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DIALOGUE WITH STAKEHOLDERS - Dialogue with stakeholders

Industry Perspective - Eric Dishman

Publication date: 19.08.2015

Healthcare future ‘built on computing and data’ says Intel’s Dishman 

US-based Eric Dishman is an Intel Fellow and general manager of the Health & Life Sciences Group, with responsibility for driving Intel’s strategy, R&D, new product and policy initiatives for health and life-science solutions.

Eric, a social scientist by background, is well-known in his field for pioneering techniques that incorporate anthropology, ethnography and other social-science methods into the design and development of new technologies. His organisation focuses on growth opportunities for Intel in health IT, genomics and personalised medicine, consumer wellness and care coordination technologies.

There is a significant back story. After being diagnosed with two rare diseases that ravaged his kidneys Eric looked at how he could use technology, data and innovative treatments to have much of his treatment at home, focusing on his quality of life as well as his survival chances.

So Eric had his genome sequenced, which provides a comprehensive picture of an individual’s DNA. To date, only around 47,000 people on the planet have data on all six billion letters of their DNA. 
The data dramatically changed his course of treatment and allowed for a kidney transplant that he says ‘…I was never supposed to have and a life I was never supposed to live’. 

Speaking while waiting for a flight after addressing the HIMSS conference in Orlando, Eric made it clear that the use of this and other data is absolutely vital in healthcare. He said: ‘The future is built on computing and data. And all the technology and data must be Cloud-based – it cannot work without The Cloud.’

He has previously stated that having access to Big Data (basically the ability to collect and analyse vast amounts of data such as the intricacies of human DNA – which saved him) would allow healthcare providers to build a virtual model for each individual patient. This would help clinicians predict which treatments would be most effective for that person and then to customise those treatments.

‘Making Big Data more accessible to patients would improve quality of life and save money,’ he says.

However, Dishman is well aware that huge challenges exist regarding Big Data, not only concerning its collection and the ethics regarding its use, as well as the initial consent. Would the data be used optimally? It seems there’s a long way to go.

He said: ‘Healthcare systems are still using a model from the late 1800s. The cost of genomic sequencing is now down to 1,000 dollars…but we must match the technology with the healthcare systems. So we need to look at what kind of new jobs and careworkers we need. Today, for example, there are not enough biotechnicians and we need a curriculum quickly. How do we train people and incorporate all this new data? That’s a challenge. Bodies change and a cancer changes, so patients may need to be analysed on a weekly basis. But, for instance, GPs are not used to all this new information.’

He is adamant that each member of a healthcare team must learn to communicate regularly and access the same information about the patient. But he says: ‘None of this coordination can take place unless data is standardised so it can be shared efficiently.’

Standardisation? That’s a tough one when it comes to data alone – but also when it comes to interoperability between all these brilliant new technologies. Eric is blunt: ‘We are trying to drive interoperability but one problem is that there are so many ‘standards’ that they’re not really standards at all.’

But they do say that where there’s life, there’s hope and Eric points out that: ‘It’s the Intel way to build eco-systems and partnerships. We look at the end-user and everything in the supply chain. We ask what is needed? and work to solve these issues.’

But one issue that even Intel can’t solve alone is that of the ageing population. Eric has some eye-opening information: ‘We aim to keep more of the elderly out of clinics and hospitals and give them independence. But by 2017, for the first time ever, there will be more people over the age of 65 than under the age of five.’

The implications for healthcare, a disappearing workforce, tax revenues and more are obvious and immense. There may be trouble ahead…but Intel is clearly working hard to explore and implement any possible strategies.

Eric Dishman was talking to Brussels-based freelance journalist Tony Mallett

Author: Tony Mallett
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