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Global Digital Health Festival 2020 – Virtual – Highlights

Digital trends transforming HealthTech

The inaugural ‘Global Digital Health Festival – Virtual’ brought together industry experts and CMS sector specialists over four days (23-26 November 2020) to analyse and discuss the role that technology is playing in the transformation of the life sciences and healthcare sectors - ‘Digital trends transforming HealthTech’.

The Festival covered:

  • the future of AI in healthcare;
  • opportunities for technology investment and collaboration in the sector;
  • data regulation within the sector;
  • challenges and opportunities for start-ups in the digital health space.

We also closed the Festival with a showcase of the latest technology from some of the firm’s equIP members, as well as a comedy performance and charity auction in aid of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF (Doctors Without Borders)).

Catch-up on the Festival highlights with our videos and summaries below.


Highlights and summaries

Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4

Day 1: Is AI still the future of healthcare?

Advances in digital technology and AI need strong legal support to make the best of transformative healthcare that deploy multiple partner collaborations and complex data sets.

The need for expert guidance was highlighted at the 2020 CMS Global Digital Health Festival which analysed how AI was forging new territory in scientific discovery and therapy and outpacing current rules and regulations.

Rafael Jimenez, Head of Research Informatics for Alzheimer’s Research UK’s EDoN Initiative, detailed how the project’s use of digital technology was raising hopes of early diagnosis but that it had to deal with a series of issues across IP, revenue stream and collaboration agreements, commercialisation, confidentiality and compliance. “These are areas where we definitely need help and guidance,” he told the audience in the opening session of the four-day virtual festival, organised by Top 10 global law firm CMS.

The blurred line between human and machine learning creation in digital healthcare needs discussion and definition, Ulrike Till, Director of the World Intellectual Property Organisation’s Division of Artificial Intelligence Policy, told the debate on AI’s role in the future of healthcare.

Current IP policy is not keeping pace with digital advances but, speaking in a personal capacity, she emphasised that regulations should not stifle innovation and added: “The more you learn, the more complicated it gets but it is good that we are talking about it.

The opening day heard about the power of AI to influence and direct healthcare with New York-based data scientist Youyang Gu discussing how he harnessed machine learning to generate an accurate coronavirus infection model to focus response to the pandemic in the US.

The presenters were joined by Ulrich Juknat, Johnson & Johnson Medical GmbH, to discuss IP ownership, liability and litigation issues that are coming into focus in the embryonic sector during the session’s full agenda.

Digital technology is driving rapid change in healthcare; the way it is researched, developed and used and it is essential that we recognise and debate the issues created by these advances,” said Nick Beckett, Global Co-Head of CMS Life Sciences & Healthcare Sector Group.

Healthcare is an exciting, fast-paced and collaborative sector but we must understand its pinch points so that it can progress effectively and thrive.

Day 2: Convergence & collaboration

Digital technology investment is an ‘exciting marketplace’ with innovation driving a radical recalibration of healthcare and ushering in a new era of collaboration and convergence. 

Everything from interaction with doctors and diagnostic tests to the buildings where care is dispensed is changing, a panel of experts told the 2020 CMS Global Digital Health Festival. 

The advances are driving increased value in healthcare but navigating fresh approaches to compliance, liability, GDPR and cyber security remain critical landmarks in the journey to improved outcomes for patients. 

Jessica McCreadie, Investment Director Health & Care at L & G – which is a top 20 global asset manager – observed that 2020 was a ‘standout’ year for investment, fuelled by ambition to make healthcare fully digitally enabled.  

It has been a record-breaking year for European health funding with an average CAGR of 21%,” she added, predicting continued IPO opportunities over the next five years with the patient becoming the ‘data controller’. 

The flurry of activity needs to be managed with reliable connectivity, added Roland Jakab, Head of Strategy Central Europe, Ericsson, and chairman of the Hungarian AI Coalition. 

The roll-out of 5G networks will create ‘ground-breaking solutions’ across society, he said, along with opportunities for companies to collaborate and share technology. 

Data transformation of the healthcare sector is ongoing,” he added. “Data will give us much more precise information about diseases and we will move from reactive to much more predictive healthcare.” 

The Festival sessions also examined the changing physical landscape of healthcare with Tom Morgan, Executive Director and Head of Healthcare at CBRE, and Patrick Lowther, Head of Strategic Projects, at Assura plc, highlighting the dynamic potential to use technological capabilities to reshape the physical infrastructure for the delivery of care. 

The combination of patients and physicians moving easily to telemedicine during the pandemic and smart diagnostic tests with remote monitoring means that providers can reassess their estates to create more responsive portfolios. 

Shuna Mason, CMS Life Sciences Group partner, confirmed that governments, healthcare providers, private firms and start-ups see benefit for patient outcomes and costs in digital technology but said that potential conflicts exist in regulations. Regulators are starting to intervene and their actions could intensify across telemedicine and medtech value chains. 

Investors in telemedicine and digital health products and service providers need to be mindful of the potential compliance and liability risks which can arise when things go wrong for a product or for a business in which they have invested,” she said. 

Jens Wagner, Global Co-Head of CMS Life Sciences Sector, said Day 2 of the Festival had demonstrated ‘the importance of health tech convergence and social care’. “If you want to stay in the business, you need to stay relevant for your healthcare partners and have to combine healthcare and tech,” he commented. 

