More than a buzzword? How ‘innovation’ is really helping us to reimagine digital healthcare
What does innovation mean to you? As EMEA Therapeutic Area Lead for Neuroscience and Pulmonary Hypertension (PH), this is a question I often ask myself and my colleagues. I believe only companies with a strong focus on innovation – willing to risk failure and with a penchant for learning – are capable of success.
The Covid-19 pandemic saw innovation accelerated at an exceptional scale across industries. Now, it’s time to harness this zeitgeist as we seek new ways of understanding how diseases affect people’s lives. Only then can we continue to drive life-changing innovation centred around the needs and preferences of those affected by the disease we serve.
Why is innovation in healthcare so important?
I draw a lot of inspiration from meetings and the yearly medical congresses – which are finally taking place in person again. I was even lucky enough to attend the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) congress in Seattle recently. These encounters provide a crucial moment for Janssen to maintain our focus on creative innovation, collective problem-solving and novel ideation, to drive further improvements that genuinely make a difference. Hearing our new CEO of Johnson and Johnson, Joaquin Duato, predict that the next decade will see more health-care transformation than occurred during the past century filled with me excitement.
It’s a theme that we see being discussed across industries. This was evident at the recent WIRED health conference. And while I couldn’t attend this year, I was excited to see some great topics on the agenda – the potential of genomics in disease prevention, the tech revolutionising women’s health, and how video games could play a role in medical research.
This focus on innovation excites me because there is an enduring necessity for betterment within healthcare. That’s because, despite considerable advances in health outcomes because of existing therapies and solutions, unmet needs remain across many diseases.
Let’s take pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) as an example – a rare form of PH. Thanks to better treatments and modern imagining technologies, average long-term survival has increased by over 50% since the 1980s (from 2.8 to 6 years). While this is excellent progress, we still have plenty more work to do. There is still no simple diagnostic to detect this progressive disease at symptom onset; even when it’s finally diagnosed, most people are in late-stage – which can worsen outcomes.
We need innovation to happen before and after diagnosis. That’s why we must develop better methods of predicting risk and intervening before disease onset. For example, there is potential to transform diagnostic pathways by shifting our focus towards prevention and early interception, using technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI)-augmented imaging.
We see similar patterns emerge in another therapy area I work in: Neuroscience. Despite being different in nature, this area requires new ways of tackling persisting unmet needs across nervous system disorders, including the ability to make earlier, more accurate diagnoses and better predict patient’s treatment responses.
Of course, it’s not just these therapeutic areas that require innovation – but the full spectrum of healthcare, from oncology where my colleagues are exploring the ground-breaking reaches of personalised medicine to multiple sclerosis (MS) and beyond.
Innovating beyond treatments
At Janssen, delivering game-changing medicines is only part of the equation. We put patients at the heart of everything we do, and therefore patient-led innovations are crucial for providing holistic care. To do this, we’re investing more than ever to understand what people living with serious disease want. With this foundation, we can develop new technologies and platforms that serve these needs and have a tangible impact on a patient’s life.
I believe that change can only come with collaboration. Within our PH and Neuroscience therapy areas, and across Janssen, we use this ethos to guide our success.
This collective understanding allows us to be bold in our ambition and push the boundaries to improve patient outcomes. In practice, this means we have developed innovative solutions that facilitate faster detection and diagnosis of PH and support the day-to-day lives of patients. This is well exemplified by our PH Human App – a novel digital platform that assists patients living with PAH through digital education and remote management, with an accompanying HCP companion to provide an integrated management solution allowing real-time monitoring of the wellbeing of patients by healthcare professionals. Crucial innovation like this is designed to improve outcomes and empower people living with PAH, as my colleague Daniel spoke about in his recent article.
Beyond PAH, Janssen is spearheading innovation in other therapeutic areas too. For example, in MS, our ExpressMS initiative has been designed to support meaningful conversations around invisible symptoms, which can be challenging to talk about despite having an enormous impact on people living with MS. While in schizophrenia and major depressive disorder, Janssen continues to investigate how digital health can support patients by predicting relapse, a persisting unmet need in both conditions. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg.
Matching our innovation with inspiration
I am proud of Janssen’s work in these areas, but they are just a part of a constant stream of fantastic innovations across healthcare. Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum – events such as WIRED health and AAN, bringing key stakeholders together to share ideas, are vital to driving meaningful healthcare change. To achieve our ambitious goals, we cannot do it alone.
As I look at the meetings I’ve attended, the people I’ve met, and what is planned for this year, I feel honoured to be a part of this world of innovation and am excited for what the future will bring – together we can make a difference for the people living with chronic illnesses we serve.
So, going back to my first question – what does innovation mean to you?
- Deshwal H, Weinstein T, Sulica R. Advances in the management of pulmonary arterial hypertension. Journal of Investigative Medicine. 2021;69(7):1270-80.
- Brown LM, Chen H, Halpern S, et al. Delay in recognition of pulmonary arterial hypertension: factors identified from the REVEAL Registry. Chest. 2011;140(1):19-26.