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Oliver Fleetwood, Alex: “insights from wearables can completely change people’s relationship with their health and wellbeing”

The healthcare industry has already been under a lot of pressure, yet the pandemic brought an even greater, devastating need for the implementation of advanced cyber tools.

Now more than ever, the practice of social distancing encourages the usage of online video and phone communication instead of in-person contact. That saves tons of time and resources, as well as facilitates medical work.

Today, Cybernews guest Oliver Fleetwood, Co-Founder of Alex, shared his knowledge and insights about existing vulnerabilities and upcoming opportunities in the healthcare industry.

How did Alex Therapeutics originate? What has your journey been like?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been proven effective in treating a wide range of mental health disorders and can be immensely powerful – but it is still vastly underutilized. So my co-founder, John, and I originally set out to bring evidence-based psychology into a digital setting, personalizing the treatments using AI and making them widely accessible to people.

We have since then stayed true to our goal. Our first product launched in 2018 focused on smoking cessation, but we are now also developing products for various diseases and disorders, for example, to help chronically ill patients with anxiety.

Can you introduce us to what you do? What is Digital Therapeutics?

Digital therapeutics (DTx) products are medical interventions made of evidence-based, clinically evaluated software. They are made directly available to patients, often in the form of an app, and are used in both treatments and preventative care for a variety of psychological and medical conditions.

Alex Therapeutics provides a platform that enables our partners to effectively and reliably launch new digital therapeutics (DTx) by leveraging existing insights, modules, processes, and data.

You often mention that not all health apps available today can provide valuable insights or solutions. What features do they lack?

With the risk of overgeneralizing, many consumer lifestyle apps that have an appealing user interface are not using scientific methods and provide little evidence of actually helping their users.

On the other hand, clinical products and many digital therapies founded on research often neglect the user experience. We seek to close that gap, bringing intuitive and functional user experience and design into the clinical space.

How did the recent global events affect your field of work? Were there any new challenges you had to adapt to?

Compared to companies in other industries, we shouldn't complain. The pandemic has really accelerated the interest in DTx. When the healthcare system is under pressure, and people are encouraged to avoid physical contact, autonomous digital systems such as our products become very appealing.

That being said, there have been challenges too. For example, patient recruitment to clinical studies has been problematic due to Covid-19. Another issue has been fundraising, where global events tend to make investors cautious. Luckily, that worked out well for us in the end.

Since health is your main field of focus, how do you think the well-being industry is going to evolve in the upcoming years?

Many parts of this industry have already been revolutionized by technology, and that transformation will continue for many years to come. I think we’ll see digital solutions such as telemedicine and DTx play an increasingly important role in healthcare. In addition to that, the insights from wearables and biosensors, etc. can completely change people’s relationship with their own health and wellbeing.

My hope is that technology will help push stakeholders to give preventative care more attention and resources. I mean, why wait until your car breaks down if you can avoid it by servicing the engine on a regular basis? Why should we treat our physical and mental health any differently?

What would you consider the main security threats that the healthcare industry is facing today?

When it comes to cybersecurity, most security threats to the healthcare industry are probably shared with many other sectors and include everything from poor employee security training to ransomware attacks.

The primary threat, however, I believe is unauthorized access to patient data. There’s almost a paradox here: patients should be in control of their own data, but by giving them (remote) access to it, we also increase the probability of unauthorized access.

Moreover, we need pragmatic laws and regulations around data security which allow user-friendly applications and processing of data for research purposes in an ethical way.

What other parts of our daily lives do you hope to see digitized or automated in the next few years?

I’m still waiting for the internet of things to really kick off. Our workplaces, homes and household appliances, and so on, could be automated, monitored, and controlled by digital solutions.

In this age of ever-evolving technology, what do you think are the key security practices both businesses and individuals should adopt?

Limit access to data, follow best practices instead of inventing your own, and use common sense.

Share with us, what does the future hold for Alex Therapeutics?

We currently have products going into a clinical trial and are, of course, extremely excited to see the outcome of those. Otherwise, we’ll focus on bringing existing products to new markets while simultaneously developing new treatments and bringing our DTx platform to the next level.

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