On 9 November 2017, Pacmed won the annual Vintura Impact in Healthcare Award. How have they been doing since then?
Pacmed collaborates with doctors to develop decision support software. It does this by bringing a combination of medical expertise and machine learning to bear on the enormous amount of data available from the medical practice. With one click, Pacmed’s software presents doctors with the expected outcomes of various treatment options, based on the outcomes of the treatment of comparable patients in the medical practice.
In addition to the award, Pacmed won a €10,000 prize and five consultancy days from Vintura. Our colleagues Noël van Oijen, Aart Willem Saly and Fiona Suwandy helped them to further develop their hospital healthcare strategy. Together with co-founder Wouter Kroese, Fiona takes a look at the past year.
How do you look back on winning this award?
‘Things have been moving extremely fast since the Vintura award. Back then we had five staff and two interns, and now we’ve grown to become a team of more than twenty people. That’s why we’ve also relocated to a larger worksite on the FreedomLab Campus in Amsterdam. Our team consists of data scientists, doctors and people who are diligent about the development and implementation of the software.’
‘Previously, we were set up as a project organisation. For example, when we started developing software with an academic hospital, we often started practically from scratch. Now we work in product teams, which enables us to reuse a lot of programming code that has already been extensively tested and optimised, so that we can produce software that’s ready for implementation. These teams are now led by doctors, who ensure that the medical expertise of the academic partners and the needs of both doctors and patients in daily practice are even better taken into account in the product development. The teams also include data engineers who implement the software, and QA/RA managers who ensure that the entire development process meets all of the certification and quality management requirements.’
What has the award done for Pacmed?
‘Vintura has really helped us to make choices. There’s a lot involved in the rigorous development and implementation of software. We can’t take on all of the opportunities that come our way. Vintura has helped us a lot in applying our focus to the areas where we can make the greatest impact for patients and for keeping healthcare affordable. We now have three fully functional product teams, each one with its own focus: triage at the out-of-hours GP service, ICU discharge, and chronic disorders under GP care. A fourth team will also be starting next year to accelerate our work on oncology, surgery and more appropriate prescription of expensive medications.’
‘Vintura’s experience has given us a clear picture of how we can secure our position in the healthcare system by approaching the right hospitals and stakeholders. We also gained a lot of new and relevant contacts at the Vintura event (1), and we’re currently in discussions with them. We invested the cash prize in our work in GP care. After implementing our software for urinary tract infections, we’re now focusing on chronic disorders. The complexity, scale and impact of these conditions leads us to believe that we can do even more for GPs and patients in that area.’
‘My own role within Pacmed has also changed significantly. Last year I had a primarily unrestricted and external role, supporting product development from the medical perspective. Now I’m mainly trying to help the teams to make progress, as well as working on the larger partnerships. In addition, Willem, Hidde (2) and I have divided up the responsibilities to a greater degree. This frees me up to focus on strategy and the formation of structural partnerships. Incidentally, the days with you were a major source of motivation to think about the longer term.’
How do you see the future, and where will you be in a year’s time?
‘In our first years, we focused on opportunities to provide added value through machine learning. This meant that we were primarily working at a departmental level with academic hospitals. Now that we’ve created our first success stories, it’s time to move towards systemic implementation and upscaling, and to create the enablers that will allow us to realise the full potential of machine learning in healthcare. This is why we’re now setting up partnerships with the boards of various academic and STZ hospitals. We want to make them leaders in the field of data-driven, customised medical decision-making. These hospitals could play an important role in the creation of the healthcare system we dream of: a continuously learning healthcare network where the experiences of every patient contribute directly to the quality of healthcare for each patient who comes after them, and where the field controls the thorough development and implementation of machine learning algorithms.’
‘I’m hoping that our software will be implemented in the three focus areas within the next year, at least in the scientific setting. I also hope that we’ll be able to set up more long-term partnerships with academic hospitals and other research institutions that gather a lot of data.
Our technology still has a long way to go; the healthcare sector in general still has a long road ahead, but we’re in it for the long run, and fortunately we’re seeing a lot of positive developments and enthusiasm in the field.’
(1) The award won by Pacmed was presented during the Vintura Impact in Healthcare event in 2017.
(2) Co-founder and director of Pacmed respectively.
More information about the Award
Vintura gives out the Vintura Impact in Healthcare Award annually during its Impact in Healthcare event. By organising this event, Vintura hopes to bring the various healthcare stakeholders closer together and boost young, pioneering initiatives that could potentially have a significant impact for patients. In doing so, Vintura wants to contribute to realising better healthcare that is both available and affordable for all patients.