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Top Four Takeaways from HLTH ‘19 Conference

I had the privilege this week to attend the second annual HLTH Conference in Las Vegas. In between fangirling over two of my Healthcare Heros who were in attendance (shout out to Dr. John Halamka & Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel!), I learned a ton and was challenged to question whether the proliferation of healthcare startups is net positive.
I’ll share my top takeaways from the conference below, but before diving in, I’d like to give HLTH a plug and say that this conference is, bar none, the best conference I have attended.
HLTH brings together leaders in the provider, life sciences, pharma, tech, and policy arenas and focuses on ideation sessions and lively debates on healthcare’s stickiest issues. I commend the HLTH conference for bringing together policy leaders from both sides of the aisle and providing a platform for productive and thoughtful debate.
Last thing I’ll say about the conference as a whole is that it was just plain fun! Dr. Halamka said it best: “I’d describe it as a perfect hybrid of JPMorgan and Burning Man.”
Highly recommend for any healthcare enthusiasts!
Now onto the takeaways. My top four (of many) takeaways from HLTH 2019:

The next 10 years will be the most exciting in healthcare.

This is in large part because we finally have:
  • APIs and data standards that enable interoperability across the healthcare industry
  • Machine learning technology that can harness the power of collected data to create learning healthcare systems that can enhance quality outcomes for patient care
  • Physician buy-in to the power of technology in enhancing care
  • We, as an industry, finally have all the tools in the toolkit along with the energy and investment to make tech-enabled healthcare a reality. Now we need to focus on the hard (and exciting!) part of bringing it all together.
We’re seeing this play out in the Home Health industry already. Historically, consumers demanded the ability to order food to their door, to order transportation to their door, and now we are seeing consumers (patients) demand the ability to order home health services to their doors. The industry has responded to patient demands.
Home Health services enabled through technology is an example of a new, creative care model that puts patient goals and needs at the center and has curated a care model around the patient — rather than the other way around.
Creative care models are only possible because of cross-industry collaboration, data interoperability, and new technology.

Lots of fantastic ideas but no way to use them!

The conference was filled with startups with phenomenal ideas on how to improve the healthcare industry. Taken individually, the ideas were great and the majority of them would objectively enhance care.
But, we can’t look at these solutions on an individual basis.
We have to look a the health-tech industry as a whole. During the conference, I had the privilege of chatting with several physicians who believe in the power of tech but who are skeptical that the industry has really “figured it out.”
The main concern I heard from physicians was that there are simply too many good ideas.
Venture Capitalists have been bullish on the health-tech market the last few years and this has led to a proliferation of healthcare startups, many solving the same problems. The plethora of apps on the market is on one hand exciting since it demonstrates the energy and investment in the health-tech industry.
On the other hand, though, there is a growing limitation around the usability of these apps due to the lack of integration into existing systems and with each other.
The issue with several apps that don’t talk to one another comes to light when we think about the physician workflow. Physicians are already overwhelmed with the cumbersome user experience of their EHRs. If health systems were to pick and choose a handful of individual apps to solve individual problems in the physician workflow, the physician would have to spend time remembering logins and switching between applications. It’s simply too burdensome.
The main takeaway here is that we, as an industry, need to solve for interoperability. In order to harness all the great ideas the health-tech startup scene has to offer, we need to be intentional about interoperability, converge on data standards (like FHIR — new article to come soon!) and work together to realize the value that big data can bring to healthcare outcomes.
We also need to keep in mind that most healthcare systems have margins in the -2% to +4% range so to implement a new technology there needs to be significant cost savings or a tangible revenue increase, and minimal implementation costs.
I think over the next 10, 15, 20 years, the industry will converge on a handful of digital platforms so health systems and pharma companies can confidently select applications knowing the new technology will integrate easily with existing and future applications.

The single biggest indicator of cancer patient longevity is if h/she has insurance.

Let that sink in. It’s not socioeconomic status, it’s not diet, it’s not pre-existing conditions. It is health insurance.
In today’s national discourse, it’s much easier to write off the insurance debate than confront it head on since it’s a divisive issue. This stat shared by Greg Simon opened my eyes once again to the importance of the health insurance conversation.
Insurance, in today’s US market, matters, and it matters a lot. I believe it is our responsibility to ensure access to insurance for all. We need to stop getting caught up in the politics of this issue and find a solution that provides affordable and fair (read: holistic) coverage for all Americans.
This is not a political issue; it’s a human rights issue.

Healthcare is human.

The reason I love working in healthcare is because healthcare is a people business. HLTH reminded me that we all want the same thing — high quality care for our loved ones at a reasonable price. Almost every session at HLTH I attended included a story about a personal journey with the healthcare industry.
At risk of sounding too kumbaya, it truly showed that we are all in this together.
In this mission-driven industry, we will need to continue to cross political and industry lines, get even more creative with delivery models, and develop new collaborations. I left HLTH feeling incredibly optimistic about our healthcare future, and the team of passionate individuals working every day to make healthcare better. I think we know what we need to do, and now we can go out and get it done.
Thanks to the HLTH Team for a great conference. Looking forward to next year!!


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