7 Things We Learned from the 2014 Connected Health Symposium

Last week we participated at the Connected Health Symposium hosted by Partners Healthcare in Boston.  Jeff Urdan, our COO, gave a presentation on swyMed for the fourth annual Innovators Challenge, a symposium event to draw attention to, as they say on their website, “products that are genuinely new and potentially game-changing for connected health.”  He also had a chance to report back on his key takeaways from the event.

1)     Wearables May Take Over the World

Lots of companies are doing cool things with wearable sensors sending data to smart phones.  At the Innovators Challenge alone there were:

  • Basis – a fitness and sleep tracker watch conceptually similar to the iWatch and Samsung (but better of course!)
  • FeverSmart – a temperature monitor for tracking fever.  It is intended for babies so parents can know both how the child is trending and can give actual data to their pediatrician rather than guesstimates…but imagine the Ebola applications for monitoring people who might have been exposed and need to be monitored for the 21 day incubation period!
  • GoodLux Technology – measures light exposure which has been shown to impact both seasonal affective disorder and depression.

2)     Monitoring and Intervention Technologies Work

The clinical data is available to prove it. For example, Twine Health, an app developed for case managers to help patients monitor and manage chronic diseases, has shown dramatic increases in patient compliance and outcomes.  It also has shown higher productivity for case managers because it is easier for them to know who is doing well and who is struggling.  Twine Health uses an app that patients use on their smartphones or tablets and a web-based portal for case managers to monitor data, push updates and suggestions, or even start a chat with the patient.

3)     The Current System is Broken and Won’t Be Fixed by the Current Leadership

Jonathan Bush of athenahealth delivered a message that might sound familiar to readers of this blog.

  • The current system costs too much, the outcomes are not what they should be, and NOBODY within the system is happy: not doctors, regulators, insurers, or patients.
  • To fix it, you need to “do what is right” rather than what you know is reimbursable, because when you do what is right you get good results.  When you get good results, someone will come along to pay for them: patients, payers, governments, venture capital funds, etc.  You may not know who yet, but have trust that it will.
  • The current leaders “won” in the current system to BECOME the leaders.  They are good people, have good intentions, but have more at risk if the current system changes.  They likely also believe that more of what won for them is what will fix the system. Smaller, newer organizations with a focus on doing things differently are more likely to come up with game-changing innovations.

4)     The Reimbursement Issue may Mask a Deeper Concern

Shahid Shah, CEO of Netspective, blogger at www.healthcareguy.com, award-winning Government 2.0, Health IT, Medical Device Integration software expert, consultant and speaker believes that people at all levels are willing to think creatively about new funding models and/or stretch their thinking about ROI to include cost avoidance or revenue improvements. 

The issue that does not often rise to the surface is fear that if there is not yet an official code for a process/procedure, it may be perceived as “illegal” or at least not standard of care.  So when people talk about reimbursement, cash flow is the easy part.  The hard part is the uncertainty of trying an experimental process and not knowing if you are exposing yourself and your organization to risk.  When there is a code in the system, or there is a law on the books that it is ok, this fear evaporates.

5)     Here We Go Again:  Will 2015 Be mHealth’s/TeleHealth’s Breakout Year?

Joe Kvedar, MD and Director for the Center for Connected Health (Partners Healthcare), believes history will repeat itself:  Lots of fanfare as new apps roll out which quietly fail.  If you build it…they do not always come.  Or if they do come, it might be more trouble than you’d like (ask Google Health).

6)     Truly Engaging Applications Can’t Look Like Enterprise Software

  • Joe encourages innovators to think about what makes for truly engaging applications that patients will use and that steer them toward better outcomes.  These can’t look like enterprise software; they need to look like…SnapChat! or any of the numerous other simple, intuitive, fun apps that people use.  Obviously, tracking your health isn’t as fun as taking pictures of your cat, which is why our challenge is to make apps users want to use.
  • He provided the interesting example of two glucose monitors for diabetics.  One monitor is totally passive, only taking and uploading readings.  The other requires the patient to press a button to upload results.  Studies show that pressing the button is a sign of commitment and better outcomes…and, unfortunately WAY less likely to be done daily than the passive upload.  Bridging the two—an action requiring engagement and commitment to something intuitive and compelling—is the innovation needed here.

A related topic, also brought up by Joe, is to…

7)     Stop Focusing on Communicating Only the Health Risks/Benefits to Users

They know the risks and benefits already.  Although the users need to know what your app does, instead engage them in the practice of making themselves better and managing their care.  Don’t tell the users that they should take care of themselves and use your app to do it, but make taking care of themselves an element of an already compelling app.  For example, Ayogo, another Innovators Challenge company, is a leader in applying game psychology to patient applications and has shown the ability to drive just this type of engagement.

Overall, we had a great experience with the Symposium and Innovators Challenge.  We believe these 7 takeaways can be valuable to everyone involved in tech and Healthcare, and want to hear how you look to implement some of these ideas.

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