11/10/2020—Healthcare experts from Denmark and Taiwan joined forces at The Future of Health: Digital Healthcare and Precision Medicine webinar held on November 3 in an exploration of telemedicine, precision healthcare, and tech-incorporated medical services in the two countries. Due to restrictions caused by Covid-19, the webinar was livestreamed to viewers via YouTube.
Jointly organized by the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Trade Council of Denmark, Taipei, the event kicked off with a closed-door matchmaking event between Taiwanese medical technology startups and Danish incubators and research institutions. This was followed by five presentations given by keynote speakers from Denmark and Taiwan who explored opportunities and issues in the cross-border development, marketing, and implementation of new medical care technologies.
Companies participating in the matchmaking event included Radica Health, which has developed an AI platform for hospital intensive care units that dramatically decreases the workload of physicians and nursing staff as well as ICU infection rates; Coolso, a company that creates wristbands and other wearable devices for controlling AR/VR headsets and smart glasses as well as for use in medical and industrial settings; and AESOP, which used big data to develop Medguard, an app that can save lives by giving physicians real-time decision support in selecting medications and identifying prescription errors.
National Chiao Tung University also participated in the event, pitching an inexpensive, portable optical bone densitometer developed in its Biomedical Optical Imaging Lab, as did a team from Fengjia University’s Department of Electronic Engineering, who presented their iLabel and iEvaluate tools that simplify the identification, labeling, and classification of objects in images.
After the matchmaking event, Professor Der-Ming Liou, Director of the Graduate Institute of Biomedical Informatics, Taipei Medical University, gave the opening remarks for the webinar. Liou noted that the teams making pitches at the matchmaking event were there under the auspices of the Ministry of Science and Technology’s GLORIA project, which is devoted to building an industry-academia platform to serve as a link between Taiwan and the global market, and to providing industry with the expertise and scientific research services needed for cutting-edge technology advances in the fields of artificial intelligence, semiconductors, green energy, smart machinery, biotechnology and medicine, financial technology, and more.
Keynote speakers at the event included Professor Birthe Dinesen, Head of the Lab of Welfare Technologies - Telehealth and Telerehabilitation, Aalborg University; Mr. Lars Nohr, Chief Consultant for Quality and Innovation, the Elderly and Disability Administration of Aalborg Municipality; Mr. Peter Astrup, CEO of the Test and Development Center, Viborg Municipality; Professor Albert Chih-Chieh Yang, Director of the Digital Medicine Center, National Yang-Ming University; and Distinguished Professor Jung-Hsien Chiang, Chair of the National Cheng Kung University Hospital IT Office.
The speakers provided insights into the telemedicine, precision healthcare, and tech-incorporated medical services that could serve as signposts for businesses hoping to get into the medical care market, and detailed how the Danish healthcare system collaborates with and supports startups with potentially marketable ideas to make them workable in the local healthcare context.
Professor Yang discussed opportunities and challenges in the field of telemedicine, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic. He pointed out that telemedicine is an excellent solution for handling patient treatment needs in a pandemic because it protects the patients, clinicians, and community from unnecessary exposure. It is also useful for screening patients for respiratory symptoms.
One issue in telemedicine is that of getting health monitoring devices into homes. Traditional monitoring equipment in hospitals tends to be large and cumbersome, and as telemedicine becomes increasingly universal, there is a growing need for small, portable, easy-to-use monitoring devices that can be delivered to patients in their homes. NCTU’s portable bone densitometer is one example of this type of device, as is QT Medical’s small, deliverable electrocardiogram device.
While Yang primarily focused on possibilities and issues in telemedicine, Professor Chiang introduced listeners to the growing AI healthcare market, which is likely to reach 6.6 billion dollars in 2021. AI is extremely important in the field of precision medicine, whether for data aggregation and integration, clinical research and analytics, or predictive analytics.
AI imaging apps to help diagnose stroke, dementia, and other issues are becoming increasingly popular. In just one local example, when WHO held a competition earlier this year for projects that would help physicians and patients during the Covid-19 epidemic, a team from Taiwan created Medchex AI, which is capable of reading chest x-rays to determine whether a patient has pneumonia. In pandemic situations in which thousands of patients may be going to hospitals for x-rays, such a system can greatly relieve the burden on care providers.
The three Danish keynote speakers provided insights into the Danish healthcare system and offered advice on effective cross-border collaboration. First to speak was Professor Dinesen, who began by introducing the Danish healthcare system, which has invested heavily in telemedicine and digitalization.
Denmark first entered the field of telemedicine in 2012 with home monitoring of COPD and at-home wound assessment. In the years since, at home heart patient care, blood pressure and pregnancy monitoring, psychiatric care, chemo treatments and more have been added to this list, and the country welcomes ideas for new telehealth technologies. Furthermore, Denmark has digitalized its entire public healthcare system, which means that it can access big data to support AI and other healthcare collaborations.
Aalborg University, where Dinesen is located, does in-depth research in fields such as biomedical engineering and informatics. The university’s health hub functions as an incubator which offers access to the latest research, facilitates product development, and provides access to test environments and to national and international networks. Dinesen stated that the university hopes to begin working with Taiwanese companies in the near future.
Mr. Nohr followed Dinesen’s talk with a presentation on the advantages of using living laboratories to test new digital technologies, especially in Denmark’s eldercare system. Nohr explained that the term ‘living lab’ refers to a process in which products and services in the fields of elderly and disabled care are tested directly by staff members, people with disabilities, and senior citizens in their homes or in nursing homes. The involvement of healthcare professionals and end-users during the development process can aide researchers and companies in avoiding major errors.
Nohr also pointed out that governments of countries such as Denmark will eventually find themselves unable to support the housing and care of a growing elderly population, and so these countries are looking for new, workable solutions that allow senior citizens to live out their golden years at home. One solution that has already been implemented is an automatic fall detector which allows senior citizens to feel confident that they will get the help they need should they experience a fall when home alone. At-home eldercare products and services offer businesses and developers an excellent penetration point into the EU market.
The final speaker from Denmark was Mr. Astrup, who emphasized that in a public health system, any new solution must be capable of being fully integrated into the system or it will fail; unfortunately, while developers often come up with very creative solutions, they don’t necessarily work within a given system. Thus, it is important to be able to screen ideas so as to provide companies with insights into potential fit issues and to help identify promising projects.
The Test and Development Center of Viborg Municipality, where Astrup is CEO, uses a springboard program to quickly and efficiently screen ideas and solutions by having companies pitch their ideas to a select group of people from the public sector at a relatively early stage of development.
The goal is to find out if the idea will solve an existing problem when applied in a real-world setting, whether it will work better and be more cost-effective than the present solution, and whether it can be integrated into the existing system. The Test and Development Center focuses on working with overseas companies to identify potential collaborators.