EMC is a global tech organisation renowned for storage and management of big data. With VMware and Pivotal, EMC has moved from storage to virtualisation to app development. And for the last 5 years EMC has developed a new business vertical focused on life sciences.
John Gurnett is a member of the global life sciences group at EMC where he works closely with EMC customers to understand how to make EMC products applicable across healthcare and life sciences. In his daily work John works with policy makers from hospitals, clinicians, CEOs from partnering companies, financial controllers and researchers across the board addressing challenges in research and healthcare.
One of the main questions that John works on currently is how the DNA sequencing technology can be utilised in a clinical environment. The full impact of the technology will not be realised until its usage is made mainstream. And one of the hurdles to progress is the lack of ‘digitisation’ of the healthcare system.
JG: “From this point you cannot do healthcare without IT – We need to digitise everything”
The perennial challenge/opportunity is trapping, storing and using data. The countries outside of the US still need to shift to Electronic Health Records (EHR) which is a critical requirement for capturing information and key to delivering standardised high quality diagnostics.
JG operates as an interpreter between stakeholders so we asked him:
1. What are the main challenges for different stakeholders to implement medical genomics?
IT people often focus on technical features (faster computations, amount of storage space, etc) but need to spend more time talking with end users within the context of their operating environment. Any piece of technology will always be part of an environment and requires interfacing with people and so cannot escape boundaries of organisation and personal motivation.
Clinicians need to think about how to enable standardisation of what they do to remove hurdles for digitisation. JG: “DNA sequence with a paper record is not worth going for”
Commissioners and payers need to think about how what they pay for what is delivered and how it can be optimised using new technology e.g. sequencing.
Policy makers need to understand challenges of commissioners to be able to understand existing processes and transform them into something new. JG: “We are now at the tipping point of sequencing technology. Real world products are able to deliver sequencing outside of research laboratories.”
Researchers have a great opportunity to learn and understand what happens clinically and think of how their research could work in the clinic, i.e. creating an environment for clinical genomics. They need to focus on how to make genomics relevant for healthcare.
JG explains: “The healthcare environment is just getting to grips with sequencing. The technology is moving fast, so in order to adapt we need to already now think of
– How to federate capture and sequence DNA in real-time?
– What will happen next and how can we make the best use of it?
There are no clearly defined right answers, which gives us the opportunity to create better right answers each time. We are creating the potential for better quality of life, better survival and better impact on healthcare.”
An example of EMC services is Partners Healthcare in US where EMC provided a platform with federated datalinks, secure management of EHRs including both images and metadata and the flexibility to capture new data. EMC used all their technological capability to answer this big data problem.
2. What is next?
EMC is launching a new genomics platform with big hospital groups in the UK and looking for commissioners to fund it. With the combined technology of all EMC specialities their platform can provide better outcomes at a fraction of the cost previously.
Life Sciences is now the biggest growing area for EMC thanks to the company focus and technical expertise. John Gurnett has a background in management consulting at Deloitte. He has been working on healthcare policy for 14 years and has participated in building hospital facilities in Africa and the US. For the past 5 years he has been the translator between clinicians, policy makers, CEOs from partnering companies, financial controllers and researchers across the board addressing challenges in research and healthcare, taking EMC solutions to market to support process and market and outcomes.
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