Photo credit: Getty Images

Is humanity overrated?

By John Nosta

President, NostaLab, and Google Health Advisory Board member

The debate rages on. As the compassion and perspective of the human mind clashes with the zeros and ones of artificial intelligence, we find ourselves questioning some of the very basic aspects of clinical care and even humanity itself. We stand at an inflection point in human history and marvel at the brightness of the looming singularity.

Well, at least some of us do. Others, perhaps grounded in a more practical world, look at technology as an extension of humanity and offer the advances of artificial intelligence less as AI and more as IA — intelligence augmented.

I would bet the consensus for the argument is the latter. After all, we are the stuff of dreams and conjure the majesty of the universe by the unique and superior systems of human processing and perception. Our brains are the supercomputers that set the standard.

But I’m beginning to wonder if our humanity is a bit frail. Our bones break. Our joints wear out. Our muscles atrophy.

See also: John Nosta: Top 40 Healthcare Transformers

And while our brains can uniquely stay sharp throughout our entire life, we still see the ravages of disease take their toll there, too.

Yet the profound advances in health tech will allow the real emergence of the “uber man” and offer a reality that is “uber human.”

 The uberness of tech will raise many questions and force us to look at the world in different ways — and these perspectives will put into question long-held beliefs that, for many, are the bedrock of society.

It’s inevitable. Smarter, faster, and stronger will be merged with the softer touchpoints of compassion, empathy, and engagement to reveal something akin to a bedside manner that is as predictable as it is charming.

See also: From Misfits to FitBits: CES 2015, The CLINICAL Electronics Show

Even the evolution of something as simple as chatbots can express this idea.

Yesterday, chatbot conversations were clunky, at best. They were largely contrived and provided a very limited communication or engagement.

Today, that has changed. And tomorrow these limited dialogues may well be indistinguishable from human chat.

But this misses the point. The conversation will actually be better in many useful and important ways. There will be no issue of embarrassment in discussing confidential health conditions or concerns. The engagement will be optimized across language, education, and even gender.

Simply put, the next-generation chatbots will provide an experience that is superior to that old, stodgy thing we call human conversation.

The examples will be seen across medicine, from taking an optimal clinical history to easy assimilation of the tsunami of data — from published to personal — that drive innovation and care.

See also: The Top 40 Healthcare Transformers of 2015

Our human abilities are being eclipsed by tech. And as we hold up humanity as the definitive life form in the universe, we need to ask ourselves a simple question: Is technology and AI man’s last great invention?

We cling to our humanity as a baby blanket. It keeps us warm and offers a sense of comfort.

But tomorrow’s reality will be very different. As patient empowerment and the accessibility of data establish a more collaborative nature of clinical practice, this dynamic will incorporate tech and redefine the human experience.

Tech will become us and we will become tech. And our myopic fears will be transformed to a new reality that gives birth to something more human, more capable, and more profound.

Rise of the machines

Predictive and preventative

Searching for your voice

Photo credit: Getty Images

Rise of the machines

By Ritesh Patel

Chief digital officer, WPP Health & Wellness

The 21st century is upon us with all its might. We are living in the dawn of a new tech era that will see the rise of the machines in all areas of our lives. Things such as driverless cars, robots, AI, and human-machine integration are enabling the creation of new business models, disrupting old industries, and creating new ones. The pace of change is unprecedented and happening on a global scale.

Its human focus notwithstanding, the healthcare industry is not immune. Over the past 18 months, we’ve seen healthcare begin the process of being digitized and robotized across every area.

Driven primarily by access to ever-more-powerful computing capabilities — not to mention the ubiquity of mobile phones and connected devices — everything is up for grabs. Entrepreneurs and tech behemoths including Apple, Google, IBM, and Samsung have entered the healthcare arena with great gusto. From smart clothing to wearables and devices, old tech is being replaced and disrupted. New connected devices, including medical mainstays such as stethoscopes and thermometers, are changing how we manage and track our health, how we learn about health and well-being, and how we go about our daily lives.

