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A4M, an international medical conference that gathers several thousand anti-aging experts each year, recently concluded in Las Vegas. Along with doctors and representatives of medical equipment manufacturers, software development companies also attend the event. Their aim is to suggest innovative solutions to key concerns in the healthcare industry. Anastasia Panshyna, Head of Marketing Department at Artezio, highlights the key issues discussed at A4M.

What global aim do anti-aging conferences address?

Conferences of this kind have been held in the US for the last 25 years. Their aim is to share experiences and best practices, bring awareness to the latest innovations within the industry, and discuss current challenges in the medical field. For many healthcare companies, participation in such events is also a rare opportunity for interaction with one another. The medical sector in the US is fragmented. For this reason, it is essential for many market players to be able to get together in one place and build a dialogue.

So not only medical, but also technology, companies take part in the forum?

Technology companies are obviously a minority at the conference. Only companies offering industry-specific

Anastasia Panshyna, Head of Marketing Department at Artezio

technology solutions (such as electronic medical document platforms, data processing systems, etc.) attend the event. These companies are highly interested in getting into contact with medical field representatives. On one hand, they would like to present their developments to industry experts, on the other, they would like their feedback. If a company is an expert in the medical field, understanding the needs of medical laboratories and research organizations is imperative, and they should attend these types of events. Today, medicine is particularly in need of information technologies and automation systems. Although healthcare professionals use the most modern equipment during diagnosis and treatment, advanced information solutions are not widely implemented. As a result, medical centers in the US either use outdated solutions or adopt new ones rather slowly.

What kind of technological advancements would these medical companies benefit from?

First, they need the right realization of data exchange systems. Technical solutions operated by medical companies in the US are not standardized, which slows down the exchange of information, sometimes preventing it altogether. Imagine a situation where laboratories work closely with one another and exchange research data, but are unable to do it quickly or efficiently because of outdated software. Also, we can’t forget about the patients who often access their results online. Web solutions that clinics and laboratories are currently using are not always user-friendly.

Do medical companies seek information integration?

Certainly, yes, but they don’t yet have the means to reach an adequate technological level at this point. The problem is that the dissemination of even the most popular standards is very slow in the USA. For example, some companies are ready to apply the Health Level 7 standard but don’t do it because their partners don’t implement HL7, and a one-sided system modernization will lead to a communication gap. In the US healthcare sector, implementation of information technologies isn’t standardized in most cases, which is a big problem for the market. If there were unified standards, the medical business would receive the impulse for development. Laboratories and institutions could develop close partnerships, conduct research based on each other’s data.

It is not happening now, is it?

I’m not saying that healthcare in the US isn’t moving towards building a global information platform. There are moments where it advances, but it is insufficient to call it a consistent trend. There would be more progress if the problem of communication standardization was addressed not only by small and medium companies but also by big businesses. However, large corporations don’t perceive this as a critical issue at the moment.

Were only US market concerns discussed at the conference?

There is little interest in what goes on in the European markets, but we can call it an academic interest. The development of healthcare information systems in Europe differs in many respects from the way it does in the US. Europe already has its own standards for medical data exchange, and much attention is paid to the issues related to interaction between medical centers and laboratories in the EU. Due to the centralized management of healthcare services, the achievements in the sphere of data transfer standardization in the CIS countries are greater than in the USA. However, if we are talking about the A4M conference, then yes, currently only US concerns were addressed at the event.

It seems the US and Europe won’t be able to establish an effective exchange of information regarding healthcare. What do you think? 

Large players would be able to do it. They try to support all formats of data exchange. For small businesses, it would be much more difficult.

Can you identify the main tech request software developers get from medical facilities in the US?

Requests normally don’t concern global issues. As a rule, healthcare centers tend to solve problems that will help them better work with their clients. Such as, work that relates to improving the user interface of existing apps, and development of portal and mobile solutions.

Are there requests to rework existing solutions?

There are requests to enhance existing systems, but at the same time, there are also requests for development of novel solutions. If we talk about new developments, then the main trend is the development of platforms for industry-specific interaction. This is what the current market lacks, and such requests are submitted more and more often.

How much are healthcare providers ready for innovations?

Our partner suggested the company representatives are present at the event to take part in building an innovative platform for industry-specific interaction among players. He found there were many people interested in software solutions, which proves a desire for US medical businesses to provide themselves with a tool for efficient data exchange. We also have similar observations – many companies are ready to move forward to improve the situation with the technology gap. However, as with any market, there are players who are confident in their solutions until an aggressive competitor comes. As soon as large companies start improving their technological products and new clients arrive, then other companies will realize that the time for change has come.

Is progress based on if new clients are being attracted by new technologies, or not? I would imagine everyone is looking for new, proven solutions.

It is quite difficult to offer something new on the healthcare market. Some companies are already cooperating with large technology vendors. For example, Intel sponsors many laboratories offering them advanced solutions, thus not allowing them to be approached by other companies. Other players usually probe the market themselves focusing on the satisfaction indicator of system end users – doctors, laboratories, hospitals, and patients.

Has the healthcare industry become more open in terms of information? Since legislative restrictions have been put in place on dissemination of patients’ personal data, which hasn’t allowed the industry to develop information exchange technologies for some time now.

The healthcare industry has not become open yet. Restrictions on dissemination of information remain. Medical confidentiality should exist, but patients and doctors have become more mobile and active users online. This means there have been requests for data, while also considering the demands for the protection of its consumers.

How fast will the medical industry adopt advanced communication solutions of both informational and practical character? How close is it to the widespread use of remote diagnosis and treatment methods?

Telemedicine is currently a popular trend that is developed in many countries. However, again we come across the problem of fragmentation of technological solutions and the lack of standards. It is better to avoid heterogeneity in technologies and solutions. There can be many devices, but they all need to apply a single standard for data transfer. Only this will allow various hospitals and systems to use data, but not only those who are members of the closed circle. The time for information unification in healthcare will soon come. But so far, we can only see healthcare professionals’ desire and first attempts to create and efficiently use new technology and software capabilities.

Do medical companies have a desire to use common standards?

Certainly, but the desire for unified standards is strongest among large corporations. Small and medium companies have yet to realize the need for change. Such understanding is gradually coming, and medium-sized healthcare businesses are beginning to think of enhancing existing solutions or using new ones so that they become attractive to both partners and their clients. The need for change can be clearly traced.

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