World of 2030 Series: Interview with Dr. Nana Bit-Avragim

A comprehensive report by Deloitte on the current state of the healthcare industry identified 2 takeaways that support more digital health investment and innovation while still acknowledging challenges.

Here's what it says:  1) "Investment in digitization can lead to better usage of health data in research supporting personalized health care. Interoperability issues and risks around connected devices, disparate systems and processes, and pilot models that need scale to facilitate system-wide adoption are some of the challenges on this road to innovation."

And 2) "Digital technologies can improve engagement, enable convenience-driven access to care, and nurture a two-way relationship for the long term. Organizations that understand and act on how consumers would like to use digital health...and other technologies will likely be well-positioned to develop patient engagement strategies that help individuals make informed health care decisions."


So, data can lead to personalized care and organizations who embrace technology can better implement patient-centered strategy BUT there are still complexities to overcome. This sets an excellent context for a recent healthcare event as part of our 'The World of 2030' initiative.



The World in 2030: Future Services in Healthcare attendees at Scaling Spaces in Berlin.


It's a series where we host future-focused discussions on tech-enabled services and products – connecting experts to new audiences. Our August event focused on healthcare; make sure to check out the live-stream captured here. We invited some very special guests to the panel; they had a fascinating conversation with the audience redefining what health means, exploring our evolving relationship with data exchange, technology, bio-feedback, patient-perspectives, and the role of humans and machines.


DSC05514Panelists gathered with the moderator prior to taking the stage.


Calling in the Experts


Among these guest panelists was Dr. Nana Bit-Avragim, a physician-scientist with a focus on cardiovascular research. Nana rightly calls herself an 'innovation sherpa,' or catalyst for transformational change in health and care. She translates her digital health expertise and scientific knowledge into building next generation cross-disciplinary and collaborative ecosystems in healthcare.

Over the past few years, Nana has developed and executed multidisciplinary programs and partnerships between SMEs, NGOs, and academia as Director of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Charité Foundation, and Head of Digital Health & Life Sciences program at the German hub of Singularity University – an executive education organization based in Silicon Valley’s NASA Research Park.

Lately, Nana designed a tailored concept for the new Innovation Hub with a focus on healthy aging at the recently-founded Brandenburg Medical School; the goal is to build a network-based business model for digital health in the province of Brandenburg. As a mentor and advisor at EIT Health and Startupbootcamp Digital Health, Nana has been supporting several early-stage startups from the UK, Germany, Israel and Latvia. She believes in cross-cultural communication for HealthTech and serves as an ambassador for the Frontiers Health Conference. In 2018, she created and developed a new business concept for a community-driven health tech festival in Berlin, Xpomet 2019.

Nana was therefore an ideal voice to integrate into the conversation with the audience redefining what health means, exploring our evolving relationship with data exchange, technology, bio-feedback, patient-perspectives, and the role of humans and machines.


Looking ahead to the World in 2030


In addition to Nana, we also spoke with Dr. Christian Dierks (from Dierks Consulting), Christian Rebernik (CEO from Vivy Health, a digital health record personal assistant), Jens Grudno (CEO from AssistMe delivering precise and connected elderly care systems), Miriam Schnürer, (head of Healthcare Consulting from BWI GmbH (IT company for military and government.)


Panelists discussing future products and services in healthcare.


One key point from Nana's fellow panelist Miriam (pictured below), was that in most industries, companies design what they think users need, and customers buy it. But in HealthTech you have to change the whole business model and how the communication works around that, ideally placing the patient, or user, at the center.


Miriam Schnürer from BWI explaining how HealthTech requires new business models.


Let’s dive into an Interview with Nana


Welcome, Nana! What was your impression of the panel exchange? What major takeaways did you find on the importance of collaboration across the medical world/hospitals?

It was quite a lively exchange with the event participants, as well as across the panel itself. Thanks to a structured moderation by Dr. Regina Vetters (Head of Digital and Innovation from BARMER), we could cover various topics to compare the German healthcare market with other international locations, such as Scandinavian and Israeli ones.


Christian Rebernik from Vivy in discussion with moderator, Regina Vetters


What’s the most interesting healthcare problem you are solving?

I am building ecosystems in healthcare and aiming to change the traditional understanding of medicine as a specific and somewhat privileged field. As 21st century medicine evolves to become more technologically equipped and user-centric, it requires cross-communication and multidisciplinary dialogue yet that differs from the pace of the IoT world. In HealthTech, we have been expanding new categories of users, which can be physicians, hospital providers, scientists, and of course - patients. This means the current healthcare system should be developed as a circle of players, or network, rather than a hierarchical or unidimensional structure.

What’s the most disruptive technology or startup on your radar at the moment?

Digital Therapeutics is a novel and highly emerging field of medicine where I can see a lot of potential benefits especially for patients with chronic conditions. It offers broad patient-focused programs with treatment information, affordable lifestyle and condition trackers as well as other communication and education tools delivered via chatbots, audio and telehealth. By 2025, the global DTx market is expected to reach US$ 9.4 billion).

What challenges do startups in HealthTech face? How have you seen them surmount those?

I think it’s all about the right communication between the right partners and players: user, customer, owner, industry, and investors. Plus, the usability of the product is quite important.

I also fully agree with some colleagues from the field saying that many digital health startups offer features rather than products, which makes their business models weak and unclear.

How would you advise startups in developing products? 

I have learned that a deep understanding of the earning models of your (potential) customers is essential, especially in the era of emerging outcome-based healthcare. It's definitely about reimbursement and how to approach the customer. That's why for effective product development, it’s so necessary to understand how a solution earns money and to find out whether it's a) the right customer and b) whom or what to sell or buy.

What will be the impact of new services and products on medical education?

In two words: enormous and transformational. It is absolutely critical to understand that current medical education is old-fashioned and does not equip nextgen physicians and nurses with knowledge of real (modern) medicine. We should rethink the medical curriculum and what emerging technologies will be involved, as well as how that can be implemented in the learning journey. I strongly believe that the next medical education model should be designed based on experiential learning cycle with integration of simulations, gamification and AI and VR/AR. I have seen already one of those excellent examples at Sheba Medical Center in Tel-Aviv, Israel and Coimbra University in Portugal.


Many attendees came from Berlin's startup network, which is especially strong in digital health


How are we doing on achieving personalized medicine and blending that with the challenges of AI?

There is still lots of hype - both regards to AI as well as personalized medicine. More funding of fundamental research and multi-disciplinary approaches should be offered by the government, healthcare and tech industries and private capital.

There seem to be two branches for health advancement. One is to live better, and the other to live longer. Which one do you think deserves more focus?

I am for living healthier and better through some useful technology, which consequently means a bit longer.

Thank you for your valuable time and thoughts!

Thanks for inviting me and holding this interview. I wish all NBT companies successful and sustainable growth.

There's More to Discover

Want to hear thoughts directly from Nana? You can watch a video we made with her here