China to test data monitoring system for hospital outpatients under trial scheme this year
A monitoring system designed to collect biometric data on outpatients suffering from chronic diseases will be trialled in mainland hospitals this year, a programme that British software developer Medopad and its Chinese partners regard as an important step in developing new services in the “health tech” business.
Medopad is seeking “long term strategic investors” in China to help fund pilot projects to be launched this year. The current backers of Medopad include German pharmaceutical giant Bayer, London-based medical insurance giant BUPA and Hong Kong property group NWS Holdings.
“China is the most important market for us by far,” Medopad co-founder and chief executive Dan Vahdat said in an interview on the sidelines of the Boao Forum for Asia earlier this month.
“We came to China four years ago to learn and make mistakes until we found the right partners.”
Medopad, which is based in London, will set up an office in Shanghai that will house up to 50 staff, as part of a plan to boost global headcount 10-fold to 500 in the next 18 months.
The company, which has operations in Europe and the US aims to provide a “digital platform” to collect data from wearable electronic devices on patients suffering from chronic diseases.
The data will be shared with hospitals, pharmaceutical and insurance companies to save medical costs and enhance treatment effectiveness.
The company is among many in the nascent health-tech business, which seeks to profit from the “digitalisation” of the health care industry.
In August last year, Anhui province-based iFlyTek launched its digital platform for what it claimed to be China’s first “AI hospital”, in a bid to augment the efficiency of medical diagnosis and treatment delivery.
The company has since deployed its artificial intelligence system in more than 30 hospitals in the mainland, iFlyTek chairman and president Liu Qingfeng said at the Forum.
“The use of AI can help reduce misdiagnosis,” he said.
As part of Prime Minister Theresa May’s early February trade mission trip to China, Medopad claimed to have signed trade deals worth 100 million pounds (US$142 million) with companies including computer giant Lenovo, state-owned China Resources Group, and the China unit of British pharmaceutical giant GSK.
Medopad secured US$28 million of private equity capital earlier this year, which forms part of the US$120 million it aims to raise in coming months.
The company plans to roll out its software in China later this year at more than 10 hospitals affiliated with Peking University and Capital Medical University.
These pilots schemes will initially involve a few hundred patients, with a focus on those with Parkinson’s disease. Patient movement and reaction time will be measured to improve diagnosis.
“We try to give eyes to the doctors so they can see what’s happening,” Vahdat said. “We tend to focus on diseases that are complicated and expensive to treat.”
Medopad charges annual fees that vary according to the number of patients and functionalities, which are paid by insurers, pharmaceutical companies or patients.
Fabio La Mola, head of Southeast Asia life sciences practice at L.E.K. Consulting, said health-tech companies tend to charge low fees initially to encourage adoption of their technology, which will allow them to develop additional revenues sources.
“The data is a gold mine when the sample is large enough, and can be combined with other data such as electronic medical records, clinical trials and insurance and reimbursement data,” he said. “Monetising this data can take over three years as data on the same patient for a long time needs to be collected.”
Data-enabled health forecasting, such as the chance of a person developing diabetes, is particularly valuable to insurers.
Pharmaceutical researchers, health care providers and government services can also use the data to come up with drug development and disease prevention programmes.
Credit Suisse said in a recent report that remote monitoring provides the highest value added service among various health-tech applications.
A pilot project by US-based Vivify Health on patients suffering heart failure using remote monitoring cut the number of monthly inpatient visits from over three to less than 0.4, and costly emergency room visits by over 70 per cent, according to Credit Suisse.
La Mola said results from AI applications on diagnostic imaging and cancer diagnosis have been “encouraging”.
“There is proof that data predictions can be more accurate than humans,” he said.
He added that revenue growth will accelerate as “data become richer, and as data aggregators have [more] algorithms to clean, correlate and analyse the data”.
Medopad has signed a cooperation pact with Tencent Holdings on health prediction. It also has a technology partner with online doctor consultations and health care products provider Ping An Healthcare and Technology, a unit of financial conglomerate Ping An Insurance.
Additional reporting by Georgina Lee