Technology Can Free Up Skills for Human Compassion – The Goal of Excellent Healthcare

Thierry Marchal

Ansys operates   in the newly developing industry of M2M, driving wearable devices, utilising IoT.  What is needed for the industry to reach a fruitition, is a  democratized the access to health care to create a much bigger demand able to sustain medical research and innovation, says  Thierry Marchal, Global Industry Director – Healthcare, Construction & Consumer Products, ANSYS

Healthcare is rapidly adopting IT for a host of benefits it can provide. What are your strengths in this enablement?

The healthcare industry, both medical devices and pharmaceutical, is primarily driven by 3 antagonist drivers:

a.  The demand for innovation and possibly disruptive innovation to maintain a competitive advantage

b.  The absolute need to ensure a maximum patient safety and

c.  The pressure to maintain the cost of health care small to keep it affordable for most people

To achieve the last two goals, a trend is to continuously measure numerous patients’ vital parameters, especially for patients at risk. This approach enables us to detect pathologies much earlier in their maturation process and therefore to treat them in their early stage, maximizing the chance for successful and complete treatment while minimizing the cost of treatment.

However, by multiplying the number of connected implantable and wearable devices able to provide this valuable information, patient safety can be compromised due to the amount of energy dissipated in the body during treatment or emission, what can dramatically deteriorate soft tissues and organs.

ANSYS is leading what is called the in silico medicine evolution.  In silico medicine allows for testing new treatments on the computer (in silico) rather than in vivo or in vitro.  Computer based testing is much faster than clinical or bench testing; they are also cheaper and more importantly they do not impact the life of people or animals.

By using engineering simulation and developing an in silico approach in preparation (not in complete replacement) of in vivo testing, ANSYS facilitates innovation by allowing bioengineers to quickly validate many new ideas.  By giving the opportunity to test promising prototypes on large cohort of patients quickly and safely, this technology ensures perfect safety for the patient.  Finally because it is cheaper and allows investigation of multiple options to come up with the cheapest solution that would fulfil the expectations without compromising with patient safety, this technology is making medicine more affordable and more profitable.

The simulation technology developed by ANSYS is therefore used to accelerate the safe development of medical IoT to make of it a reality much faster than any previous evolution.

IoT is the next buzzword in technology innovations. How is ANSYS using it for usable applications?

ANSYS is primarily helping the healthcare industry to make medical IoT a reality faster.

Indeed, first medical IoT requires to be able to measure key parameters such as body temperature, level of glucose on the tears or under the skin, to mention a few. This necessitates some tiny laboratory equipment that is known as ‘Lab-on-a-chip’.  This is very challenging as the device can only take a tiny droplet of e.g. blood and analyse it.  Through microfluidic modelling and species analysis, ANSYS assists bioengineers to design these implantable or wearable equipments to make them smaller, more effective, and less energy demanding.

Once the data has been acquired it is important to treat, store and usually share it either with the patient through a user friendly interface, or with the clinical community through a secure remote connection.  ANSYS is playing a key role in modelling and designing reliable electronic equipment that performs all these functions while being robust and secure.

The role of ANSYS is to help investigate various alternatives to minimize the risk for the patient while maximizing battery life.

Through simulation medical IoT devices are becoming smaller, more powerful and safer and cheaper, and this will make the Medical IoT evolution possible.

Remote patient monitoring is another field that is taking giant strides in the business of healthcare. Do you have any support or applications in place to reach this market?

Remote patient monitoring is treated by ANSYS as a similar concept to the one described above except that the patient is wearing the device for a long period of time and sometimes permanently.  The same challenges apply to reliably evaluate the target parameters, store them and communicate them while ensuring safety for the patient and security for data. But a specific attention should be paid to the patient safety as the devices are continuously worn. They should also be smaller to minimize the inconvenience for the patient.

In return, this is generating a wealth of data that can also be fed into simulation done by ANSYS.  Indeed simulation is used to predict the likely evolution of pathologies.  This requires specific in vivo material properties (soft tissues elasticity, blood viscosity, etc.) and operating conditions (body temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, etc.) that vary depending upon the person, the activity and the age.  These data are crucial to refine the existing models and in the future better predict the evolution of pathologies, possibly even before they are detected. Continuous monitoring is therefore an invaluable source of data for future biological modelling.

Do you think M2M will have any significant impact on healthcare in the near future?

I’m hopeful M2M would have a significant impact. Indeed, we are desperately short in nurses and physicians so that they need to rush from patient to patient to measure key parameters and make quick diagnosis.  Most of the medical staff doesn’t have time anymore for human interactions which are so important for the positive evolution of the disease.  If most of the routine work such as measuring and reporting parameters could be automated remotely and that some preliminary diagnoses or even treatment could be performed to facilitate the task of nurses and physicians, this would free up a lot of their time for what only human being can do: human relationship.  Today, such an interaction is a luxury that healthcare could not afford anymore.  With the development of M2M interaction, H2H interactions could be restored without impacting the cost of healthcare.

By helping accelerate and amplify medical innovation especially for connected device, ANSYS is contributing to make M2M a reality sooner.

In the Indian market, do you think there is adequate standardisation as far as data applications are concerned? What do we need to ensure data analysis becomes a business support?

I am quite concerned by the medical devices market that includes medical data management, regulation in India.  Many local companies or international companies working in India are doing phenomenal job, complying with international regulations.  However, the Indian regulations in terms of medical device and medical data is still in an evolutionary mode.  It will be great to see a full Indian regulation in place together with a controlling agency making sure the regulations are strictly followed.

Does ANSYS have any play in the field of analytics for healthcare?

Healthcare analytics is still marginal activity for ANSYS today due to the ongoing learning process to model the evolution of pathologies.  But because of the predictive nature of engineering simulation the vision is to use this technology to quickly extend the existing set of data by virtually considering additional and possibly extreme cases. Simulation will then allow to populate healthcare analytics with possible situations before they actually occur.

With your experience of the Indian healthcare market, do you feel the technologies that IT innovations are developing are being utilised adequately?

We need to be patient because it will take time to fully exploit this emerging technology in India as well as in the rest of the world.  The Infant Mortality rate in India is 40 per 1000 live births. IT Innovation, among others, will radically change that, saving millions of lives in India, improving the life of more than a billion Indians. This won’t happen in immediately.  It is therefore very important that IT Innovations are developed in India to take Indian specificities into account.

What more do you think can be done to ensure IT helps meet the market needs of the healthcare market- in India?

I think we have most of the building blocks in hands today.  We just need to assemble them in a myriad of different combinations. But for that we need 3 things:

a.  Creativity and imagination of the engineers working closely with the clinicians to find out which problems to address  on priority and validate various possible solutions

b.  We need to create a concrete demand.  Everybody would need access to such world class health care but very few can afford it.  We need to democratize the access to health care to create a much bigger demand able to sustain medical research and innovation.

c.  We need the support of the authorities in terms of regulation and funding.  This is anyway a very good investment for any government when we understand that health care costs ~ 10% of GDP of most European countries and more than 16% of the USA GDP. By detecting the pathologies early and treating it in its early stage, the cost of health care decreases rapidly potentially leading to major savings for each country in the mid-term.

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