Day 3: Data, Data, Data!

Data has the potency to supercharge scientific research, accelerate cures and therapies for rare diseases and fuel a dynamic healthcare industry.

But, as a leading European legislator told the 2020 CMS Global Digital Health Festival: “Right now, it is easier to donate your body to science than it is to donate your medical records.

Gail Kent, who is outgoing Director Data DG Connect at the European Commission, crystalised issues swirling around the potential of data in a compelling keynote address to Day 3 of the Festival.

If I want to donate my mobility data to the municipality where I am living, in order to improve their public transport, there is no system in place for me to donate my data in an easy and safe manner.

The EU Commission has just proposed a new Data Governance Act to help meet the challenge of liberating data for positive societal and commercial use.

With the right policy choices and favourable economic conditions, the European data economy is expected to grow from €320 billion euros in 2019 to over €550 billion by 2025,” she said. “The COVID-19 epidemic has demonstrated the critical role played by data and digital technologies to face unprecedented challenges related to public health, industrial production and scientific research.

She is convinced that new regulation will unlock the value of data, adding: “It will also make such data easier to share in a controlled manner with technical legal and organisational support, and build trust and common European data spaces.

Jeremy Rollison, Senior Director European Government Affairs for Microsoft, said that moving beyond GDPR opened new horizons for healthcare and other sectors.

The opportunity is immense and the outcomes are so positive as they touch people's lives. But we're also talking about some of the most sensitive data sets that are out there so rules around privacy and security become more important than ever before,” he said. “But we don't want to miss out on that opportunity.

Microsoft is committed to open data, he said, emphasizing that successful companies in a new era of data will be built on openness and collaboration.

Digital tools that allow data sharing without infringing privacy are being developed and hold a key to building a climate where the public is more comfortable sharing non-private data.

He concluded: “I think in a health context, and especially as we've seen through the pandemic, there's a tremendous opportunity here to leverage the data that's available, and the data that may be located across different regions, across different communities and different organizations.

The Festival also heard from a range of CMS experts on how data was driving AI advances and will form the cornerstone of next generation innovation.

Data is a fast-paced environment and the speakers revealed a vast landscape of opportunity along with the need to ensure that laws and regulations keep pace with the potential without acting as a handbrake to innovation,” said Nick Beckett, Global Co-Head of CMS Life Sciences Sector. “The presentations have been fascinating and thought-provoking throughout the Festival.

Day 4: Breakthrough digital technology showcase

An amazing array of breakthrough technology and digital start-ups is transforming healthcare but they all face challenges to realise full potential as the world races towards a digital future.

The triumphs and frustrations that characterise growth were detailed in a revealing showcase of innovation in the packed programme of the CMS Global Digital Health Festival.

Presentations from dynamic start-ups and powerhouse digital enterprises shared wisdom, insights and real-world experiences of the digital technology journey from idea through integration with a variety of stakeholders to successful exit strategies.

Stephen Bourke, co-founder of online repeat prescription service Echo, summed up the difficulty of gaining early traction with the NHS in England by saying: “It can look like a huge market, but it's actually a shoal of fish, not a whale. So it's quite hard to target and the margins are very tight.

Echo, which has been supported by CMS’s award-winning EquIP programme that nurtures start-ups, managed to navigate the stormy waters by concentrating on patient delivery and building a strong, internal culture.

Its service is now integrated with 97 per cent of General Practices and experienced a 370 per cent patient growth during the pandemic with its workforce tripling from 90 to 270.

The company, which was acquired last year by McKesson, the owner of LloydsPharmacy, is one of seven companies that have reached exit after starting with EquIP.

John Kaminski, EMEA Director at Care Communications, told the final day of the Festival how the company’s Voalte platform was improving workflow for physicians working in busy hospitals where they connect with care teams via multiple devices such as pagers, barcode scanners, hospital and their own phones.

We are looking to replace these devices with a smartphone, which essentially acts like a computer in the clinician’s hand,” he said.

The platform brings a ‘clinician’s tool belt’ together in one device to boost their ability to respond rapidly to demands and consult real time patient vital signs and diagnostics.

Anthony Waller, CMS partner and co-founder of the EquIP programme, outlined how the service offered bespoke guidance to each firm and went beyond legal expertise to create networking and investment opportunities.

The Festival also gave the floor to three promising start-ups to pitch to a panel of experts including Inga Deakin, Principal at Draper Esprit venture capital specialists, Malin Johansson, Vice President Europe HealthBeacon and CMS experts. Neurolytic Healthcare, which tackles issues around migraine, midge medical, which is pioneering a home based diagnostics technology, and Pharmaoffer, which connects API providers and suppliers, all demonstrated the ingenuity, ambition and drive that are core qualities of digital healthcare technology.

The Festival finale was an auction for CMS’s chosen charity Doctors without Borders and a themed performance from comedian Jim Tavare.

The Festival covered a huge range of interests and issues that are vital to advancing digital healthcare,” said Nick Beckett, Global Co-Head of CMS Life Sciences & Healthcare Sector Group. “We were delighted to achieve so much in four days and we are committed to playing an instrumental role in helping the individual companies and the sector grow. We saw quite clearly the ingenuity and energy surging through healthcare and giving promise of improved delivery and outcomes.


Portrait ofJens Wagner
Dr. Jens Wagner
Nick Beckett