CSEM at the center of this health revolution
Personalized Digital Health
In terms of profound changes in habits, methodologies, and financing, healthcare may be the sector to undergo the greatest disruption from the ongoing digital revolution. The convergence of mobile information technology with mature scientific revolutions in biology and medicine has created the necessary conditions for a paradigm shift in the way healthcare is organized and administered—a move away from traditional medicine and toward what is being called “personalized digital health”.

These parallel historical developments, coupled with recent progress in mobile technologies and personal biological metrics, have opened the door to highly personalized health treatment both at the hospital and in the home. And where health and tech go, investment follows. By some estimates, digital health is said to have attracted over USD 4 billion in venture funding for the past two consecutive years. Public investment in the sector has also been on the rise in Switzerland, with both federal institutes of technology leading ambitious projects, including ETH’s Swiss Science Data Center and EPFL’s Lemanic Center for Personalized Health.

CSEM at the heart of the digital health revolution

CSEM’s research in the digital health domain ranges from innovative sensing technology for monitoring human vital signs to bio-signal processing. Our expert teams develop sensing and processing technologies in embedded, continuous, on-body diagnostic systems. Extreme electronics miniaturization (of hearing devices for example) and ultra-low-power Bluetooth connectivity are among CSEM’s flagship technologies in this field.

This research activity has a proven track record of transferring its core technologies to the Swiss medtech industry. The following successful digital health start-ups have issued from technological developments made at CSEM:

It is also worth mentioning that Finland’s PulseOn Oy (a Nokia spin-off) opened a subsidiary in the Canton of Neuchâtel in 2015 in order to reinforce its R&D teams; and that it won the Red Herring Award 2015—being ranked as Europe’s most valuable start-up.

CSEM’s Business Day World Café roundtable on personalized digital health

During CSEM’s 2015 Business Day, Ralph Mueller, professor and Head of ETHZ’s Department of Health Sciences and Technology, and Jacques Beckmann, Head of Clinical Bioinformatics at the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics in Lausanne, led a roundtable discussion on the future of personalized digital health.

The term personalized digital health comprises sectors such as personalized medicine, health information technology, the quantified self, the Internet of Things, and telemedicine. The major impact it is having is to shift healthcare from a patient-centered to a participatory, citizen-centered approach. These major advances in personal health are being driven—aside from the pervasive connectivity of people and objects—by the great strides being made in genomics and other “omics”, including proteomics and metabolomics.

One goal of personalized digital health is to harness the power of data analysis for predictive and preventative healthcare, in order for us all to live not necessarily longer lives, but healthier and happier active lives. The growing amount of personal health data available is making possible more and more personalized approaches to disease treatment and prevention. It allows us to classify individual patients into ever more precise categories, better predict risk, diagnose faster, continually monitor health parameters with mobile technology, and adapt therapies in consequence.

Open questions on health data

While the analysis of big data from personal digital devices has been proven to accurately predict consumer behavior, can the same be said for this massive amount of personal health data? One individual blood sample can be used to create a unique digital proteomap for a user, and personal devices and systems that use flexible electronics can provide automated diagnosis in real time; but will the assumption that the immediate past is the best predictor of the future hold true for personalized medicine?

Personalized digital health relies on enormous databases, and the biggest issue raised during the CSEM World Café Roundtable in November 2015 was the question of what happens to this data and who owns it. But perhaps more importantly, who should not have access to it and how can the citizen be protected from abuse? One positive step would be to put a solid legal system in place, in conjunction with ethics committees and oversight entities that would permit the proper and responsible use and sharing of the data without opening the door to misuse.

Whatever the answers to the above questions might be, the issue of educating both the general public and specialists such as doctors, caregivers, and policy makers about the risks and advantages of personalized digital health is one of paramount importance.

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