out­side hos­pi­tal,” he explains. “It’s impor­tant to know what’s going on there, through a range of play­ers who need to be coor­di­nat­ed along the way to ensure that things go as smooth­ly as pos­si­ble for the patient.”

There are many advan­tages to this kind of mon­i­tor­ing: “We can pre­vent the tox­ic effects of drugs,” adds the pro­fes­sor, “by pre­scrib­ing them more effec­tive­ly. At the same time, patients are hap­pi­er, and it has been shown that this avoids hos­pi­tal vis­its in sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tions. What’s more, when they do go to hos­pi­tal, they are less like­ly to go to A&E. This is anoth­er key point, because in mod­ern health­care sys­tems, over­crowd­ing in emer­gency depart­ments is a real problem.”

This type of mon­i­tor­ing also makes it pos­si­ble to per­son­alise the patient’s care path­way. Rather like the sug­ges­tion algo­rithms used by stream­ing plat­forms, an appli­ca­tion of this kind will enable car­ers to gain a bet­ter under­stand­ing of the patient’s lifestyle habits, and there­fore to bet­ter guide them in their treat­ment. “We’re com­bin­ing knowl­edge of socio-eco­nom­ic deter­mi­nants with knowl­edge of the patient’s behav­iour,” explains Éti­enne Min­vielle. “A patient who is on their own will not receive the same care as a patient whose fam­i­ly is around them. As far as patient behav­iour is con­cerned, it’s impor­tant to know whether they are anx­ious, moti­vat­ed to take their med­ica­tion, or are going through a dif­fi­cult peri­od.” Éti­enne Minvielle’s work is still at the exper­i­men­tal stage, but the results are promising.

A shortage of carers requires a solution

A sim­i­lar remote mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem has already been intro­duced, under the name Calmed­ica. “Reg­u­la­tions intro­duced by the French Nation­al Author­i­ty for Health require ambu­la­to­ry surgery patients to be called the day before and the day after their oper­a­tion,” explains Alex­is Her­not. “With the cur­rent short­age of nurs­es, these calls, which are very time-con­sum­ing, prompt­ed us to set up Calmed­ica.” The for­mer Poly­tech­nique grad­u­ate and his col­league came up with an auto­mat­ed sys­tem to replace these calls. This auto­mat­ed sys­tem, which involves send­ing text mes­sages, will com­mu­ni­cate instruc­tions to patients before the oper­a­tion and ask them about their state of health afterwards.

“Since the start of Covid, one prob­lem in the health sec­tor has become more acute: the short­age of care work­ers,” he says. “As a result, the num­ber of vacan­cies in hos­pi­tals has increased.” An auto­mat­ed tool that com­mu­ni­cates with patients makes it eas­i­er to mon­i­tor their care. “When you have 40 patients a day, you spend 6 to 7 hours a day con­tact­ing them,” adds Alex­is Her­not. “You’d need a full-time nurse for this sim­ple task.”

Calmedica’s soft­ware uses deci­sion trees to com­mu­ni­cate with patients by text mes­sage. “A sys­tem like this frees up 90% of nurs­es’ time,” he explains. “This time is used to improve the qual­i­ty of care, but also enables more patients to be cared for while reduc­ing wait­ing times.” What’s more, its use has been sim­pli­fied as much as pos­si­ble: “The sys­tem we’ve designed is sim­ple,” he says. “We don’t need to train patients, because we tell them: you’re going to receive text mes­sages, and if there are any ques­tions, you have to answer them. And for the car­ers, we tell them: you have a dash­board and if some­thing has been report­ed, there will be a red dot on the line that cor­re­sponds to the patient.”

Pablo Andres

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