Javier Colás, director of Innovation at Esade’s Health Care Institute and president at Additum Blockchain, considers that “our health system has difficulties in facilitating the entry of innovation that is the supply of oxygen that new companies need”.
Javier Colás is the director of Innovation at Esade’s Health Care Institute and president at Additum Blockchain. The expert believes that “health management has been focused on critical episodes, that is, the system only took care of patients when we were sick and not what happened outside the hospital grounds.”
Question: How can digitization help improve the health system?
Answer: Digitization can help to gain efficiency in the health system. Different sciences converge in health and all of them generate a lot of information. To this is added that, historically, health management has been focused on critical episodes, that is, the system only took care of patients when they were sick and not what happened outside the premises of a hospital or outpatient clinic. The fact that a technological revolution in health is now taking place in developed countries makes it possible to see how well or poorly we work and the value that is being generated.
Q.: Is enough being invested in health research and development in Spain?
A.: It can hardly be said that it is enough. What the health industry is looking for is to extend the life expectancy of individuals, which in Spain is currently above 83 years. It’s enough? When you reach the age of 83, don’t you aspire to reach the age of 85? This means that the demand for health is inexhaustible by society. Expenditure on R&D could be improved, but it is not the most important barrier. There is a lot of investment in health in new predictive tests, in biotechnology, but access to this innovation to the National Health System (SNS) is very slow.
Q.: Are Spanish companies in this sector competitive abroad?
A.: There are good examples of companies working in specific areas such as metabolomics, genomics or digital medicine. The problem is that these companies often take a long time to be successful in Spain and have difficulties to penetrate and stay in the national territory, which should be the springboard to reach other markets. Sometimes they succeed before outside our borders.
“Spaniards have gotten used to thinking that having a hospital on the corner of their block is the best, and it is not the reality”
Q.: What is it due to?
A.: Our health system has difficulties to gain efficiency, difficulties to facilitate the entry of innovation that is the supply of oxygen that new companies need. We have a very fragmented market, not only because there are 17 autonomous communities, but also because there are many centers that are doing exactly the same work. We have excellent professionals and facilities, but we need to incorporate more innovation.
Q.: The same jobs?
A.: Spaniards have gotten used to thinking that having a hospital on the corner of their block is the best and it is not reality. What the new medicine demands is to have highly specialized centers, with a great capacity to attend to a greater number of cases, offering better quality.
Q.: Are public and private healthcare assuming the digital transformation in the same way?
A.: Perhaps this digital transformation in private healthcare occurs earlier, especially in those aspects that have to do with the direct relationship with the user or patient. However, there is a basic problem that revolves around the responsibility of the patient, because we are a very illiterate country in health. Historically, we have not bothered to educate in health. Very few colleges, institutes or universities have subjects related to health.
Q.: New companies and technological applications are emerging in the health market. Do you fear that the industry may become un-professionalized?
A.: There are currently a total of 350,000 health apps in Spain, but most do not create any value. Anyone can have an idea and believe that they can solve a problem, but time puts everyone in their place. The system itself has enough intelligence to discard those innovations that come from professionals who do not know the problems well enough.
Q: It attracts attention.
A.: They do not create value, it means that for a person who has a certain clinical condition, who suffers from a deterioration in their health, many applications are not going to represent a solution. The apps that have value are those that are integrated into the processes within the patient’s health care.
Q.: What will be the medical technology of tomorrow?
A.: The great change will come in the medicine of prediction, anticipating and knowing when a certain person is at risk of suffering a pathology. Aids for active aging will also be important.