June 14, 2024

Advancing Digital Excellence

Pioneering Technological Innovation

Academic-industry partnerships are critical in driving health care innovation | Waterloo News

3 min read

Rapid technological progress is reshaping health care on a global and personal level. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is reshaping the future of health by enabling predictive analytics, personalized treatment plans and medical image analysis. By 2027, the global AI in health care market is expected to reach $51.3 billion USD, as AI-driven solutions become increasingly integrated into health practices globally.

Catherine Burns, associate vice-president, Health Initiatives, moderated a panel on how partnerships across industry sectors, academia and patient communities are essential to drive innovation and address complex health care challenges. Topics included optimizing collaborations between digital health university incubators and industry and how important leveraging academic research capabilities are in innovation.

“I think what’s most interesting about building and maintaining partnerships is understanding what motivates and precipitates the need for a partnership to begin with,” Burns said.

This is because digital health relies on a variety of skillsets including data science, clinical experience, business acumen, research ethics and an understanding of data compliance.

Catherine Burns

Catherine Burns hosts panel at THE Digital Health 2024

The panel brought together experts from various digital health sectors to discuss aspects of successful collaborations. Panel participants were:

  • Beth Andrews, chief digital health officer and business development lead for life sciences and health care, Dell Technologies
  • Arunangsu Chatterjee, professor of digital health and vice chair, University of Leeds, West Yorkshire Integrated Care Board
  • Wei Li, vice-president and general manager of AI software engineering, Intel
  • Christine Tsien Silvers, health care executive adviser, Amazon Web Services

The panellists addressed the challenges faced in conducting clinical trials for digital health solutions, particularly in managing data security while respecting patient autonomy.

“Data privacy, particularly in digital health, is very important. While it’s not unique to health care, the sensitivity of personal health information makes it top of mind,” Li said. “Partnerships with industry leaders like Dell and AWS, as well as universities, are vital for success.”

A recurring theme immerging from the panel was the role of universities as connectors, translators and stewards of responsible innovation.

“Universities are the flag bearers of scientific breakthroughs. Their ability to bridge technology, health care and user perspectives makes them uniquely positioned to translate complex ideas and align innovation with system needs — universities facilitate meaningful transformation across ecosystems,” Chatterjee said.

With technology becoming so ingrained in the practice of health care, it is vital to include patients throughout the innovation process to ensure that solutions meet their needs and preference. The panel discussed how patients can be engaged through various means including focus groups, surveys, user testing and involvement in co-design sessions. Patient insights and feedback not only enhance the usability and effectiveness of technologies but also contribute to greater clinical adoption, treatment satisfaction and improved health outcomes.

“I care about adoption. Does this really serve the patient? Are they going to use the product? It all goes back to the voice of the customer and understanding that from the beginning,” Andrews said.

“A study showed that 70 per cent of consumers prefer receiving care at home. It’s exciting to see startups addressing this demand with home testing kits for various health issues like colorectal screening, kidney tests and diabetic monitoring. Prior to Dell when I was at a startup, through partnering with a university, we developed home testing kits with sensors for blood pressure, seeking direct feedback from patients to ensure our products meet their needs,” Andrews explained.

Digital Health panel

Left to right: Catherine Burns, Wei Li, Christine Tsien Silvers, Arunangsu Chatterjee and Beth Andrews

Discussions like these highlight the necessity of collaboration in driving innovation within the health technology sector. The panellists emphasized the importance of partnerships between academia, industry and government to address challenges such as data security, regulatory compliance and patient-centered design.

By leveraging academic research capabilities, fostering reliable data infrastructure and promoting patient engagement throughout the innovation process, the session underscored the transformative potential of technology in reshaping health care on global and personal levels.

Waterloo is harnessing its expertise where health, society, technology, and entrepreneurship converge, collaborating with partners on game changing innovations that propel health and health-care systems forward for everyone.

The University will host Digital Health 2025 and welcome health innovators from around the world to accelerate health innovation through academic-industry partnerships.

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