A Two-part Look into Latitude59 2022: Part 2

It’s been weeks since Latitude59 2022, but the digital magic remains for all participants and the world that’s about to witness a new dawn of innovation. Continuing to the second and final part of the series “A Two-part Look into Latitude59 2022,” we’ll be sharing insights about another compelling recurrent topic from the tech conference’s Future Stage.

Yes, that topic is healthcare and medical innovation. Intensive health-based innovation can change the healthcare sector for good, improving the lives of patients and physicians. For instance, wearable devices now monitor the heart rate and blood sugar levels aiding the tracking of patients’ well-being and enabling swift action when the need arises. However, although we’re used to technological upheaval in other industries, healthcare is not one of those.

Disrupting the healthcare sector is challenging

Education and healthcare are the most commonly mentioned sectors regarding dated technology and little or no innovation. Most people don’t understand that innovating in these two sectors is almost as ‘easy’ as getting a camel to go through the eye of a needle. Notably, the healthtech terrain is one tough nut. Kickstarting the first fireside chat at the Hedman and Binance-powered Future Stage, Joseph Mocanu, the co-founder of Verge HealthTech, Helena Binetskaya, founder of ChestPal, and Mazin Gadir, researcher and digital health innovation expert, quickly confirmed this.

According to the panelists, disrupting the healthcare sector and encouraging the adoption of healthtech solutions is challenging for multiple reasons, such as the rigid yet dated technical infrastructure and the numerous unattainable regulations. But most significantly, the lives involved. There is room for trials and failures in other startup sectors but not healthtech. Notwithstanding the difficulty, enthusiastic healthtech innovators continue to do it anyway. Why? “Saving lives and bringing convenience and accessibility to the forefront of healthcare is worth it,” Helena pointed out.

What is currently obtainable?

Healthtech is a growing industry that utilises technology to improve healthcare quality. Its application ranges from improving the quality of care to enhancing the development and commercialisation of medicinal products and technologies. Whether it involves hospitals, practitioners, pharmaceuticals, government, or consumer-facing services, healthtech has endless potential. But despite the potential of this sector, consumers, patients, and medical practitioners are pretty leery of the hype. “It’s the consumer, practitioner, and government behavior and skepticism that makes digital health a complex terrain,” Mazin noted.

This does not mean that innovation is nonexistent in healthcare, though. Several innovative health-focused startups have sprung up in Estonia and around the world. There is Haut.AI, which Hedman recently advised in establishing a partnership with Ulta Beauty. The company provides an innovative SaaS tool that automates the collection of high-quality skin data, builds advanced analytics and recommendation engines, and simulates the effect of cosmetics products and treatments. ChestPass is developing smarter technology usable by specialists and non-specialists for swift detection and diagnosis of respiratory problems. There’s Antegenes, a biotechnology and healthcare company developing and implementing innovative genetic tests that enable the prevention and early detection of chronic diseases stemming from genetics. Asides from those, there are numerous others, be it healthtech startups or e-health innovations.

Regardless, the panelists revealed that there’s still a long way to go before the healthtech sector can catch up with its counterparts. To this end, they called on more people with innovative ideas to disrupt this space. Joseph divulged that although much change had been experienced before the pandemic, COVID-19 and its consequent impact were the most significant catalyst to this now more open and accepting healthcare sector. The panelists also encouraged existing and potential healthcare innovators to forge ahead even amid the challenges they are bound to face from the patients, medical practitioners, and regulatory authorities.

The question mark on AI

During the second to the final session at the Future Stage, the progression of AI and AI-based innovation in the face of regulation was the subject of discussion, with Hedman’s Toomas Seppel taking the stage as moderator of the panel. Unfortunately, legal and ethical considerations in Artificial Intelligence are still riddled with ambiguity, obscurity, and mystery, with little regulation and fragmented laws. Particularly pertaining to healthtech, the following issues: informed consent to use of data and data privacy, safety and transparency, and algorithmic fairness and biases, are constantly in focus.

The panel, made of Sandra Särav, data policy director at the Estonian Government CIO Office, Karen Burns, CEO and co-founder of Fyma, and Anastasia Georgievskaya, CEO and co-founder of Haut.AI, agreed that ethical AI might be the one true solution. Ethical AI takes into account the full impact of the usage of AI on all stakeholders of a product or service, from consumers to employees and the society at large. It was interesting to learn that AI-powered startups like Fyma and Haut.AI now consider ethical AI part of their ethos. At the same time, it was intriguing to know that governments are worried about overregulating the AI space and inadvertently making it difficult for startups to innovate within this sphere. This, Sandra revealed.

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