March 26, 2020

“The capability of technology and the ongoing collaboration is really where the future of healthcare lies.” Q&A with Esen Tümer

Esen Tümer is a member of Prevayl’s Advisory Board.

She has been recognised as Turkey’s most successful female leader in medical and health-tech and has previously held executive roles with Philips, Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic. She is currently Founder & CEO of Essential Evolutions.

Esen’s background at executive level for a number of global organisations, and her recent work with Harvard University in AI and machine learning, illustrates her influence in the area of artificial intelligence and related technologies. We caught up with her to understand the application of AI in the healthcare industry and the role technology is playing in tackling the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

You’re part of the Advisory Board at Prevayl. What does it mean to you to be advising and offering your expertise to a company like Prevayl?

For me to offer my knowledge and experience as an Advisory Board member to a purpose driven health tech company with the mission that Prevayl has is a privilege and an honour.

It is a fantastic company. The team is great and most-importantly, the mission is unbelievable.

I feel a real sense of satisfaction and fulfilment due to the meaningful impact that Prevayl will have on people’s lives. It really makes me very proud to be able to join the team and offer my knowledge and expertise. 

Previously you were General Manager at Phillips and recently Senior Country Managing Director at Medtronic. Can you tell us how this experience will impact your work at Prevayl?

I’ve been fortunate enough to work for health technology companies for more than 20 years now, including three of the top companies globally.

Whenever you go live with new technology, especially in the healthcare industry, it is fundamental to do so with a wide scope of industry specific knowledge. I’m able to provide detailed understanding of key aspects of the healthcare industry, including the capabilities of what is currently on the market but also the needs and requirements of patients, key customer profiles, clients, governments and of course regulations.

Overall, my key contribution for the ongoing success of Prevayl will be to share my in-depth and extensive knowledge of the full healthcare ecosystem. I believe this can be very impactful for the future of the business.

How can the combination of wearable tech and AI be used to oversee the early stages of conditions, such as a heart attack?

IOT (Internet of Things) is set to be crucial for understanding early stages of conditions, as well as for preventative medicine.

For example, let’s say you have a wearable that can track a range of health data including ECG. Even before an individual notices that they may be having a heart attack, key algorithms utilised by the technology are communicating with your device detailing that this patient is going to have a heart attack.

That’s the first step. The next is the signal that is given to the ambulance to go to the care of that person. The hospital receives a message that the patient is coming and specifically the cardiologist is notified so they can be ready for their arrival.

The revolutionary benefit is really two fold. The first is the early understanding of the condition and the next is the notification and readying of the health infrastructure to care for the patient.

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of innovation and collaboration in the healthcare industry. How is AI being used to help researchers to better understand the outbreak and assist governments with their chosen responses?

All data globally is available to be analysed by machine learning. The issue with the outbreak is that there was limited information and resources at the very beginning, which affected the speed of the response initially.

As we speak now there have been hundreds of millions of datasets collected. This will all be utilised in a very effective way.

From the reports coming out of China where they have begun to start the recovery process, key data can be extracted including how it impacts specific ages and genders, as well as a whole host of other parameters on how the disease affects people.  

Now the AI will be looking for the exponential growth using mathematical calculations to provide key indications of how it is going to evolve which will influence the approach towards vaccines and the pharmaceutical response. There is a lot of work currently happening and I believe we will start to see treatment solutions quite soon. Possibility earlier than expected.

What potential impact do you believe the COVID-19 outbreak will have on the wearable tech market?

It will have a dramatic impact creating unbelievable growth and a transforming the potential for the market.

Already we’ve seen businesses from countries all over the world investing in this industry. Where the greatest change will come from is the increase of knowledge to everyday people about how these tools can impact and benefit humankind.

What we’ve seen as the virus has affected people all over the world, is that tools like this can be extremely helpful for human beings in a variety of scenarios. With this new knowledge from a whole sector of people, who potentially weren’t previously interested in the performance capabilities of wearables, now the size of the market could potentially be triple or quadruple what was previously predicted.

The importance of wearables as a part of everyday life is only going to grow in momentum across the world.

You were involved with Harvard University’s Professional Development Program, focused on the use of AI in business, while you mention the collaboration required to grow the industry. How can innovation from the private sector and collaboration enhance the wider healthcare industry?

Collaboration between the likes of academics, universities and technology companies is crucial for the future of the industry.

Take for example the work that the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) is doing in the US. They are bringing academics and businesses together using the likes of big data, predictive analysis and pattern recognition to find answers for many of the unknown questions the industry still faces.

In these instances, you can’t find something out alone. Collaboration is absolutely essential for progression in this new era.

Recently I was part of the AI Global Conference, organised by the AAAI. There are so many studies all over the world about how AI is going to be contributing towards life sciences in the healthcare domain.

Bringing it back to the here and now we’re also seeing worldwide collaboration to tackle the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. All resources and knowledge are being pooled to find solutions.

The capability of technology and the ongoing collaboration is really where the future of healthcare lies.

You’ve been voted as one of the 50 most successful female leaders by Forbes magazine, and in the top 50 CEOs by Economist Magazine, as well as the top female leader in healthcare. How important do you think it is for the future of women in tech that we have visible and inspirational role models?

It’s so important for future female leaders to see people such as myself still being involved in tech and leading businesses in key areas of the industry. It’s vital for them to see that you can be in the tech industry, you can be a leader, and you can be a woman.

I am a mother of two children for example. You may have many roles in your life, but I can still be a leader in the industry and hopefully a role model for future generations. If I can make it happen, so can you. The younger generation need to see women who are visible and who can walk the talk. It’s essential for them to firstly choose the technology sector and secondly to be very successful in their chosen field.

Can you tell us a little about your new venture, Essential Evolutions?

I decided to form Essential Evolutions to utilise my connections in the technology industry. As well as my experience working for major global companies in the technology arena, I also recently studied for a degree at Harvard. This fed into my passion to enhance the area of AI.

This is what Essential Evolutions is based on. There are seven businesses underneath, with AI being a major component of one of them. It’s established in the US but also Turkey, and we mostly serve emerging markets. I have partners in Germany, the US, Canada and Israel for example – they are very highly developed in AI technology.

My goal is to enhance knowledge around AI, but also build the infrastructure. We will be supporting those in this domain in relation to how new investments in support of AI will be realised. 

We’re delighted to be working with someone of Esen’s calibre and expertise, and are looking forward to her ongoing contribution to the future of Prevayl.