Technology and healthcare are two rapidly evolving sectors, and the intersection of the two is allowing for ground-breaking innovation.  The launch of recent technologies from Apple and beyond represents a turning point in the healthcare industry—consumer engagement in health. Platforms for aggregating and sharing personal health data are driving innovation, and the implications for the healthcare industry will be broad. 

Gati Dharani is at the forefront of understanding these market trends—and more importantly is striving to uncover innovative opportunities that can improve patient-care models. Working for a multi-national pharmaceutical company with product offerings for many chronic disease states, Gati has firsthand insight into the tremendous opportunity for technology to be introduced as the next platform for improved health. In her opinion, scientific advancement in bio-medicine and personalization medicine, coupled with consumerism in health (e.g., wearable technologies and health data apps), have made the role of technology critical in delivering new patient-care models.

Gati’s interest is to explore technologies that drive 1) accountability for personal health, 2) responsibility in utilization of healthcare resources and 3) informed healthcare decision-making – all which lead to empowered consumers of health. “While we have embraced technology in most areas of life, health seems to have lagged behind,” says Gati. “However, as we become more comfortable with the products and portals entering the market, we will become more comfortable with utilizing technology to manage and improve our health – one of the most personal areas of our lives."

Gati has degrees in Biomedical Engineering and Engineering Psychology from Tufts University and a Masters in Public Health from Columbia University. She now leads market access strategy for R&D programs at Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) across various therapeutic areas. Additionally, she is involved in various innovation initiatives, exploring ways to further differentiate BI’s current and future portfolio through “pill-plus” models that are inventive and cutting-edge. Her background in technology and public health and her current role in the pharmaceutical industry give her the expertise to make a significant impact in this evolutionary period of healthcare. 

Part of this impact is Gati’s role as lead innovator of a wearable device study at BI’s US headquarters in Ridgefield, Connecticut.  Working with HITLAB, Gati and a team of data scientists have designed and executed a campus-wide program to study 500+ employees over the course of a year to determine the effects activity monitoring can have on personal health management. Reaching end line in September 2014, the results of this study are groundbreaking for two reasons: they are the first to show, evidentially, that activity monitoring can have positive and long-term effects on health behavior and they demonstrate that an employer-driven initiative that supports personal health management can lead to increased adherence to healthy behaviors.

Further study findings demonstrated a statistically significant increase in activity levels across the study cohorts, with the greatest effect seen in the older cohort of the study population (age 50-67).  These findings suggest that activity tracking could be a viable solution for personal health management in populations that are not generally targeted for technology-driven interventions, and may have a greater need to reduce risk factors for chronic disease. Full analysis of study data is being conducted to parse additional actionable learnings, but preliminary insights point to exciting possibilities for innovation in preventive and long-term health management. 

Holistically, the study assesses what Gati feels are major trends in healthcare today, optimization of patient-care models via data collection and transparency, coupled with increased consumer engagement: “As use of large datasets become more vital in population-management, studies like the one we have conducted can be catalysts for change. Further, consumerism in healthcare is leading people to take more accountability for their health via data – which is wonderful. It is as if a free-market system is slowly forming in one of the more costly and important sectors of our economy.” 

Gati remains committed to innovation in healthcare.  And this study conducted  with BI employees  serves as a foundation for further research on the role of technology in preventive and long-term health management, or as Gati puts it “personalized patient-care models.”

Gati works with various healthcare start-up companies in New York City, Boston, and San Francisco and is a volunteer for Medicare Rights, a national nonprofit that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities through counseling, advocacy and public policy initiatives. For further inquiry on these topics, Gati can be reached on twitter: @gatid