Innovating with the wizards of AI
New applications for AI are opening up vast possibilities in healthcare if pharma can collaborate to innovate
As the life sciences sector increasingly looks beyond the pill to help drive better outcomes, more pharma companies are looking to develop broad innovation networks to participate.
Such networks will harness the capabilities of digital hardware blended with human know-how and artificial intelligence to improve therapies, make predictions and uncover new insights to drive better care.
Tokyo startup ExaWizards explores evidence-based care to improve outcomes dramatically and is an exciting examplar of the possibilities here.
One of the company's innovations, Coaching AI, employs deep learning to analyze unstructured nursing care data using its AI-enabled care training product. The data comes from sound recordings, videos, text, and other materials gathered using video cameras set up above the patient's bed and worn by caregivers.
AI scours these data to analyze carers' techniques by assessing their eye contact, how they touch patients, and other non-verbal signals to demonstrate how well they are doing, compared to the most experienced staff.
Exawizard's algorithms suggest ways to improve their technique, with additional human feedback from a care instructor if desired.
Such technology is helpful because, in dementia care, it is vital that the patient understands what is happening and what the carer is trying to communicate.
Small details in the ways carers communicate with patients turn out to make a huge difference in such interactions, says ExaWizards Founder, Representative Director & President, Ko Ishiyama. "Think about dementia care and eye contact, where there are two important parameters - face orientation and distance. An optimal orientation is straight on and within a distance of 20 centimeters. The AI will tell me if I had the right distance and degree of face orientation."
Such training tools are delivering significant improvements. The ExaWizards approach to AI-enhanced coaching improves the behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia. It achieves a 20% decrease in the burden on the carer. Additional aspects of the ExaWizards approach include voice-activated note-taking, which saves carers up to 40 minutes of administrative time a day, says Ishiyama.
Such technology has further applications, such as analyzing smartphone footage of patients' gait and other aspects of their mobility via the AI to help improve rehab work. Another unexpected application has been the use of the insights generated beyond clinical settings. For example, equipment suppliers have used these insights to assess patients to provide the most appropriate beds or mobility aids for them.
Taking the strain
The positive implications are clear for such technology to improve outcomes and boost life quality as well as to help take the strain on an increasingly overloaded healthcare system in a country with an aging population and a predicted shortfall of 340,000 nursing care workers by 2025.
With these sobering trends in mind, ExaWizards is also using its AI expertise to help local healthcare providers and administrators analyze the individual care patients receive, what is working, and whether their conditions are progressing to the point of needing a higher level of care. Tracking such trends can help administrators manage nursing care better, potentially cutting nursing care costs by 20% by 2025.
And the possibilities extend across many other aspects of research and healthcare delivery, says Ishiyama. "The potential is so huge. There are many AI startups developing new AI technology every day, and it can apply to so many things. It is very good for images and for providing insights into chemical compositions. It can analyze organs and cells. It can be used for the micro and the macro."
Pharma should take note. Solely focusing on external partnerships to develop new drugs, while it has seen some success, is no longer enough, says Taruho Kuroda, Ph.D., Senior Director, LEO Science & Tech Hub Tokyo, LEO Pharma. "Community development and partnerships are so critical."
Entrepreneurs and innovators such as Ishiyama san will provide insights that will indicate new horizons for pharma, says Kuroda. "Ishyama san is extremely good at establishing collaborations with other industry partners. No one had combined AI and nursing before, and I respect his attitude and that of his company.
I wanted to gain insights from his way of thinking, and vision about partnerships. Companies, especially in the pharma industry, often have problems in forming fruitful collaborations. Ishyama san somehow overcame all of these issues and formed a variety of partnerships."
A new era for disruptive innovation in healthcare
Exploring such new relationships and collaborations is essential because disruption is happening at all levels of healthcare, and there is a growing appreciation of the value of a broader and more holistic approach to meeting patient needs and improving outcomes at scale.
"LEO Pharma is specialized in dermatology, and our company is committed to elevate the standard of care within medical dermatology and to help people achieve healthy skin. Providing a new drug is certainly one aspect, but there would be many other ways to help patients with skin diseases. Companies such as ExaWizards are the new players in the healthcare industry and can provide better solutions for patients," says Kuroda. "We see various companies developing AI-based diagnostic tools and digital therapeutics, and the progress in these areas will never stop."
Players in pharma have to think about its value proposition as the disruption gathers pace. The traditional way of pharmaceutical business might hinder such disruptive innovation, and the partnership with a smaller company, like ExaWizards, might be a key to open the door to a new era.
Ecosystem-based, bottom-up innovation
"Twenty years from now, the pharmaceutical business may be completely different from the business of just making and selling new drugs. There is a high possibility that they will be in the business of providing total healthcare solutions," says Kuroda.
LEO Pharma is advancing innovation in the dermatology field through its development of a skin lesion imaging app, called Imagine, that gathers the skin images that serve as training data for AI to improve diagnostic success rates. Further initiatives and partnerships should yield more breakthroughs. "We want to start something new with ExaWizards," says Kuroda.
He says that connecting people and resources across disciplines in ways that create bigger innovation are becoming more important. "In Japan, it is important to increase both the quantity and quality of innovative startups and accelerate the formation of a strong innovation ecosystem."
An ecosystem-based approach could create a new source of competitive advantage for the pharma companies, he adds. "By increasing the number of people who become "fans" of our company, we will contribute to the formation of an innovation community around us and increase our ability to create larger innovation from the bottom up."
Join us for Reuters Events: Pharma Japan 2021, September 14 – 16, 2021, the most influential annual forum for Japanese pharma leaders in Marketing, Commercial, Medical Affairs, RWE, and Clinical. We will explore how pharma can adopt digital technologies, transform long-standing business practices, and accelerate timelines to deliver value for HCPs and patients.
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