Developing the Connective Tissue to Enable the Digital Evolution of Healthcare

Justin Butler


Jul 27, 2020



The Eclipse team sat down with Kal Patel, MD, the CEO and Co-Founder of BrightInsight for the next conversation in our series, That’s why, for the next conversation in our series, “Industrial Evolution: The Digital Transformation of Essential Industries”

We’ve recently seen how crisis is accelerating innovation across industries — from an increased focus on automation in factories and warehouses, to widespread adoption of remote-collaboration and deployment solutions that allow companies in all sectors to sustain and grow their business.

Healthcare is no different. According to Forrester research, the number of telemedicine appointments could top 1 billion this year. But the digitization of the industry overall is still in its infancy.

That’s why, for the next conversation in our series, “Industrial Evolution: The Digital Transformation of Essential Industries,” we speak with Kal Patel, MD, the CEO and Co-Founder of BrightInsight, provider of the leading regulated digital health platform for biopharmaceutical and medical-technology sectors.

Having started his career as a physician before founding and heading Amgen’s digital-health division — and subsequently serving as the chief commercial officer at Doctor on Demand — Kal has a holistic understanding of the shortcomings of our current healthcare system and how it needs to evolve technologically.

Healthcare is one of this country’s dominant industries: It employs 11 percent of American workers, accounts for a quarter of all government spending and nearly 18 percent of our GDP, according to a recent report by the Brookings Institute.

Yet, as a sector, healthcare remains stubbornly siloed and resistant to digital innovations. This keeps data from connected devices, combination products, and apps locked up in disconnected systems, which creates inefficiencies for patients and hinders discovery and advances in clinical practice.

A shared, scalable and regulatory compliant platform could not only improve individual outcomes. It could be a huge step toward finally controlling the skyrocketing cost of healthcare we’re all paying in this country.

In his latest article for Forbes, Kal asserts that increased Covid-19 testing, tracing and social distancing will be insufficient if test results and tracing data are spread across multiple systems, “like a treasure map broken apart to keep one group from having the whole answer.”

Investing in a nationwide digital-health infrastructure would be akin to America’s investment in the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s, Kal states in his piece. “Building a digital health infrastructure would also create jobs and enhance our health, security and well-being, just like strengthening our country’s physical infrastructure does.”

So, we asked Kal to explain why this hasn’t occurred thus far, where technological innovation has successfully transformed patient care, and what digital offerings we can expect to come online in the next decade.

There is a broad digitization trend that is accelerating across industries such as manufacturing and logistics. Do you see the digitization of healthcare in the same light?

Healthcare has lagged other industries in embracing digital transformation, with several manual processes continuing. Patient vital signs are still being written down on nurses’ scrub pants during rounds, data do not freely flow between electronic health records (EHRs), and treatment continues to be inconvenient and mostly reactive. This is happening, in large part, because many of the systems healthcare providers use remain siloed. Plus, the size and complexity of these organizations means they are slower to adopt a digital platform that can serve as the connective tissue for these systems.

Mark Bertolini, the former chairman and CEO of Aetna, explained the necessity of a common backend for digital health offerings in personal terms. For all the innovation that’s occurring in this space, he said more priority must be placed on integration: “If I have to go from app to app to app to app to app, I’m not going to use it.”

Healthcare is an incredibly complex sector and, similar to other massive industries, you can’t just “move fast and break things.” The stakes are simply too high. Digitizing healthcare isn’t just the implementation of new technologies. These innovations must be woven into existing workflows. That’s one area that drives BrightInsight. We’re focused on the integration of systems and an open ecosystem approach for the entire industry.

What’s your best example of a healthcare product or service that has gone from manual to digital, and how that transformation improves on its manual nature?

One major therapeutic area that has been ahead of the curve when compared with other therapeutic areas is diabetes. Twenty years ago, people with diabetes had to manually check their blood sugar by pricking their finger multiple times a day, and then administer their insulin using a needle and syringe.