AI and machine learning are enabling the understanding of the large volumes of data produced by new tech and helping us analyze it. The three major areas of focus are drug discovery, imaging, and clinical trials.

See also: Ritesh Patel, Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide

In theory, the next blockbuster drug could be developed with help from machines that are already adding value to AI research and pharmacology labs. Companies such as Calico, BenevolentAI, and Deep Genomics are applying AI to upend the discovery and development sides of pharma. This rush to apply AI techniques to drug development is driven by the emergence of powerful new computing algorithms and a cost-effective way of sequencing the human genome. Within five years, the only successful pharma companies will have a culture of using AI tools.

Clinical trials is another area in which AI and machine learning hold a great deal of promise. Companies such as Verily, Deep 6 AI, and Medable are applying AI and machine learning to reinvent clinical trial recruitment and fill trials faster.

Imaging — radiology in particular — is seeing a major shift, with machines taking on the role of the radiologist. Israel’s Zebra Medical Vision successfully taught a machine to diagnose breast cancer from 340,000 X-rays. The machine has proven to be 91% accurate in its diagnoses — as opposed to exclusively human diagnoses, which currently track with 88% accuracy.

See also: WPP Health & Wellness | 2017

Banks, travel agencies, and e-commerce companies are using chatbots — on WeChat, Facebook Messenger, and elsewhere — to handle customer service and sales. We are also seeing chatbots handle simple diagnoses, appointments, and reminders.,, and Sensely are pioneering the use of such bots. China-based Baidu recently launched Melody to help ease wait times in the doctor’s office.

Siri and Google Now gave us a new way of interacting with machines, and the potential implications for healthcare are staggering. One can only imagine Gene Roddenberry doing a happy jig in the hereafter with so many of his visualizations coming to life.

AI, machine learning, and natural language processing have enabled Apple and Google to rule the mobile phone voice interface, but Amazon — with its cloud-based AI and machine learning, as well as the Alexa voice infrastructure — has taken the lead. Alexa and Google Home provide a voice-activated connected option, which lets users interact on demand with HCPs or caregivers. Imagine using these devices to provide virtual rep or patient management services. 

Telemedicine and remote monitoring are changing the way we deliver care for patients by connecting healthcare pros with experts and caregivers. The im-pact has been felt around the world, particularly in areas where access to a specialist is nonexistent.

See also: WPP to merge Ogilvy CommonHealth, ghg, Sudler, and CMI into new company

In turn, connectivity and data generation has kickstarted conversations about system interoperability and data privacy. One upstart tech that could prove a savior for healthcare is blockchain, which is perfectly suited to connect systems and enable patients to manage their own health records. The Estonian government has already deployed the Guardtime blockchain to manage distribution of eID cards to its citizens. 

And let’s not forget the medicine supply chain, now armed with drones capable of delivering medication to within 100 meters of an institution. Startups in the U.S., Africa, and Latin America, as well as companies such as Amazon, are hoping to utilize these drones to get much-needed medication to hard to reach areas of the world.

For marketers, this tech opens up a new world of customer interaction. Imagine using AI to manage your media and marketing, with a dashboard that shows you, in real time, what your marketing spend is doing. The data collected during clinical trials via sensors and machines promises to let us provide that holy grail of real-world evidence data to feed our market access and strategies.

Are you ready for the rise of the machines?

Is humanity overrated?

Predictive and preventative

Searching for your voice

Photo credit: Getty Images

Predictive and preventative

By Melinda Richter

Head of JLABS, Johnson & Johnson Innovation

In 1902, Thomas Edison predicted the doctor of the future would give no medicine, but instead instruct patients in the cause and prevention of disease. This was a bold statement 115 years ago — and yet by infusing the world of tech into healthcare, we may be able to actualize it.

We must continue to ask big questions. How do we prevent disease from happening in the first place? If disease is not preventable because of genetic mutation, how do we intercept it? If all else fails, how do we cure it?

