Tolga Talks Tech: Innovation in Healthcare

Healthcare and Life Science organizations have increasingly moved towards cloud adoption as they innovate with cloud use cases ranging from big data and analytics to advanced machine learning (AI/ML). Tolga Tarhan, Onica’s CTO, and Taylor Bird, Onica’s Senior VP of Product and Solutions, talk about how these companies are embracing the cloud to tackle their business challenges in this week’s Tolga Talks Tech episode. For more videos in this series, click here. 

Historically, life sciences companies were an early adopter of the cloud, but primarily just for academic and research purposes. How do you see pharmaceutical life sciences companies using the cloud today?

I think the next generation of adoption here is being driven by medical device and pharma companies that are now realizing that the cloud gives them a platform to innovate. Traditionally, people have thought about the cloud as, “Hey, I’m going to get better scale, cost, and some change in the model from CAPEX to OPEX”. The companies that are ahead of this curve are realizing that what they have gained from the cloud is more innovative capability. This includes building things and testing ideas quicker, failing and learning faster, and out-innovating their competitors.

Focusing on innovation, what do you see as the next leap that these companies are going to take as they seek to solve some of these challenges?

I think it’s actually around connected medical devices. For instance, take all this telemedicine stuff – traditionally, we have thought about that as – “I’m going to Skype with my doctor”. We can take that to a whole new level when we put devices that are attached to people, or that measure vitals, and are connected to the cloud. 

A good example of this is diabetes care, where we are getting closer and closer to an environment where for example, a parent can monitor their child’s insulin requirements from home while the child is at school. This not only brings a kind of comfort to the parents, but it also improves outcomes. Rather than having a diabetic event happen and maybe go to the hospital, you’re now able to very quickly make adjustments to the medication, do things in the outpatient, home and school environment that you would never be able to do before. And that’s all really powered by the ability to extract data in real time, off of devices. 

This is leading to new workflows for how care is delivered and physicians being able to monitor for instance, a wearable EKG. If you’ve had a heart attack and you’re wearing an EKG for the next 30 days, the doctor can go review daily or weekly to see the progress and see if additional intervention is needed. In the past, this would have been appointments to the doctor’s office, hospitalization, or other things. I believe this connected device space is really going to power the next leap of adoption by this industry. 

Traditionally, this is a really important and as a result a heavily regulated industry. What are some of the roadblocks you see with these companies as they look to solve these challenges in the cloud that you’re facing.

This is the most important part of this industry and the cloud. Almost every system that touches patient data or that can be considered a medical device or medical data system is governed by multiple regulations, both in the US and different sets internationally. These regulations were designed in a time and place before the cloud. 

As is typical, the industry has to lead the way and show how we can comply with these regulations in a least burdensome approach and leverage the cloud. It’ll take some time for regulations to catch up to that reality. 

A good example of this is – in the cloud you don’t see or touch or feel the servers that are running your application. In a typical environment in medical devices and pharma, you need to qualify the infrastructure. You may need to specify the model of the server, what workload it was tested for, and how the testing was conducted. Obviously that’s a big disconnect when you go to the cloud. We have found that our innovative and creative customers are able to design alternate processes that match the intent of the regulation, provide the same level of assurance as the regulations require, but by taking approaches that are different than what they are used to. 

An approach you can take, for example, is called continuous verification where you could take your application and continually verify it in place. That means that you are actually not just doing this one time verification and validation activity, but rather you are testing your app in production all the time. In doing so, you probably have built a lot of test automation which also benefits the development & release processes, front loads all of that heavy lifting of V&V testing earlier in your dev cycle rather than a big effort at the end. You also get the ability to now re-execute those tests and continually verify that even if the underlying infrastructure has changed, your application still performs as expected. 

Interested in learning about how life sciences companies are innovating on AWS? See how Onica helped Arthrex, a global medical device company and a leading provider of orthopedic products, fully tap into the benefits of the AWS ecosystem. Learn more

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