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Faculty participates to joint summit on innovation and entrepreneurship in healthcare

King’s and MIT welcomed entrepreneurs, academics, healthcare professionals and policy makers from around the world in an all-day summit at Bush House. The summit set out to explore what role innovators and entrepreneurs can play in overcoming global health challenges and create a safer, healthier, more prosperous world.    

Five speakers from the Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine took part in the summit discussing new ways to use innovation and entrepreneurship to enable improved sustainability, accessibility and quality in healthcare, while supporting and shaping the environment needed to maximise impact. 

Partnering to innovate and drive global progress in health  

With our healthcare systems bordering on “unsustainable and unaffordable”, coupled with underinvestment, Professor Robert Lechler, Senior Vice President/Provost (Health) and Executive Director of King’s Health Partners, highlighted the importance of building a community-based healthcare system – supported by specialist services.

Professor Lechler declared we must collectively focus on better prevention and health promotion and help drive innovation to reduce costs and provide better access to healthcare. He challenged the audience to think more creatively about our workforce and how diversification could create a fairer healthcare system where treatment is never related to someone’s wealth.

“There are lots of opportunities for innovation at every level in our healthcare system.”

Dr Andy Leather, Director of the King’s Centre for Global Health, said it was critical to engage with community and help entrepreneurs understand where they can play a positive role. Lord Nigel Crisp, independent crossbench member of the House of Lords and Co-Chair of Nursing Now, reinforced this idea by asking what entrepreneurs could do to help nurses – claiming “nurses are extraordinary innovators and entrepreneurs if they are allowed to be.”  

C the Signs: Entrepreneurship from the frontline  

Former King’s medical student and C the Signs CEO and Co-founder, Dr Bhavagaya Bakshi, showcased her new platform that uses artificial intelligence to identify patients at risk of cancer at the earliest and most curable stage of disease.      

By 2020, 1 in 2 people will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. Survival is inextricably linked to the stage of the disease at diagnosis. That’s why Dr Bakshi and Co-founder Miles developed a tool to help doctors catch cancer early.

“Early diagnosis has the potential to save more lives than any other cancer treatment in history.”

Covering the entire spectrum of cancer and cross-referencing multiple diagnostic pathways, C the Signs can identify which cancer or cancers a patient is at risk of and the most appropriate next step – all in less than 30 seconds.

How artificial intelligence can transform global healthcare 

With the incredible improvements in healthcare showing no sign of slowing down, artificial intelligence is more important than ever.   

Dr Jorge Cardoso, Senior Lecturer in Artificial Medical Intelligence from the School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences, argued that current healthcare systems are unoptimised and discussed how artificial intelligence and machine learning can repurpose and redesign them – revolutionising healthcare in emerging economies.        

The benefits of this technology are wide-ranging, saving doctors time and allowing them to focus on the things that matter most. Artificial intelligence enables us to find previously unseen patterns to deliver better and more personalised care, as well as automate expensive tasks to reduce costs.   

“Clinicians and hospital staff should not be wasting their time with menial tasks that are better done by algorithms; they should be making decisions, interacting with patients, and bringing humanity back into healthcare.” 

Dr Cardoso stated artificial intelligence is a key component in optimising healthcare systems. This process requires collecting, harmonising, curating and extracting meaning from data. It is usually very time consuming and slow without AI algorithms and appropriate infrastructure. He affirmed: “If we want decisions to be made in an evidence-based and timely manner, we need systems that are as automated and intelligent as possible.”  

Making healthcare more accessible worldwide

Accessibility and affordability in healthcare are two common priorities for policy makers in this field. And one way to ensure people get the care they need close to home is through frugal health initiatives.

Over the past decade, Professor Prashant Jha, Head of Affordable Medical Technologies at the School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences, focused on creating innovative and affordable medical devices – lowering costs and making them more accessible for patients. Professor Jha’s devices are aimed at “improving care for the many, not the few.”  

At the conference, Professor Jha shared his model of training and how he has used frugal thinking to “remove zeroes from the price of multiple medical devices.” Between 2013 to 2018, his team have created 7 devices, 13 patents, 5 start-ups, trained more than 150 innovators and touched more than 1 million lives. 

Despite these impressive numbers, Professor Jha claimed “people are my real products” and that “healthcare shouldn’t be run for shareholders; it should be run for the people.”

With the NHS facing its own research constraints, Professor Jha argued the UK should be looking to learn more from India’s expertise in affordable innovation. Some of those frugal innovation principles are now taught and applied at King’s to help UK’s hospitals save money and provide better care.   

Professor Jha also emphasised the importance of discovery and teaching our future generation of medical professionals outside of the classroom. 

“When you send students to the frontline, a clinic or nursing home, they develop sympathy – the most powerful thing a human can experience.”