What we learned about health & wellness at Alchemy Crew’s transition economy event

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Unpacking the challenges of a new economic reality isn’t straightforward. That’s why, at the start of March, Alchemy Crew invited experts from a range of disciplines to engage in an open-ended dialogue around opportunities within the insurance sector and related markets. The agenda for the day spanned four key topics — Health and Wellness, Sustainability, Mobility and Emerging Risks, and Operational Resilience.  

In this piece, we wanted to share with you the most valuable takeaways from our Health and Wellness conversation. This session was facilitated by Kjell de Orr, Global CoCreation Lab’s Director of Strategic Partnerships. 

Many of Kjell’s insights were inspired by Miami-Dade based healthcare projects that Kjell has been developing and fostering. That project, launched in early 2020, aims to create a community-based healthcare innovation model that promotes healthcare security and resilience. 

HealthTech is fashionable 

The first takeaway of the session was that, for many investors, startups, and innovators, nothing is more engaging or exciting than HealthTech. Health technology is drawing interest from new players thanks to a recognition that health solutions are universal — they aren’t limited to use in a single market segment or context. 

What’s more, over the past year, Covid-19 has pushed healthcare teams to shift from a focus on biological and lab-driven research to data collection and AI.

This has dramatically changed the operating landscape for Global CoCreation Labs and other health actors in Miami. As part of the Global CoCreation Labs project, Kjell de Orr has seen a dramatic influx of diverse companies moving to form Health & Wellness consortiums, including real estate businesses, banks, and even fashion retailers.

Health equity

Over and over again, we see that cutting-edge healthcare products are being developed without women and minorities in mind. Despite meaningful physiological differences between demographics, patients are treated with one-size-fits-all solutions which have, in many cases, only been designed according to the needs of a singular group.

One illustrative case study of such a healthcare disparity is that women and men have different healthcare needs even while asleep — women are between three and four times more likely to suffer from insomnia whereas men are far more likely to experience sleep apnea. These are different conditions that require targeted treatments. To address the resultant healthcare inequities, specific solutions can be deployed explains Kjell, for example using sound waves to treat insomnia.

When it comes to addressing health inequities more broadly, pharmacogenomics (the study of how differing genetics lead to different drug responses) is an extremely promising area of research. By tailoring treatments to unique individual genomes, drug-makers might be able to uncover treatments that work better for demographics that have been under-represented in prior healthcare research.

Eldercare and longevity: addressing the needs of an ageing population

Better medical care and improved standards of living have boosted life expectancies around the world in recent decades. In turn, longer lifetimes are changing the make-up of the global population, with around 42% of people worldwide expected to be over the age of 65 by 2070.  

The rapidly growing elderly market segment is an important opportunity for healthcare providers to design targeted services. In general, people who fall into the elderly category can be increasingly characterised as active, tech-savvy, and healthy. These morphing attributes mean that, in the future, HealthTech innovators will have greater room to produce digitized and highly interactive services. 

Digital services and data could lead to better healthcare provision

Digitization promises to dramatically improve the value proposition of HealthTech for many users. This is well illustrated within the context of the expanding elderly market discussed above. This is not a homogeneous population — the needs of older people vary widely, presenting an important opportunity to create adaptive, individualized solutions via AI.

During Alchemy Crew’s Health & Wellness discussion, participants highlighted several potential eldercare benefits of increasing HealthTech digitization. One key example came from the financial and insurance space — historically, life and health insurers have struggled to produce tailored solutions for customers in this segment due to a lack of digital touchpoints and lifestyle data. Thanks to IoT (internet of things) devices, that’s changing rapidly. 

It seemed that despite the embedded finance conversations we are seeing emerging, participants evaluated that insurers were now looking for ways to move away from products that lump together disparate services like life insurance, emergency healthcare, and lifestyle aids. Often these catch-all products may not be the best solution and might not even address a customer’s most pressing needs.

The hope is that increased data-driven insight into individual needs will enable providers to narrow their financial services to focus on specific needs. For example, through analytics, a provider might recognize that a customer only requires access to temporary caregiving or increased social interaction rather than the full services of a residential care facility. 

Re-designing the home as a healthcare device 

One of the most exciting topics in health is the field of cohabitation design. One year on from the beginning of the pandemic, this sector has completely transformed, as providers have started to see the need for co-living from new perspectives. 

Supported living arrangements cover a broad spectrum — at one extreme, patients and caretakers cohabitate with low numbers of patients per caretaker. Such spaces are carefully designed with an emphasis on inclusive activities like music and arts.

However, there are major problems with this model from the perspective of caretakers. They are often underpaid and have to commute long distances to reach secluded facilities. A new generation of smart wellness homes may provide a more sustainable solution via a host of new technologies that reduce the burden on carers.

Augmented care devices, for example, enable assistants with no medical training to provide sophisticated assistance to patients through mixed virtual-reality instructions. Another promising area is the integration of AI into rehabilitation spaces. Rehab is often challenging for patients who have recently undergone clinical interventions and are learning to take care of themselves without the support of medical staff.

Addressing bias within HealthTech AI

Many of the Health & Wellness topics we’ve touched on thus far incorporate some degree of data analytics and AI. Over-reliance on these solutions presents a potentially serious hazard for future healthcare ventures as AI algorithms are quick to absorb and exacerbate the biases of their human creators. 

As a result, AI could easily distribute healthcare suggestions or interventions that only suit the needs of a dominant demographic within a population. A lack of inclusive treatments can lead to harmful outcomes for individuals, and it’s therefore important for healthcare providers to develop frameworks that identify and rectify inadequate AI implementations.

Numerous health companies that rely on data and AI-driven analytics as a core part of their value proposition are now entering the market. Insurers need to move fast to understand the risks for people and businesses when AI becomes a core component of the healthcare space. 

Conclusion — the Health & Wellness segment is changing rapidly, introducing new opportunities and risks  

Over the course of the discussions, attendees shared fascinating insights into five separate distinct topics — elder care, data & ethics, wellness homes, health equity, and mental health. The emergence of new technology, combined with seismic shifts due to Covid-19 and rapidly changing demographics, means opportunities for innovative solutions are present in each of these healthcare arenas.

 

How have these trends shaped your business’s approach to health? 

Please get in touch to share your story. 

Post’s photo by Nicolas J Leclercq on Unsplash

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