Fast forward to today, where people with diabetes have sub-cutaneous connected continuous blood glucose meters that proactively alert them of their blood glucose levels, wearable insulin pumps that can administer their medicine based on smart algorithms, and digital apps and tools that actually tie all of this data together to give a patient a more holistic view of their health. And this data can also be fed back to the clinician’s EHR as well.

Look, patients rarely rely on one drug maker or medtech company for their therapies. Less than 5 percent of diabetes patients get all of their medications from one pharmaceutical firm. So, these companies need a common, digital infrastructure to integrate data from different manufacturers and therapeutic areas to give patients and physicians a more holistic view of patient health.

The BrightInsight Platform serves as the compliant digital infrastructure for biopharma and medtech companies to develop transformational digital health solutions that can really improve care for patients.

What are the most common products or services that symbolize this transformation, and which ones are most likely to become fully digital offerings in the next 10 years?

The most common products or services that symbolize this transformation would be connected medical devices, such as blood glucose meters, connected combination products, such as inhalers or insulin pens, or simple apps for patients or providers.

However, when you look at healthcare today, a lot of these initial digital health products are siloed solutions that operate on their own and do not integrate seamlessly with how consumers and patients live.

Biopharma and medtech companies need to move beyond traditional, proprietary silos and think more broadly about the entire healthcare ecosystem and how to improve healthcare for society in general.

In the next 10 years, I am hopeful that we’ll see data silos eliminated to enable smart systems, more advanced algorithms, Digital Therapeutics, Software as a Medical Device and more, that make care more efficient, effective and personalized for both patients and providers.

What consequences should we be most worried about if new infrastructure is not used for the delivery of digital health products and services to patients?

I recently had a conversation with Karan Arora, the Chief Commercial Digital Officer and Global Vice President at AstraZeneca. He described how the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced access to healthcare for at-risk patients with chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Gif of split screen Zoom call.
Watch BrightInsight’s Digital Health C-Suite series.

In big cities like New York, Karan has seen a 60-percent jump in heart failures happening at home, along with more deaths. Statistics like that have forced certain questions to the forefront: “How do we connect with our patients? How do we make sure they are diagnosed and treated, and more importantly, how do they actually get access to our therapy?” Karan said. “If they don’t show up, there are no prescriptions.”

If not addressed with an appropriate platform, security and privacy requirements for the development of digital health will be so cumbersome that biopharma or medtech companies will be dissuaded from pursuing them — or it will take them years longer to go to market.

BrightInsight manages ongoing maintenance and compliance for the regulated digital health solutions hosted on our platform to ensure that whichever regions our customers expand into, they are covered from a regulatory, security and privacy standpoint. By solving this part of the equation for our customers, they can focus on developing the next generation of more personalized therapies, digital health solutions and more.

Another concern is there will be a closed ecosystem that will not integrate with other systems, creating the same siloes EHRs are accused of building. We do not want to look back five or 10 years from now having invested billions of dollars and be left with another siloed set of solutions.

Google recently named BrightInsight “Cloud Partner of the Year for the Healthcare Industry” for the second year and a row. Two months later, BrightInsight announced $40 million in new funding. How will this allow your company to scale, and more broadly, fuel this digital transformation?

Our recent Series B funding really cements BrightInsight’s position as the leading global regulated digital health platform for biopharma and medtech. The financing will enable the company to achieve significant scale by accelerating team growth, international availability and enhancing the BrightInsight Platform, including investing more in its analytics functionalities to enable customers to drive more valuable insights faster, and to launch new pre-built software assets that will allow its customers to enhance and accelerate their digital clinical trials.

A significant portion of this financing round will be used to execute for current customers, including Novo Nordisk, the world’s largest diabetes biopharma, AstraZeneca, Roche and CSL Behring, the third largest biotechnology company in the world. Specifically, the funding will grow BrightInsight’s teams around the world, including establishing a new regional Customer Delivery Center in London to support European clients and continue international expansion in China and other Asian markets. Further investment will be made in analytics to enable customers to drive more valuable insights faster, and to launch new pre-built software assets that will help enhance and accelerate customers’ digital clinical trials.

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