Connected objects have a great deal to offer the medical sector, but we have yet to learn how to use their potential as part of the overall healthcare ecosystem.

Interview with Jean-Luc Treillou, CEO of integrated healthcare solution provider Laboratoires de Nutrition et Cardiométabolisme, based in Bordeaux, France.

What is the current situation regarding the way healthcare professionals relate to connected objects? Are there any partnerships in existence, any practical applications?

As far as I’m concerned, there’s absolutely no doubt that the convergence of connected objects and healthcare is going to add value. The question today is rather how such devices can be used to help us cope with the shift towards dealing with the new challenges posed by chronic illness. Connected objects are useful as measurement tools, but what is most important, the factor that will really add value, is to be able to integrate a connected object into an action sequence, into overall ‘patient centric’ treatment. It’s this integrated approach that is likely to turn connected devices into an effective tool in response to the challenges we face, especially as regards chronic illness. We’re certainly going to see health-related products being developed, but my vision is that these connected devices, instead of being mere measuring tools, will be able to lead the patient towards a new quality of life. So we need to see how we can use connected objects, how we can incorporate them into the way we work if they are to have a real impact on the lifestyle of a patient suffering from a chronic condition.

What benefits can connected objects bring to medical procedures?

If we’re talking about chronic medical conditions,connected objects could be used at various stages: firstly to prevent illness appearing; and secondly, once the patient is actually suffering from an illness or from a particular condition, the connected object can help him/her to build a more appropriate lifestyle. For example, we’re currently working on connected objects for pre-diabetic patients in order to prevent them developing Type 2 diabetes. But at the same time we’re looking to incorporate the device into the overall healthcare ecosystem. Quite apart from the health of the patient, we can make considerable savings in health costs if we can prevent an incapacitating condition arising in the first place. Today there are 350 million diabetics worldwide, plus 315 million pre-diabetics who are set to become the diabetics of tomorrow. Subsequently, once a patient has been diagnosed as diabetic, we can provide support. For example, in the case of post-operative care for a patient suffering from hyper-obesity, it’s a real advantage to have a tool already in place. This means we can care for the patient over a long period, over several years. We can provide help and support to the patient over time and then alert  him/her or the doctors when danger arises.

What are the obstacles to using a similar approach in other areas of medical care, especially as regards digital medical records?

Two factors are going to be key to the future of connected objects in medicine. On the one hand, the authorities will have to draw up regulations and put in place a structure for addressing data security with regard to personal health records– and one which has the unanimous support of both doctors and patients. The number one issue, however, is healthcare as a business. The sector will need to demonstrate to potential investors, including for example the state bodies and insurance companies, that a connected object is not simply a gadget, but something that really adds value to patient treatment, within an overall patient support system. It’s only when we have surmounted this obstacle that connected objects will come to be widely used as part of patient care programmes.

By Quentin Capelle