Reimagining digital healthcare worldwide
Giving tomorrow’s patients, human and animal, access to the kind of healthcare they really need: Developing breakthrough treatments and inventing things for markets that don’t yet exist, BI X is Boehringer Ingelheim’s pacesetter when it comes to the future of digital healthcare.
Since 2017, the digital pioneers at BI X, part of IT, have been driving the development of digital healthcare solutions within our company. In a high-pressure health technology market, major strategic investors are becoming more active. Patient and consumer demands are shifting rapidly and often in unexpected ways. To keep up with the speed and volatility of future markets, BI X has been developed into a fully agile hub of 90 people in Ingelheim and Shanghai.
More than ever, BI X is tapping into Boehringer Ingelheim's worldwide “wisdom of the crowd” and building ideas right where we meet patients. Throughout 2022, Christoph Brabandt and colleagues of his have been on a regional ideation campaign, with special events in India, Canada, and the United Arab Emirates, and the journey will continue in 2023.
“We generate ideas both with the business units of Boehringer Ingelheim and through collaborating with external partners such as start-ups, tech companies and academia,” Christoph explains. “We are constantly expanding our innovation network and developing for global markets. Besides this, numerous ideas come from BI X colleagues themselves.”
Before deciding whether to pursue or reject an idea, BI X rigorously validates it in terms of economic viability, user desirability, and technical feasibility, determining its unique product-market fit.
The following projects exemplify the success stories written by BI X, IT and the business. The selection is based on the different BI X ideation processes.
Consanas Cloud Internet Hospital
Stroke patients not only depend on immediate care but also on subsequent rehabilitation exercise. Access to both is a challenge in many countries around the world. To tackle that problem, BI X Shanghai has now played an integral part in launching Consanas Cloud in China, an internet hospital leveraging the potential of digital healthcare. The cross-functional co-creation between the Human Pharma business, BI X, and IT was critical to the success of the initiative.
“To assess which individual stroke rehabilitation treatment is needed, Consanas Cloud uses AI technology and a video chat function for stroke patients and healthcare professionals,” says Product Owner Yi Yang who is part of Boehringer Ingelheim’s Human Pharma business unit.
After assessments, including video capture of the patient’s range of motion, the algorithm helps the doctor and therapist assess the patient’s body status and prescribe a treatment plan. The daily exercise plan is supervised by the algorithm through the patient’s smartphone camera.
“Offline treatment is expensive, takes more time, and is simply not accessible to everyone,” says Johannes Floeckner, Head of BI X Shanghai. “Algorithms support and monitor the daily exercise, but real physicians stay part of the individual treatment.”
ASAP (Augmented synthesis and analytical data based process development)
As soon as possible. The project abbreviation is a great fit because it actually stands for an accelerated process development for chemical active ingredients. Alexander and Florian, who work in this area, even talk about "process development 4.0".
In order to develop a reliable process with which a chemical active ingredient can be produced in very high quality in large quantities, hundreds of experiments and analyses as well as a lot of paperwork have been required. With ASAP, the entire workflow is now digitized – all resulting data is stored and evaluated in a structured system. "ASAP is a bit like a food processor: Once you have decided on a recipe, ASAP intuitively assists the laboratory employees of Chemical Development through the experiment," says Alexander Haydl. All values can be processed automatically, and the artificial intelligence behind them uses machine learning to create time-saving predictions for future experiments. "Data analysis is at the heart of ASAP," Alexander continues, "which will be mature and usable for our users by mid-2023."
Florian Seidel is already very satisfied with the current status of data collection and harmonization. And the fact that ASAP is being used by more and more employees gives him hope for the future: "Not only ours, but also many other areas at Boehringer Ingelheim can benefit from ASAP."
The access to healthcare is one challenge when it comes to treating a disease, a healthy lifestyle including medication adherence is another. To tackle this problem in a country with chronic diseases on the rise, our Mexican colleagues already started a medication adherence campaign a few years ago. “It was fully analogue in the beginning,” Orlando Carrasco from the Human Pharma business unit remembers, “but we started to wonder whether a digital multi-disease patient support platform would be the next step we could take.”
In early 2020, just before the COVID-19 lockdowns started in Mexico, BI X colleagues visited Orlando in Mexico City and began working on a digital solution collaboratively. With a positive outcome: The online tool could be brought to market and significantly increased the average medication adherence rate of the participants by five months. After five 1:1 sessions via phone, the users are considered graduates of Medicoach and subsequently take part in digital follow-ups for around six months to continue living a healthier lifestyle. “The doctors currently invite persons with type 2 diabetes, hypertension, COPD and asthma to the program,” says Orlando, “but we consider expanding its reach due to its universal approach.”
Co-creating the future of healthcare
BI X's new COO Christian Tressel says: "Together with all business units and our external partners like the global innovation platform Startup Creasphere by Plug and Play and 5-HT Digital Hub Chemistry & Health, there are great opportunities to be taken. BI X meets all the criteria for being the perfect partner to scout, ideate, develop, and jointly with IT implement innovative digital solutions. We are excited to partner up with more business units that want to join us in pioneering digital healthcare.”