Are we patient-centric enough in Digital Health?

This is the theme I was invited to speak about in October at the Med-Tech World Summit in Malta’s capital Valletta. The event was held at the Mediterranean Conference Centre, originally built as a hospital in the 16th century by the order of St. John. The building was known as Sacra Infermeria – or the Holy Infirmary – and provided care for wounded soldiers at the time. It was a great setting for a conference focused on the future of healthcare.

Five smiling persons in a panel discussion setting.

I had the honour to share the stage with four other healthcare professionals or leaders in the domain, all of whom agreed on a global level that we are not patient-centric enough in Digital Health. However, a lot has been done though to be more and more patient-centric with the use of technology.

What made our discussions so lively and enthusiastic at the conference was that we all represented different views towards patient-centricity. My design-led approach was complemented by views on patient-data ownership, the importance of ecosystems, and how patients should be involved and rewarded in co-creating models. These four elements represent important angles on improving patient-centricity yet there is more. Overall, lack of patient input is seen a critical challenge as are absence of patient voice in prioritizing topics and lack of patient-centred terminology standards. We all agreed that multidisciplinary collaboration is the key in improving patient-centricity. And more so, keeping the patient in the central focus when developing Digital Health.

We also had an active audience that both challenged our views and added excellent contributing questions. A diversity of insights always makes for the best discussions.

Where innovation meets investment

The conference offered an intimate and accessible setting for those involved with developing and investing in med-tech innovations. There were also research posters presented to offer view on the latest research developments. Panel discussions united investors and entrepreneurs from around the globe, and healthcare practitioners and solution providers. Presentations showcased the latest cutting-edge research, technology, and other innovations that are reshaping the global healthcare landscape.

Themes varied from exploring the ethics of big data use in healthcare, to the role of digital in primary care. There was also discussion around the culture of innovation in healthcare and how artificial intelligence can lead to safer surgery. Topics such as raising cross-border capital, the role of policy and regulation, and software as a medical device received also important stage time. The conference overall offered a variety of topics and themes around the future of healthcare.

A lot of this innovation is of course also led by startups, many of whom had engaging booths presenting their business ideas, resulting even into investment negotiations. Startups also had the opportunity to participate in a pitching competition and the best ones got well awarded!

Patient-centricity or human-centricity?

The primary goal of the summit was to dive headfirst into the heart of today’s healthcare challenges that we all can relate to. It was essentially an opportunity to check the pulse of what truly matters.

One topic present in many of the presentations and discussions – if not most of them – was patient-centricity. Even more specifically, human-centricity. As a designer, and researcher, who drives all problems to be solved in a human-centric way, I found this focus to be very engaging, rewarding, and holding a lot of promise for the future.

Healthcare is human-centric by nature. Those who provide digital solutions to social welfare and healthcare should always keep this in mind. It should be at the centre of any work done, which means involving those who use the solutions to participate in co-creating them.

The goal should be to try and minimize the amount of time that clinicians and other healthcare professionals spend looking a screen – whether a computer, tablet, or phone – so they can maximize their time facing patients. We need to remember that the clinician experience ultimately affects the patient experience.

Research has shown that a positive patient experience affects their sense of quality, and often also has a positive effect on care results. To help patients and citizens participate more in creating their own care paths, the digital solutions we provide for them should be meaningful and inclusive.

If we develop products and services in a human-centric way – i.e. from the perspective of and with the contribution by those using them – then every entity in the chain wins: organizations, solution providers, social- and healthcare professionals, and of course the patients, citizens, themselves.

My personal key takeaways

I am grateful for the opportunity the Med-Tech World Summit provided to network with others in global healthcare. I am also thanking Oulu University for supporting my endeavours with a travel grant. It feels like we are all part of a bigger family facing the same challenges and setting similar goals to make healthcare more efficient and human-centric through the use of technology.

The conference also reassured me that the subjects of my part-time studies towards a PhD are well positioned in contemporary healthcare discussions on human-centricity and realizing the benefits of technology.

Human-centricity – in all of its many aspects – is the only way forward in building the future of healthcare.

Med-Tech World Summit

So what is Med-Tech World Summit all about? It is an event that provides an expert-led platform to explore the latest advancements in the medical technology industry and future of healthcare. A hub for knowledge sharing, it also seeks to facilitate lasting connections between companies seeking to showcase their solutions and those in search of investment. The event’s objective is thus to foster networking, facilitate investment opportunities, and promote the exchange of knowledge among industry leaders and enthusiasts alike to empower innovation, collaboration, and transformative progress in the field of medical technology. This year Med-Tech World Summit hosted a gathering of over 1500 guests and industry leaders from Europe, North America, Asia, Middle East, and North Africa.


Kaisa Kauppinen
Empirical Software Engineering in Software, Systems and Services

Kaisa Kauppinen works as Design Lead in the Care Lab at Tietoevry Care. Her work focuses on supporting teams in discovering and innovating on new products and business ideas within healthcare domain. Kaisa is excited about good customer and user experience elements, co-designing with multidisciplinary teams, and the plurality of human-centric healthcare. Her focus is always on doing good business with good design. Kaisa is also doing her PhD part-time, her research is focused on human-centered design and benefit realization.