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Looking back: Scale-it-up @ BIOSTEC on Malta

Even back in February, the Covid-19 pandemic had an impact on our work. Arriving at Malta Airport the first item on the agenda was to check our temperature. At the time we wondered how useful this measure could be, however now we are working from home for an unforeseeable time and reflect on the intriguing workshop we attended.

The workshop we attended was part of the BIOSTEC 2020 conference. Gisbert didn’t get a room at the Conference Hotel and had to walk through the streets of Malta late at night. Due to the ongoing carnival the streets, the cafes and bars were still filled with a lot of people and huge flashy carnival floats of various themes, including an unusual one concerning the hair and skin tone of a certain US president. At the time a very surprising but pleasant experience. All kinds of different people were very eager to interact with a lonesome traveller in a suit and offered him beverages of all sorts. Unfortunately, he had to reject all those generous offers with the foreboding of a gripping and exciting the next day. Sitting at home alone this experience seems long gone and slightly surreal.

In times like these, no further substantiation for the importance of designing and implementing large scale interventions tackling diseases and health problems is necessary. The Scale-it-up workshop that Joe and Gisbert, under the supervision of Tobias, both submitted a paper to, aimed to find factors and barriers influencing the successful introduction of large-scale digital health interventions. Lisa Marsch, director of the Dartmouth Center for Technology and Behavioral Health, kicked off the workshop with an engaging keynote about large-scale programs and successful implementations of digital health interventions in the US.

Keynote by Lisa A. Marsch on Digital Therapeutics for Behavioral Health (Scale IT up 2020 Workshop) from c4dhi.org on Vimeo.

Joe presented findings that underline important criteria regarding health consultations with digital self-service technologies such as chatbots in his presentation “The Doctor Will See Yourself Now”. A possible difference of daily or monthly paid incentives as a motivation to show health-promoting behaviour was delivered by Gisbert in his presentation “Swiss Francs Seem to Make Insured Move”. Further presentations investigated the importance of Healthcare Delivery Services, what can be learned from ISM, and European Experiences on co-creating health solutions. You can find all lectures here.
After the presentations and keynotes all attending participants of the workshop split up in two groups and discussed possible drivers and barriers for digital health interventions. The result of these two-focus groups was brought together in a document outlining best practices for developing and scaling digital health interventions. You can find all the contributors to this process in this group picture.

The grand finale of the day was a formal dinner at the old capital of Malta called Mdina. We were knighted, had a good meal, decent entertainment and lovely company. On the last day of the conference we attended further lectures concerning health policy making, language processing approaches for systematic reviews and the integration of health care systems in intelligent houses. Sadly, we had to leave the sunny and beautiful Malta far too early and returned to our now snow-covered homes in Switzerland.

Publications:

Teepe, G., Kowatsch, T., Swiss francs seem to make insured move: comparing daily and monthly financial incentives of a scalable digital health intervention, Scalable Digital Innovations in Healthcare: Scale-IT-up! 2020 Workshop, in Proc. of the 13th International Joint Conference on Biomedical Engineering Systems and Technologies (BIOSTEC 2020), Volume 5, Valletta, Malta, 827-833. [PDF]

Ollier, J.B., Kowatsch, T., The doctor will see yourself now: review and discussion of a mass-market self-service technology for medical advice, Scalable Digital Innovations in Healthcare: Scale-IT-up! 2020 Workshop, in Proc. of the 13th International Joint Conference on Biomedical Engineering Systems and Technologies (BIOSTEC 2020), Volume 5, Valletta, Malta, 798-807. [PDF]