Putting the patient first

digital wellbeing: Putting the patient first
Because of the aging population, society needs to solve the dilemma of increased personal demand for health and wellbeing services, while health budgets have reached their limits

SEQ Speaks to EIT Digital’s Johan Kortas about how the organisation’s health and wellbeing actions are focusing on patient-centric care and digital wellbeing.

EIT Digital, a leading European digital innovation and entrepreneurial education organisation driving Europe’s digital transformation, has a distinct focus on the theme of Digital Wellbeing. At EIT Digital, we do not primarily focus on patients and care but more on preventive measures, interventions and early detection in order to avoid an individual becoming a patient in the first place and, indeed, for them to remain healthy.

The organisation’s Digital Wellbeing Action Line Leader, Johan Kortas, told SciTech Europa Quarterly: “It is when we talk about patient-centric care, we are referring to the provision of personalised solutions which will enable patients to cope with a chronical condition (whether mental or physical) in the best possible way in order to make the chronic condition more bearable and to avoid further decline.

“At EIT Digital, we focus on different target groups:  professional workers in occupational health, as well as on independent living, active healthy ageing and elderly people at home, Recently, we have also begun to place an increased focus on healthy youth.”

Patient centric care

The personalisation of health and wellbeing is a crucial development moving forwards if a balanced and healthy lifestyle is to be achieved by every citizen. Kortas said: “Because of the aging population, society needs to solve the dilemma of increased personal demand for health and wellbeing services, while health budgets have reached their limits.”

The Digital Wellbeing Action Line approaches this challenge by leveraging digital technologies providing prevention and early detection in order to reduce the pressure being placed on healthcare services as well as to help those with an existing chronic condition to cope.

Kortas explained: “Digital technologies, data analytics and in particular Artificial Intelligence all have a role to play here  through self-learning algorithms, the analyses of many cloud connected sensor devices, connecting to communication systems with (remote) health professionals, and providing data and insights faster to enhance personalised health decision making. But this also requires a human centric approach combined with the user-friendly exchange of safe personal health data for the prevention and early detection of and therapies for disease, as well as to help patients to cope with their conditions.

“Indeed, data analytics and artificial intelligence are an approach to problem solving and are technologies being used in some of our innovation activities.”

It is also important for all health and wellbeing stakeholders to see patients as individuals and to therefore acknowledge that they have their own unique, personal (care and wellbeing) needs during their lifetime.

EIT Digital is therefore stimulating innovation activities to use modular building blocks from which you can deliver personalised health and wellbeing services over aging lifetime, while still living at  home.  EIT Digital recognises that a higher adoption level – and effectiveness of new digital health technologies for providing assistance in a home environment – is possible through aspirational and easy to use digital products without stigmatising that the user is a patient.

For Kortas, while health data are becoming a source for innovation, there is the potential for what he terms “data pollution” to have a negative impact on privacy. However, the new European privacy legislation (GDPR) will, hopefully, now carefully control this flow of health data in order to prevent this from happening.

Cybersecurity and eCare technologies

Cybersecurity is indeed one of EIT Digital’s focus areas and, recently, EIT Digital scale-up DigiFlak (which is a part of EIT Digital’s Infrastructure Action Line), the Estonian manufacturer of USB/NFC devices for strong password-free multifactor network access authentication, closed an approximately €250,000 deal from participating alongside 14 European companies and universities in the Horizon 2020 CAPTAIN project. The project, co-ordinated by the Greek Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, aims to enhance the development and implementation of innovative eCare technologies with data privacy and data security features.

This is important when it is understood that most homecare systems do not offer ‘real care’ and, indeed, fail to empower personalised interventions. Furthermore, EIT Digital argues, they are unable to seamlessly ‘blend’ into a person’s daily life and living environment and are rarely engineered to preserve or improve physical and cognitive performances or to preserve mental health and social well-being of older adults. This limitation becomes a major barrier, severely limiting the use of technical assistance in a home environment.

Maxim Kostin; CEO of DigiFlak said: “DigiFlak helps companies and individuals to easily manage and fully protect digital identities and sensitive information with a hardware-software solution. In CAPTAIN our task will perform both the permanent security/privacy audit of all systems components and integration of necessary data protection modules and techniques blocking all identified threats. EIT Digital Accelerator has greatly contributed in opening up this opportunity for us.”

AI- or data-driven innovation

Kortas also told SEQ about several other AI- or data-driven innovation activities in digital wellbeing that are being supported by EIT Digital in 2018.  These include:

  • ELEMENT (2017, pursued in 2018): This is designed to provide the early detection of cognitive disorders such as dementia on the basis of speech analysis. Within this activity, AI is used in the following areas: speech recognition; machine learning for the extraction of clinically-relevant linguistic and paralinguistic speech features; fast neurological/psychological diagnosis support and early stage detection of dementia;
  • AIMOVE: This is a new initiative utilising AI in analysing human movement patterns. This will develop the early detection and efficient rehabilitation of work-related movement disorders. Here, smart algorithms are being developed for the analysis of human movement data, thereby allowing the system to suggest individually-targeted interventions. The service reduces costs substantially through the early detection of potential and existing work-related problems, improved clinical pathways, and the empowerment of the individual through knowledge and motivation;
  • Empowering elderly people. Another new activity, this is an application in which users, in particular older adults, prepare themselves for a consultation with a healthcare professional. Before a consultation, users will practice with a realistic, predefined scenario. User input is obtained through either speech recognition, for which the activity uses AI techniques, or the keyboard. Further developments in AI are underway to map user sentences onto predefined options in the action’s scenarios; and
  • CREEP: The purpose of this action is to provide a set of tools to support the detection and prevention of the psychological/behavioural problems of cyberbullying experienced by teenage victims. This objective will be achieved by combining social media monitoring and motivational technologies (virtual coaches integrating chatbots). Some important outputs are based on AI technologies: semantic technology (text mining, argumentation and sentiment analysis), and chatbots acting as a personal counsellor for (potentially) bullied persons.

EIT Digital’s support for a patient-centric approach is one that brings together the many different new and disruptive technologies and approaches in order to really put the patients and their needs first. And an awareness and thus consecutive focus on other important issues such as data privacy and cybersecurity should help to ensure that as the technology advances and patients start to truly benefit from an individual approach, this is not compromised by issues of security.


Johan Kortas

Digital Wellbeing Action Line Leader

EIT Digital


This article will appear in SciTech Europa Quarterly issue 26, which will be published in March, 2018

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