InnoKOL | Alberto Malva: Metaverse Is the Next Step of Telemedicine

2022/09/07 Innoverview Read

On Sept.7th (GMT+8), InnoKOL had a fascinating conversation with Mr.Alberto Malva, the Scientific Director at MedQuestio, talking about his unique work experience and the profound insights on the development of digital health.


Jokia: How would you describe yourself in three words? What’s your motto?


1)     I am a physician, still practicing doctor, a General practitioner precisely.

2)     I am an entrepreneur, since my team and I have the mission to solve unmet neede in new and untried ways.

3)     A people catalyst since we should always contaminate each other in good way, to put together energy and talent.


More than a motto this is my philosophy of life: It is “Fall forward”: cause there’s no way to achieve success without failure, and when I fail, I don’t want a fallback-plan, a B plan. I’d rather prefer to fall forward, at least a see what I’m falling onto.


Jokia: Can you please share more about your educational and professional background? And we’d love to hear what brought you to digital health industry.


Well regarding my educational and professional background: As I mentioned I’m a medical doctor by background, a general practitioner precisely, and still practicing doctor. I also work as adjuvant professor of Medicine in Rome University.


Regarding the second question, my journey to digital medicine: I first got in touch with healthcare industry working for a pharmaceutical company in Italy to discover new compounds. In 2017 we noticed that discovering a new digital intervention is far more doable than a new chemical compound. And that was just the beginning since through digital interventions we can change not only the therapy but almost any aspect of patient care. Everything started with this.


Jokia: The global pandemic has accelerated many trends in the healthcare, how the pandemic will shape the next wave of healthtech innovation?


The pandemic definitely disrupted how we had to communicate and deliver care since suddenly we were forced to operate in a social distance context. And the most – technically speaking – interesting thing is that we did it without appropriate tools and facilities, we were basically unprepared for that.


That was a great example of how urgency can accelerate everything: many process that were considered complex-to-implement, undoable and sometimes even dangerous begun priorities interventions and were executed with unprecedented speed. From that experience we take two huge learnings:

1-    From Doctors and patients’ perspective: the awareness that several interventions can be delivered digitally in a safe and effective manner.

2-    From Government and decision maker perspective: the awareness and the proof that digital interventions compared to more traditional and analogical health intervention can be more cost-effective and can achieve more people with more access to healthcare. We can’t go back now.


Jokia: How do you think digital medicine is improving patient care?


I’ll bring to you the current Italian experience. In Italy digital medicine is currently changing the way we take care of people. Everyday people and HCPs already use digital applications to:

1-    book doctor’s appointment

2-    to perform teleconsultations

3-    to virtually refer patient to specialist


Basically, what was mandatory during pandemic now is part of normality, so called new-normal.

This, practically speaking means more effective patients’ management, lesser waste of time for travelling, lesser waiting time, working time lost, and lesser pollutions.


Jokia: How will digital medicine improve the delivery of healthcare?


Well, looking forward to next few years I’m confident that the healthcare system’s future can be bright and brilliant thanks to digital revolutions. But we must take advantage of the opportunity, and we need to do it now. It is not an option.


Secondly, population aging will increase the need of health service and in this scenario health organization will soon have to cope with economical restrictions. This combination can be really critical if we don’t learn how to deliver healthcare service in a more cost-effective manner. And digitalization in the only tool to do that.


And lastly, the good news in that technology is already available out there, digital platforms and applications are by now commodities and can be easily found on the market at a reasonable price. But also, more advanced technologies for data analysis such as machine learning, deep learning and other artificial intelligence features as computer vision can be made with the right people and the right data in academic, public and private health organizations.


Jokia: From your perspective, how big data will accelerate the future of digital medicine?


Data are the bricks of every possible digital project, moreover in healthcare systems. There’s no future for digital medicine without full digitalized, structured and interoperable data.


Paper-based health records are unfortunately still the majority of available data but as long the remain on paper are useless. Electronic Health Records represent a gold mine, literally, for patients and healthcare organizations. It is up to every stakeholder to play his part to mine those data.


Thanks to digital data soon will be possible to do memorable achievements. We can have an accurate, always updated overview of each patient overall condition through a clinical data dashboard. Patients can be empowered to understand their conditions, be more self-proactive and less reliant on HPCs that will have more time for more complex conditions management.


At the same time good data management will allow us to do unprecedented interventions. This will happen, and it is already technically doable, through machine learning prediction algorithms.


We can predict a particular condition that hasn’t occurred yet, so we can treat a condition as prevention before the patients gets ill and suffers. And this can be on a personalized approach thanks to personal health data. This is the basic concept behind personalized medicine.  


Jokia: How can mobile health clinics improve access to healthcare?


Healthcare access is a corner store topic. It is a matter of access to health services, we can reach more patients, elderly patients with mobility difficulties, and people living in remote countryside. Now also these patients have the same opportunity as people living in big cities close to important healthcare facilities. 


So, we can reach clinical expert everywhere even if live in countryside or in any remote site of the world, if we have a good web connection, of course.


And that’s another crucial point. With good connection we can reach expert and experts can reach us, also quite physically since it is possible to perform surgery at distance with 5G connections at its full potential.


Furthermore, digital medicine allows also scientist and researcher to reach people at home. For example, with remote digital RCT, project I’m working on in Italy, patients enrolled in a trial are not requested to go physically to the research center but thanks to wearable devices can collect data and share them with scientist from their home.


And lastly this is another great example of how digital medicine can improve access to treatments.


Jokia: What role is Metaverse playing in reshaping the healthcare sector?


Well, this is a tricky question since there is a lot of hype for metaverse. So, the challenge here is to separate real potentials from false expectations.


And since metaverse is not a product on the market yet this task is difficult. But talking about next future, if metaverse will be part of our life Healthcare will not be an exception. Healthcare in metaverse is one of the most promising new markets.


The most realistic next implementations of healthcare in metaverse could be, and this is my opinion, a closer interaction between patients and HCPs. Then it also has potential for education purposes. Education in the medical field. Also, for medical students. But nowadays I think that the biggest opportunity would be to reduce the gap between physical and virtual visits. So, I see metaverse as the next step of telemedicine.