“People forget that causality does not come from data itself, regardless how big the data set is. Rather than continually gathering new datasets in search of new insights, we first need to apply what we already know”, says Thomas Vande Casteele, Co-Founder and CEO at Awell Health in an exclusive interview with Enterprise Talk.
ET Bureau: What are your opinions on data’s role in solving the healthcare crisis?
Thomas Vande Casteele: Many new players in the digital health space and the general public believe that data is the answer to solving the healthcare crisis, we believe that there is too much focus on data as ‘the one solution to rule them all.’ People are staring blindly at data as the answer to all their prayers.
Generally, the discussion revolves around making existing data more interoperable or collecting more data. First, assume that we have achieved full semantic interoperability of data. Now imagine the average clinician, who has zero time, having access to the patient’s entire historical data sitting in front of them. Only a small fraction of the information in that dataset is relevant for the decision at hand. Making data interoperable alone doesn’t solve the problem for the clinician, so neither for the patient.
Second, collecting more data doesn’t necessarily mean more insights. There are millions of data points observing the rooster crow and rising sun together, but you cannot derive from that data which one is causing the other. People forget that causality does not come from data itself, regardless of how big the data set is. Rather than continually gathering new datasets in search of new insights, we first need to apply what we already know. Eminent researchers say that the systematic application of the latest scientific knowledge in clinical practice is behind by an average of around 17 years. This means there is a whole lot of catching up to do before an actual need for anything new.
ET Bureau: How will the funding help Awell Health come to the forefront of the healthcare industry?
Thomas Vande Casteele: We see many great care teams, healthcare providers, and even guideline authors reinventing care processes to deliver more value to patients while streamlining care team collaboration. Today, they have to fall back on old tools like Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Visio, and others unfit for the job. Dissemination and education is done via largely text-based formats. Structured approaches for updating, versioning, and continuous improvement are mainly lacking.
Thanks to the funding led by VC investor LocalGlobe, we can bring a disruptive offer to the market. This constitutes a unique and powerful software platform for creating and managing care processes for free, an extremely unusual proposition in B2B healthcare. While there has been an increased focus on B2C healthcare solutions, we believe that healthcare technology has to be democratized to make a true change to the healthcare system.
This will allow healthcare organizations to create, implement, and continually update digital care pathways to improve patient outcomes. We believe our solution will have a significant impact on modernizing the currently outdated, largely text-based tools.
A prime example is recent news that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) pulled its updated guidance that COVID-19 is airborne and can travel distances beyond 6 feet as it was ‘published in error’. Awell Health would help mitigate the risk of errors in developing and updating healthcare guidelines through versioning and approval cycles before being put live.
ET Bureau: Do you believe that the care delivery organization has changed along with the industry transformation?
Thomas Vande Casteele: Thanks to advances in technology, as consumers, we are led to believe the healthcare industry has rapidly transformed, with regular news of innovations such as robotic surgery, breakthrough treatments, apps, AI, and connected wearables. Nevertheless, how care delivery is organized has changed very little.
Access to care itself has been made easier and in many cases been democratized for consumers through a combination of concentrating supply and offering teleconsultations. Yet the delivery of care still happens mostly in traditional silos, mainly focused on clinical intervention and predominantly built on outdated and documented processes on paper.
ET Bureau: How will the latest updates help care teams to serve patients better?
Thomas Vande Casteele: Any care delivery process organized for or with patients, leads to specific outcomes for those patients and an associated cost. A change in that process will either lead to different outcomes, a different cost, or both. Society needs rapid iteration of care delivery processes to increase outcomes while reducing costs, or keeping them constant. Our tool helps anyone who has this exact objective.
We help them create care pathways, health management plans, clinical protocols, guidelines, or others intuitively and implement and optimize them. This means we create a much shorter feedback loop between designing processes, learning what works, and updating the process.
The healthcare providers who can run that loop the fastest will learn faster and ultimately bring better outcomes and experiences to their patients while doing it at greater efficiency, costing the system less to provide the same or higher-level care quality.
It’s about time we’re honest with ourselves – we can’t expect to solve tomorrow’s problems with the tools of the past.
Thomas Vande Casteele is the CEO and co-founder of Awell Health. He is a serial entrepreneur and, in 2016, he along with Awell Health’s CTO Yann Buydens made the decision to apply their expertise in optimising customer journeys for organisations to optimise patient journeys and care pathways in healthcare and Awell Health was founded in 2018. To date it works with approximately 25 hospitals across Europe.