digitalswitzerland hosted a panel at the Swiss Biotech Day on digitalisation in the Swiss healthcare system, moderated by Jade Sternberg, Digital Health Lead at digitalswitzerland. We discussed the opportunities and benefits of data collection with four key leaders in the ecosystem: Chantal Stäuble from Netcetera, Dr. Sebastiano Caprara from Balgrist hospital, Dr. René P. Buholzer from Interpharma and Steven Bourke from PersonalPulse.

The panel discussion shows that the digital transformation in healthcare is a journey where all stakeholders need to work together with a sense of urgency in order to successfully create a patient-centric and value based healthcare system. It is only by collecting data from all citizens that we will be able to build a solid data basis to do better diagnostics and design better treatments to increase the quality of care. Here are a few takeaways of the interesting exchange.

Citizens are willing to share their data digitally

Based on our survey findings in the Digital Health Study, we can clearly see that the citizens are willing to use a digital healthcare system given it has clear added values. 

According to the panellists, digitalisation would be very valuable if:

  • implemented correctly, avoiding double work from the patient and physician side
  • data is stored properly in medical history records
  • solutions are developed for humans, not just patients 
  • data is reevaluated to see what value it gives to an individual, a citizen and not only to the system.

The patient’s role is changing

The term “patient” has evolved through the years. Nowadays, the word patient is used to define different personas which could be replaced by “client”, “consumer”, “user” and “customer” of the healthcare system. In the survey, 31% of the population believes that everyone is a patient, healthy or sick. According to Steven Bourke, the change of the role of the patient is key for the future of healthcare. Previously,  becoming a patient was not something that you proactively look for, it was something that you became after you received a clinical diagnosis. In the future, let’s move from a business of disease to a business of healthcare. 

Consent and privacy will increase data collection in research

Dr. Sebastiano Caprara explained that when setting up a research project, a clear description is required for how a patient’s data will be collected, used and managed after the completion of the project. It is only with this that a project will be accepted by the ethical committee of the canton of Zurich.  

There is a clear process in place when a patient or subject arrives at a clinic: informed consent needs to be given as well as a clear explanation of how the data will be used. Once collected, the data will be de-identified before being shared with researchers according to the Swiss Personalised Healthcare Network. The data can only be tracked back to the patient in the clinic to allow for the data to be erased if the patient wishes to retract their consent in the future. 

The panellists: Steven Bourke, Dr. René Buholzer, Jade Sternberg, Dr. Sebastiano Caprara, Chantal Stäuble (f.l.t.r.)

Limited data pools, a risk for the attractiveness of Switzerland?

Dr. René P. Buholzer: “The next wave of innovation and R&D in drug development will be driven by data.” Pharmaceutical is a global industry and therefore pharmaceutical companies will move wherever the talent is. Switzerland is still a R&D leader in Europe – but we need to speed up our health data collection. Otherwise, Switzerland will lose its status as an attractive location. 

Develop trustworthy technologies

Chantal Stäuble: “Technology should serve humans.” According to her, one of the key elements is privacy by design, designing the concept of a device around identity (self-sovereignty). This key factor is also reflected in our survey; citizens want to be the owners of their data and have a say into who can access their data.

Regularly collecting data digitally is important

Proactivity will enable us to have a really solid data basis which can be used to further research and develop new personalised treatment, moving from a fee for service to a fee for outcome model. 

We need to collect the data collectively in a systematic way, following common standards in order to be able to work together and create value. 

Collecting data to monitor your health from home

Decentralised solutions are picking up speed: nowadays, treatments are more and more brought to the people’s homes. According to Steven Bourke, the value proposition of the treatments needs to be reconsidered, it needs to bring value to the citizens in order for them to be comfortable with the change. The citizen’s role needs to transition from a tool tester to a co-creator; they need to play an active role and understand “what is in it for me” on a personal level and on a society level. Mutual value needs to be brought to the patient and the healthcare practitioners, bringing the data in a way that motivates them to look at it. This change of mindset will really enable us to bring the digital therapeutics to the homes of Swiss citizens.

The pandemic has opened up opportunities to further digitalise the Swiss healthcare sector

The pandemic had multiple positive outcomes on digitalisation of healthcare:

  • technology is accessible and easy to use to a wide range of individuals across a real wide age and make it valuable to them
  • The Federal Office of Public Health has now placed digitalisation as a centrepiece of their strategy. They have recently launched a new promotion for digitalisation in healthcare: DigiSanté, calling for all players to collaborate together towards the shared goal.

Wishes to enable collaboration between healthcare players to ensure Switzerland is a flourishing location for Biotech, Medtech and Pharma

Chantal Stäuble: “We need a grass-rooting movement.” We need to stand and work together, creating public-private partnerships including the patients, the citizens. We need to get the mutual value from the data, value on a patient level, on a physician level, on a research level.  

In the future, ideally the health data will be shared between generations for people to be able to build on it; this will have a huge impact on the society. 

The healthcare system in Switzerland is based on solidarity. Solidarity will only happen when the system is trusted; a system with a common infrastructure and right governance. The different existing infrastructures need to be brought together quickly to ensure they are well connected and not fragmented. Data should be interoperable to ensure the infrastructure we build is a central store for all to profit from. We need to be inspired by other countries like the Nordics. 

Change needs to happen

Switzerland has created a system of silos allowing disconnection between cantons. We need common standards as a nation. These silos are present at the federal level as well as between the different professions. The reimbursement system in Switzerland does not help as people only get reimbursed for the services they provide, not for collaborating with one another. 

In Switzerland, we need to change the mindset of the population, we need to spend more time on empowering the citizens around their health, around digitalisation. We need to show them what value they get out of it, what is in it for me as a person, as an individual, as a society. This is a change which is happening slowly. 

As outlined by a person in the audience, “Let’s have a TWINT moment in healthcare”.

More information on the panellists:

  • Chantal Stäuble has been working since 2020 as the Chief Business Innovation and Transformation Officer at Netcetera. She is also the founder & CEO of Beyond Strategy groupand a Jury Member of Mass Challenge.
  • Dr. Sebastiano Caprara holds a PhD degree from ETH Zurich, focussed on machine learning and predictive models. Sebastiano leads the Digital Medicine Unit and Health Data Repository project at Balgrist Hospital and collaborates on the LOOP project.

Chantal and Sebastiano are both members of our Digital Health Steering Committee at digitalswitzerland.

  • Dr. René Buholzer has been the Managing Director and a Delegate of the Board of Directors of Interpharma since 2017. He holds a doctorate in public administration from HSG where he has worked as a lecturer for almost two decades. 
  • Steven Bourke is the CEO and founder of PersonalPulse, a consultancy which empowers transformation in citizen-led healthcare innovation. He has been a patient advocate for many years and believes that all patients should be empowered.  He is also the founder of RheumaCura, a foundation to improve care of people affected by rheumatic & musculoskeletal disorders.