Q1 | Torys QuarterlyWinter 2024

Addressing the gaps in understanding AI’s role in healthcare: Q&A with Abubaker Khalifa


  • Abubaker Khalifa, MD, Co-founder and COO, Moonrise Medical

Read commentary from Torys for the latest legal and industry trends in our article “AI healthcare companies: navigating the cutting edge of technology with Canada’s regulators”. And for more industry insights, read our in-depth Q&As featuring Lumira Ventures and Saumik Biswas, CEO, President and Founder at Tenomix.

There is a lot of dialogue around AI in healthcare. What are your thoughts on the benefits and risks it presents?

There is exciting dialogue about AI as it is quite clear that the potential impact of AI in healthcare can be extraordinary. We have seen many companies present and adopt AI solutions that have already shown incredible benefit to patients, providers, and healthcare organizations.

It is clear that despite these technologies having major impact there is a significant knowledge gap by healthcare providers around the fundamentals of AI. It is essential that there is work done to educate healthcare providers and healthcare organizations on the various AI models as well as the risks and benefits of these AI systems in clinical settings.

Another consideration is that the value of AI technologies remains difficult to objectively evaluate for the fundamental reason that it is new to the healthcare market. Investors are always challenged with accurately determining the value of the AI technology, and startups tend to be valued differently by different investors in the various fundraising stages. Payors find it difficult to assign a value metric and hence reimbursement isn’t clear. Regulatory bodies are just providing a newer set of guidelines that evaluate the safety and risk profile of the various AI technologies.

Overall, the impact of AI in healthcare is already profound and the collective effort of the sector is needed to ensure we adopt technologies that will positively impact patients’ lives.

What are the biggest opportunities and challenges facing the medtech industry?

Despite the constant advancement in our healthcare system, the burden of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension and vascular diseases continues to be high. The inefficiencies in our healthcare delivery, coupled with the rising costs, have led healthcare organizations to prioritize innovation as a key component of their strategic vision. This is an opportunity for the medtech industry to open clear dialogue with key stakeholders in the delivery of care to understand the challenges and tailor technologies that are centered on value-based care.

That being said, it is not always clear how these key stakeholders, including physicians, payors, and healthcare providers, are making decisions about the adoption of innovative technologies. One of the major challenges that is impacting the adoption of healthcare technologies is the current reimbursement system. It is outdated and leaves innovative medical technologies with either no direct reimbursement, or stuck with legacy reimbursement codes that don’t account for the enhanced value and/or cost savings attained. Despite efforts towards reimbursement reform, there must be strategic provincial and national advocacy towards value-based reimbursement that allows for the adoption of safe and innovative technologies that will first and foremost positively impact the wellbeing of our community.

What advice can you give to those wanting to launch a medical device or healthcare company and commercialize their offerings?

I advise the brilliant and brave entrepreneurs that are working in the healthcare field to comprehensively understand the clinical unmet need that they are solving. It is not enough to only study the pathophysiology and the direct impact of the unmet need on patients and physicians. It is incredibly important to understand all the stakeholders involved and their specific roles in technology adoption. They need to understand who will be paying for their technology and the incentives as well as disincentives of technology adoption.

This will allow the startup company in the very early phases to refine their development and adoption strategy based on the realities of the market they are approaching. Many times, this leads to minor or major adjustments to the technology solution based on the early comprehensive stakeholder analysis allowing for cost-effective product adoption. As much as it is important to focus your pitch on the unique and novel solutions you are developing, it is as important to showcase the major clinical unmet need you are solving and the impact on all key stakeholders.

Abubaker Khalifa is the co-founder/COO of Moonrise Medical, developing a perfusion guidance/diagnostic system in peripheral vascular disease. Abubaker Khalifa is an Assistant Clinical Professor (Adjunct) at McMaster University and an Intensivist at Joseph Brant Hospital. He completed a biomedical innovation fellowship at Stanford Byers Center for Biodesign. Abubaker served as the medical director to NXT Biomedical Incubator developing novel cardiac devices. Abubaker consults for early stage medtech startups and is involved in various medtech education programs in the US and Canada.

To discuss these issues, please contact the author(s).

This publication is a general discussion of certain legal and related developments and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If you require legal advice, we would be pleased to discuss the issues in this publication with you, in the context of your particular circumstances.

For permission to republish this or any other publication, contact Janelle Weed.

© 2024 by Torys LLP.

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