Historically, the healthcare industry has focused on the cure portion of the equation. Inherent in that is a large financial and emotional burden to patients and to our healthcare system. If we’re able to focus on prevention first, we can mobilize and fund a global innovation workforce to tackle disease in a way that drives solutions to keep us healthy. Meanwhile, if we consider the genetic, environmental, and social implications of disease, we may not only be able to save lives, but also foster a more productive and cost-efficient system.

A first line of defense in prevention is behavioral health. How do we help people understand certain diet and lifestyle choices may not be in their best interest? Despite the challenges that come with that, an individual’s genetic code may still make them susceptible to certain diseases. Solutions around behavioral health and lifestyle choices have been undervalued because current commercial models for them are considered unsustainable for investment.

See also: Melinda Richter, Johnson & Johnson

This is where we can take a page from tech. Who could have predicted iTunes, at a dollar per song, would disrupt the music industry? Would anyone have believed Uber could create one of the largest market cap companies without any assets?

Herelin lies a chance to approach healthcare differently. What if we didn’t talk about people as patients, but as consumers of health? Who are they? What do they value? Once we better understand their priorities and pain points, we can build new solutions and business models that make prevention good business.

We’re already headed in the right direction. According to the CDC, both adult smoking and fast-food consumption are declining. The emergence of wearables and influx of data are helping consumers make better choices.

Although better understanding of caloric intake and sleep patterns is beneficial, we need to provide specific biological and environmental data, tools to help people understand it, and creative business models that will make accumulation and analysis of data sustainable. This will create more empowered customers and give physicians better knowledge to support them. It should also help redirect precious dollars to funding better solutions instead of acute care.

In this new world of personalized health and medicine, we can help people live up to their highest potential. By infusing tech into the spectrum of health, we may see exponential returns on many different levels.

Is humanity overrated?

Rise of the machines

Predictive and preventative

Searching for your voice

By Justin Freid

SVP, search engine marketing and emerging media, CMI/Compas

One thing has the potential to disrupt media more than any other: your voice.

Over the past few decades, we’ve seen people shift information access from print to TV, from TV to keyboard, and from keyboard to voice. As we know, search is the number one way people access information today. The evolution is that the search often begins with our voice rather than our fingertips.

For brand managers — in pharma and elsewhere — that can present enormous opportunity. We’ve seen mobile usage of Google skyrocket over the past few years. Whether it’s interacting with Google Home, Amazon Echo Dot, or an assistant such as Kortana or Siri on mobile devices, consumers will continue to become more comfortable accessing information through voice-activated AI.

Through our cars, mobile devices, and other in-home equipment, we are utilizing voice-activated commands to execute daily tasks. It’s only a matter of time before it becomes the primary way of taking action or accessing information.

This trend holds for healthcare providers, as well. According to our CMI/Compas Media Vitals 2017 research, 15% of HCPs surveyed are already using virtual assistant software for professional purposes. We expect that number to grow exponentially: 44% of respondents said they’re interested in using it.

See also: CMI/Compas | 2017

Pharma and healthcare brands need to start thinking differently about creative. Suppose a user were to ask Siri, “What is the best treatment for advanced prostate cancer?” One possible response — “learn more about AVP treatments,” or some other content that reads as if it were a paid search ad — will not offer the best user experience.

If you paid to be the top answer for that question, your creative should be intriguing and help guide users to relevant information. Depending on the platform, having a skill, app, or other element would help users move along the treatment path.

There’s also an opportunity for pharma and healthcare brands to begin thinking about voice search from an organic search perspective. Currently, if the AI leverages Google results, many of the responses being delivered are coming from quick answer boxes or a knowledge graph. While the code to crack these is still up for debate, we do know using schema markup and structured content can help that content be selected for these elements.

Brands should begin leveraging these SEO tactics today to future-proof their voice search strategy. Users of voice-activated search will be expecting a more human-like experience.

The future of branding is being spoken. Are you ready?

Is humanity overrated?

Rise of the machines

Predictive and preventative