2022 was a landmark year for Huma. Our consistent focus throughout 2022 and into 2023 continues to be on building quality partnerships that allow us to collaborate and deliver on our mission, enabling people to live longer, fuller lives.
In March, we announced our pioneering partnership with the world-leading pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca (AZ) to scale innovation in digital health. Our history of close cooperation and a shared ambition to improve clinical outcomes makes for the perfect partnership. Together, we’ll be united by a shared mission and drive to deploy digital health solutions that bridge the gap between patients and clinicians and advance diversity through hybrid and decentralized clinical trials.
We spoke to Abby Staible, AZ’s Director of Commercial Digital Health, to explore her thoughts on how our pioneering partnership will accelerate the impact of digital health technology.
Q: In March we announced our digital partnership. How has this pioneering venture evolved since then?
A: It has been an absolute whirlwind. When we started, we didn't know each other at all. It was a massive ambition. AstraZeneca is a large pharmaceutical company, with 80,000 employees and we were partnering with a growth-stage digital health technology company with roughly 300 employees. We had to learn to speak the same language, understand each other's processes and through it all build trust. We had to really build from the ground up, working with our healthcare partners in the ecosystem to establish a go-to-market and deployment strategy, plan the technology build and patient journey mapping and think about everything else that goes into building healthcare technology.
We’ll soon be live in the US with our asthma platform with a pipeline of other healthcare partners for 2023, which is extremely exciting. We've completed a virtual ward solution in partnership with some of the clinical teams in the NHS that will align with the NHS as virtual ward efforts across multiple disease states. We focused on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to start and we're looking at expanding across multiple geographies.
I can honestly say it's people that made that dream a reality and I couldn't be more proud of the organizations and sitting here seeing what we've accomplished. From the very beginning, we aligned on what we wanted to do, which was to improve the care of the patients we serve. These digital platforms were a way to enhance the medical relationship between patient and provider. It wasn't a replacement. It was an enhancement. All with the shared end goal of driving better outcomes for patients.
Q: Why did AstraZeneca choose to partner with Huma?
A: The pharmaceutical industry, as one of the major players in the healthcare ecosystem, has had to shift its approach to engaging with patients and providers. Over the last few years, primarily because of the COVID pandemic, patients weren't going in to see their providers. Our teams weren't able to connect with providers because we weren't able to go in to those settings. We saw a massive rise in telemedicine then, but now we're also seeing a drop in telemedicine because that's only one point solution.
“We’ve been talking about a digital revolution in health care for years now, but we just haven't really seen the kind of match that triggered the explosion of innovation.” Abby Staible, AstraZeneca, Director of Commercial Digital Health.
As a pharmaceutical company, we’re looking to translate the phenomenal clinical research we do to build guideline-based therapies and clinical pathways, into clinical practice. And digital is the path to do that. But we have to consider the resource required to build and manufacture digital therapeutics. Of course, companion apps, AI and machine learning to identify populations at risk all come with regulation requirements, because you're dealing with clinical settings and patients' well-being. It requires a level of expertise from technology, clinical insight and change management, that doesn't typically sit inside a pharma company.
This partnership with Huma has been an amazing learning experience of how a large pharmaceutical company can continue to lead in this space by delivering digital tools at the point of care to patients and providers, but not distracting us from our core business: Building the best-in-class, clinical evidence to support the molecules that we're bringing to market and improving the pathway of bringing those molecules to the bedside, at the point of care.
Q: Is the movement towards digital healthcare slowing down?
A: Healthcare technology had seen a massive rise in external investments in the marketplace over the last couple of years, and then 2022 hit. We've seen a significant drop in that external investment. So there's a lot of fear and questions as to the viability of all of this noise that has existed within healthcare technology. But, I think this presents a phenomenal opportunity, as we look to 2023 and beyond.
For example, we know that patients with chronic conditions, like heart failure, don’t just have heart failure. They're comorbid. They have heart failure plus diabetes, and they're on their way to progressing to renal disease. So the multiple point of care solutions don’t work anymore, it needs to be a platform approach. And this has become the buzzword. We've heard it at all the healthcare technology conferences this year, and it will continue to be the buzzword, because not only have we created noise for patients, we've created so much noise for our healthcare providers. They work in the electronic health record, they do not work in 20 different dashboards that require multiple web logins, because their patients also are comorbid. These point-of-care solutions have their own dashboards that don't integrate into their workflow.
So with Huma, we wanted to build one experience, for both patient and provider, in a modular fashion. We needed to ensure we were going through only a short development cycle if we needed to customise the platform for a specific clinical pathway. And that we could integrate devices across numerous use cases. And of course, ensure all that data would flow to the provider at the point of care, not requiring 20 extra clicks. And Huma really accelerated that vision, because Huma built that exact platform.
“When it comes to innovation, it’s the companies and tools that are going to stand out. It’s the ones that have ongoing use, are truly patient and clinician centred in their design and functionality, and have scientific evidence that back that it does actually drive improved clinical outcomes and reduce cost, and at the end of the day, delight the users.” Abby Staible, AstraZeneca, Director of Commercial Digital Health.
Q: What's coming up for digital health in 2023 and beyond?
A: Generations are changing. We’re seeing a more technology-savvy, consumer-centric, experience appear. Patients are driven and very self-motivated to understand more about their disease and be engaged participants in their path, which means they are going to start demanding tools like this.
Traditional health systems will never fully be replaced because there's something truly human about the interaction when it comes to your personal health journey. I really see a world where these tools allow health systems to become more efficient. That kind of proactive versus the reactive way of care, technology can really enhance that, especially when it comes to identifying the patients at risk in a health system.
I also recognise that AstraZeneca is a large pharmaceutical company. Huma can't solve all our problems, it is no one solution. But Huma crucially has that partnership point of view as well. Huma knows that they bring a certain piece of the puzzle, but it requires multiple pieces working together to deliver a beautiful picture in the end. And so I think from a cultural perspective, that's what set us up for success because there is a true sense of humility. There is a mission to drive improved care for patients, and there's a hunger to collaborate and learn together. This is very much the tip of the spear of innovation.