Future of Pharmacy: Featuring Dr. Simon Kos. Beyond digitization of data, the future of health is a connected, integrated ecosystem

“Digitization does not equal digital transformation.” Dr. Simon Kos, formerly Microsoft’s Chief Medical Officer and now an industry executive in Australia, says he’s gleaned this truth on his career-long journey to accelerate innovation in health. Kos, who has spent his quest for innovation and solutions asking “what’s next”, says the answers lie in an interconnected ecosystem where data, knowledge, and engagement are seamlessly bound.

From early on as a doctor at NSW Health Australia who was focused on critical care, Simon Kos was surprised—and appalled—that technology wasn’t better supporting health professionals and patients. Not willing to accept the status quo, Kos made it his mission to improve healthcare through technology. The first step, he says, was to help push digitization—systems of record.

“I thought that solving the digitization piece would be a big piece of the puzzle. And it’s absolutely the foundation of this larger idea of digital transformation. But there’s so much more than that. I’ve learned that digitization, the place where many organizations are at now, is simply the first step. More importantly, now that we have the ability to collect rich data from a variety of sources—and the ability to see and track it over time, we need to ask: What’s next?” In other words, how do we effectively use this data to connect the dots with the end goal of improved outcomes—how are we using technology to serve health professionals, patients, and customers?

Technology permeates every facet of our lives and, with COVID-19 as an accelerant, there have been focused efforts around the globe to create better-connected systems. “There’s always been innovation in the health industry,” Dr. Kos says, “but occasionally there’s a revolution. This is where we are right now. More connected digital enablement has come into the spotlight out of necessity—and there’s no going back.”

Dr. Kos says that in the last year and a half, the power of evolving technologies and the necessity born out of the pandemic has changed our perception and expectations of care around the world. And while we have the foundational core in these systems of data and information, we are still seeing struggles as we attempt to answer that critical question of “what’s next?”. Globally, care teams are challenged to easily access patient information, collaborate across health disciplines and organizations, and to help make workflows better. In fact, there are many more questions to ask: Is more data helping our decision-making? Elevating our care? Strengthening communication? Helping people engage with their health? Dr. Kos has been relentlessly asking these questions—and more—and the answers live in the connective tissues of the whole ecosystem—within the self-perpetuating engagement loop from collecting data to end-user engagement.

  1. Systems of truth: DATA
    The foundational piece of a robust and well-functioning ecosystem is secure data collection from a variety of sources. Secure data can provide benefits of legibility and accessibility. With it, we can move to the next system where data is transformed into knowledge.
  2. Systems of insight: KNOWLEDGE
    Multiple points of information and different algorithms can aggregate, analyze, and give clear insights into a person’s health—potentially on many different, nuanced levels. Here, depending on the types of data collected, there are opportunities to see patterns and to connect the dots between different health realms. There’s potential for real-time decision-making—within the realms of predictive, proactive, and preventative care.
  3. Systems of engagement: ACTION
    This is a vehicle for a new model of care, intuitively allowing/encouraging interaction where people are at, and using technology to increase engagement between people and different care touchpoints. This is the place where personalized, targeted recommendations collide with tech, and meaningful engagement sparks outcomes for increased health and happiness.

As it relates to pharmacy, here’s an example of the above trifecta of systems working in harmony as an ecosystem.

Andrew has high blood pressure, and he’s started on some new medication. His pharmacist wants to keep her eye on how the new meds are working, so Andrew connects his information to the pharmacy dashboard. Just like always, he wears his Apple watch every day to keep track of basic biometrics, he logs his medication in his pharmacy app, and also, every Monday, he takes a 5-minute health assessment check in. After three weeks on the new meds, Andrew gets a phone call from his pharmacist to have a quick tele-chat about the new medication. His blood pressure isn’t improving, and from the stats the pharmacy sees, it looks like the lack of improvement is related to the fact that Andrew’s not taking his medication every day. Andrew’s self-assessments show he’s feeling more anxious than usual. That quick talk Andrew has with his pharmacist gives him the information he needs—it turns out that the side effects from that particular medication go away for most people after a few weeks. So Andrew and the pharmacist make a plan to try again and check in weekly to stay on top of things. Andrew’s pharmacist has an automated program that sends his information to his primary care physician so that the next time Andrew is there, his health profile has already been updated.

“These are exciting times,” Simon Kos asserts. He serves people and innovation with the relentless quest for answers: “How might we transform the data we have to positively impact communication, collaboration, measurements, AI, our workflows, mobility, flexibility—and even adapt it to create brand new models of care?” Dr. Kos says the solutions to today’s challenges are made more clear and accessible when we consider the entire care journey—the connective threads between a trifecta of core systems and their relationship to the people—patients, customers, and health professionals—who are at the centre of it all.

About Dr. Simon Kos

Dr. Simon Kos is a registered medical practitioner who has practiced critical care medicine in Australia. He has an MBBS from UNSW and an MBA with a major in change management from AGSM. He has worked in digital health for almost twenty years with Microsoft, Cerner, Intersystems and Next Practice. Significant past roles include global chief medical officer of Microsoft, CEO of Next Practice, and the co-chair of the Global Commission to end the diagnostic odyssey for children with a rare disease. He is currently a health executive with Microsoft Australia, a medical advisor at Next Practice, a mentor in the NHS Clinical Entrepreneur Programme, and an investor in digital health startups.


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