Tower Talks

Turmgespräche Rotkreuz

Improving the human element with digitalisation

There is a lack of consensus on what digitalisation will bring and what it will contribute to healthcare, not least because it is still in its infancy. This prompted Roche Diagnostics International in Rotkreuz to hold a Tower Talk – a public round-table discussion on the subject “The monitored person: Digitalisation in healthcare” – on Wednesday 13 June 2018.

TV presenter Marina Vila led the discussion between four experts from the fields of ethics, innovation and healthcare:  Stephan Sigrist, Head of Think Tank W.I.R.E.; Markus Zimmermann, Professor of Theological Ethics at the University of Fribourg and Vice president of the National Advisory Commission on Biomedical Ethics; Michele Pedrocchi, Global Head of Strategy and Business Development, Roche Diagnostics; and host Annette Luther, General Manager, Roche Diagnostics International, Rotkreuz. 

Digitalisation is driving development and creating valuable decision-making aids

Tower Talks Panel

Digitalisation is facilitating progress in healthcare at several different levels. “Personalised healthcare is at the centre of everything,” explained Annette Luther. “When we are developing medicines, large quantities of data help us provide tailored treatments and products.” 
According to Michele Pedrocchi, digitalisation is taking medical care provision to a completely new level. “Digitalisation is creating transparency and access to information that not only affect the patient, but which represent a broad resource comprising the experience of numerous people in different settings. The result is that we are gaining a lot more information.” However, the complexity of the information is pushing people and doctors to their limits. 

Roche Diagnostics regards aggregating and interpreting analytical results using digital solutions as an important future business area.

“The intention is not to take decisions out of doctors’ hands, but to assist them in their work by providing pertinent data management,” explained Annette Luther.

There is a major need for rules on how data is handled. Patients should retain full control over their data. Goal-driven, controlled access makes sense for research purposes because huge volumes of data will be required to identify meaningful correlations.

Putting people at the centre

In Stephan Sigrist’s view, one of the major consequences of digitalisation will be that we gain a better understanding of ourselves as humans. While this lays the foundations for individualised healthcare, the risk of being overwhelmed by the growing volumes of data rises with it. “Earlier diagnosis will mean that doctors will increasingly be dealing with healthy people who are ‘potentially sick’ because they are aware of their predispositions. This is where doctors’ role as advisor – and emotional counsellor – will become important.” However, he warns against expecting too much from specific applications of digitalisation and artificial intelligence: “The potential of technology gets overestimated. Even in the future, medicine is still going to need people to assess, make decisions and support patients.”

Discussing the issue of whether health insurers should offer people discounts or lower premiums as an incentive to have their health data recorded, Markus Zimmermann expressed his fears that digitalisation could also cause social injustice. “People who already lead sedentary lives will be penalised, and they tend to be the less educated. Education and having a job are important factors in ensuring health. They can also help to even out inequalities in life expectancy.”

There was unanimity that the role of doctors will become more important in the future, as they will be called on to interpret data and decide what is best for patients using a combination of experience, intuition and communication with their network. Digitalisation will produce a more complete picture of patients, freeing up doctors to concentrate fully on the human element.

Annette Luther, General Manager, Roche Diagnostics International, Rotkreuz

TowerTalks Annette Luther

“Personalised healthcare is at the centre of everything. When we are developing medicines, large quantities of data help us provide tailored treatments and products.”

“The intention is not to take decisions out of doctors’ hands, but to assist them in their work by providing pertinent data management.”

Michele Pedrocchi, Global Head of Strategy and Business Development, Roche Diagnostics

TowerTalks Michele Pedrocchi

“Digitalisation is creating transparency and access to information that not only affect the patient, but which represent a broad resource comprising the experience of numerous people in different settings. The result is that we are gaining a lot more information.”

Stephan Sigrist, Head of Think Tank W.I.R.E.

TowerTalks Stephan Sigrist

“Earlier diagnosis will mean that doctors will increasingly be dealing with healthy people who are ‘potentially sick’ because they are aware of their predispositions. This is where doctors’ role as advisor – and emotional counsellor – will become important.”

“The potential of technology gets overestimated. Even in the future, medicine is still going to need people to assess, make decisions and support patients.”

Markus Zimmermann, Professor für theologische Ethik an der Universität Freiburg und Vizepräsident der Nationalen Ethikkommission

TowerTalks Markus Zimmermann

“People who already lead sedentary lives will be penalised, and they tend to be the less educated. Education and having a job are important factors in ensuring health. They can also help to even out inequalities in life expectancy.”

Tower Talks - Public discussion events at Roche

Are you interested in social policy issues, future trends and our healthcare system? If so, why not join us for the Tower Talks? This new series of events will provide a forum for open debate on topical, visionary and in some cases controversial issues, and is intended to get you thinking, asking questions, philosophising and discussing.

For certain issues, we’ll be talking to experts, specialists and industry insiders from outside Roche. Our aim is not just to share knowledge, but also to encourage dialogue between the general public and scientists as well as experts from various specialist fields.

Each of the Talks will take place at one of our Swiss sites, will be in held in German only and be free of charge. 

Further Tower Talks are planned for this year. The dates will be published soon.