Portraits in Digital Health – Josep Carbó

I had the pleasure of meeting Josep at the Barcelona Health Hub launch. He has been a central player in the developing Digital Health scene in Barcelona.

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What did you work on in 2018?

2018 has been an extremely intense year with a twofold orientation. First and foremost continuing with the development and expansion of Mediktor all around the globe. We have partnered with amazing players in the industry and have started our expansion in the US which is a key market for us. We have continued proving Mediktor ‘s unparalleled level of accuracy with clinical trials scientifically relevant and we have increased our team in all the areas. On the other hand 2018 has seen the birth of Barcelona Health Hub, a community to accelerate the adoption of innovation in the health care industry by putting together all the players (startups, corporates, investors and clinical institutions) in an iconic venue like Recinte Modernista Sant Pau, the biggest Art-Nouveau venue, heritage of the Unesco. More than 2,500sqm where the community can share, learn and contribute to foster innovation

What emerging technologies do you think will advance Digital Health?

Not sure if they are so emerging already but of course AI/Machine Learning is my clear bet. Having said that, I think that technologies should only interest all of us partially. Our aim should be shaping integrated solutions that make things easier for the key players of the ecosystem: first patients, then clinicians,… Technologies are only a mean to reach that aim, but by far, are not the main challenge. Adoption, utilization, behavioral change, new incentives,… those are still the core ‘technologies’ we need to worry about.

How did you get involved in the Barcelona Health Hub?

Barcelona Health Hub was an idea that came up naturally after more than 18 years working in a big corporate like Accenture and almost 3 in the startup space. With my perspective, it’s obvious that we still need to find better ways to make those two worlds work better together. Real innovation comes from Startups but Corporates are the ones with the trust and confidence of the market. They need each other to succeed but their cultures and timing are completely different. Together with my colleagues at Mediktor, we thought that putting those players together and adding investors and clinical institutions to contribute to the required funds and clinical validation respectively would be the perfect recipe. And it really looks like it is.

In 3 months, Barcelona Health Hub has attracted partners like HiMSS, DKV.ERGO, Pharmalex, DIA, Community of Insurance, Zurich-Santander Insurance America, BraninCats, and the most promising startups like Social Diabetes, Medtep, Psious, Bitac, Iomed, Elma, Virtual Body Works, Universal Doctor, and of course, Mediktor. With the new partners about to come 90% of the space is already booked.

Why Barcelona?

Well, Barcelona is an extremely attractive center for innovation. The city keeps ranking better and better in any aspect you may consider relevant for innovation: talent available, quality of life, communications, incentives to innovation,… Not surprisingly Barcelona is recurrently selected by a variety of big corporations to host their innovations centers: Amazon, Facebook, Sanofi, Nestlé are only a few of the most recent examples. Barcelona Tech City, another of our partners in BHH has also proven that in recent years.

On the other hand, we had the unparalleled opportunity to host the Hub at Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau, the biggest Art-Nouveau venue in the world heritage site of the Unesco and that for the last 100 years hosted one of Barcelona’s top hospitals. That is an iconic venue, absolutely jaw-dropping for visitors. And even beyond that, within the same campus, we still have the new Sant Pau Hospital (+1000 beds), the schools of Medicine and Nursery of Universitat the Barcelona and 11 centers of Research including the brand new one of Hospital Sant Pau. Literally, we couldn’t imagine a better place in the world to host the Hub.

As the cherry in the cake, our ambition in the  Hub is absolutely global, and if there is one thing I learned traveling the world is that everyone loves to come to Barcelona, and we are proud and happy to host everyone at home.

What advice would you offer digital startups?

I would highlight 3 particularly for startups in the health care industry:

  • Know well the industry: its players, interests, incentives,… there are still a lot of naïf approaches in the industry.
  • Make things simple. Let digital help you achieve that.
  • You are going to need clinical evidence. Sorry about that

If you could change one thing in Digital Health, what would it be?

Not in digital health, but in health care overall: Incentives. Right incentives are the key driver to align behaviors. Health systems claim they want to offer the best experience but if clinicians are economically incentivized to physically meet patients, they will call them at their offices as frequently as possible. Insurances claim they want to move from payors for your health to partners to help you be healthier but they try to limit their interactions with members as much as possible (particularly if you need care) and pharma keeps claiming ‘from product to services’ but are reluctant to open new communication channels that may mean more adverse effect. There are not devils or unprofessional behaviors underneath those mindsets, it is just that the ecosystem in wrongly incentivized.

What do you think is the most over-hyped technology?

Big Data. While there are lots of things that can be done and that will be extremely useful, the ethical limitations and privacy will clearly limit those. I’m not saying that won’t be huge, but probably not as much as expected.

How important is an EU wide Digital Health community? 

It is as important but difficult to build. For sure Europe has its particularities but the granularity of the market is such that makes difficult to build a common ground wide enough: languages, reimbursement models, regulations, local players,… all those factors give shape to a big number of different ecosystems. That’s why particularly in Europe innovation should focus on technologies as flexible as possible to be plugged in the different ecosystems in the most effective way. Very closed, end-to-end solutions may find it especially difficult to scale in the EU.

How important is AI to healthcare?

I would say it is the most important game changer in the industry. But only if we do not only see it as a technology. I like to use AI for the concept of Augmented Intelligence which is the result of combining Artificial Intelligence and Human Intelligence. Artificial Intelligence is here to help clinicians make better, more accurate, faster decisions. That is why clinical validation to build trust in clinicians is key.

What are you focused on in 2019?

Mediktor’s growth and expansion globally is the focus. US and Asia (India, China, Singapore mainly) are the key targets for this year. Beyond that,  Barcelona Health Hub’s consolidation will also be a priority for me personally. We definitively need that community to grow strong and we aim to continue seeing great partnerships between startups and corporates in the ecosystem.

Portraits in Digital Health – Josep Carbó

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