Day One of Health 2.0 featured the annual Traction startup pitch session. Many interesting companies presented, from biome.io to strollhealth.com. The panel prior had compelling insight worth sharing. The group of investors told a unified story across several key conversation topics:
- Digital Health is in the “Trough” of the Gartner hype cycle. There was a lot of promise, now under delivery, but eventually will get to the Plateau of Maturity. They are hopeful, but it needs to be said that Digital Health is not accomplishing what it promised.
- A focus on ROI with a partnership-based relationship is the key to gaining tractions for Digital Health.
- They see a lot of unintentional exits in the next year due to underperforming by Digital Health startups.
- So many ideas are “cute” and addressing the over-served “FitBit” population, and not enough ideas are tackling the hard problems in other populations, like the elderly or social safety nets. The rest of the day consisted of a few themes.
The first was all about Blockchain—a radical concept responsible for Bitcoin and innovations in FinTech—that is now starting to creep over into healthcare.
Many proponents of the Blockchain claim hefty promises.
- It will be the catalyst to finally eliminate paper usage.
- It will de-risk fraud.
- It will be the endgame for identity management.
- It will be invisible and thus the new CPU to all future cloud computation. At the Blockchain panel, skeptics—from Taariq Lewis of Serica present on the panel, to a gentleman asking questions during the Q&A—asked thoughtful questions. Taariq isn’t sure the Blockchain is the right technology for identity because it wasn’t designed to work that way. He’s also wary anytime mentions “smart contracts” because they aren’t always what they appear to be. And once a “smart contract” is created, it doesn’t end, much like a bot. A questioner at the end wondered if current approaches to the Blockchain in healthcare are the “Friendster of Healthcare Blockchain technology”, in that it helps create awareness but ultimately gets a lot of early things wrong.
Time will tell how real Blockchain really is in healthcare, but a major takeaway on Day One is the hype wave is cresting at its highest peak.
After the panel, I overheard an older gentleman telling someone else, “I went to this because I had heard about this blockchain thing but have no idea how it works or what it even is.”
Interest piqued, I stopped and asked him a few brief questions. Turns out this fellow worked for an HCO, and was investigating whether new blockchain concepts could help their technology strategy.
“I’m not sure exactly how I would use the concept of a blockchain today, but the idea sounds cool,” he told me. “I worry that it’s being billed as the savior for so many different problems, like identity management to revenue cycle management to eliminating fraud.”
This is the insight worth considering with Blockchain. It most definitely will have a major influence in healthcare. Somehow, someday. But the technology is still immature, and the concept so new and foreign to almost all decision makers within healthcare, that it is inappropriately being billed as the fix-all for every problem healthcare faces. This risks the technology over-promising and under-delivering.
The second half of the day was more nuanced. It was a collection of presentations, panels, and discussions around what was dubbed “The Unacceptables” by Health 2.0.
A few years ago, they put forth “The Unmentionables.” These were topics such as stress and exercise which affected health, but were rarely considered or quantified by providers and payers alike.
In a declaration of victory, Health 2.0 moved on from The Unmentionables and is now putting scope around The Unacceptables. These are topics such as diversity, violence, and other topics holding healthcare innovation back.
To Health 2.0’s credit, they facilitated several different types of conversations around the idea, beyond just workshops and Lunch & Learns. Harvery Fineberg, president of Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, gave a rousing speech on designing systems to better healthcare. We welcome the foundation’s attention.
Digital Snake Oil
Dr. James Madara conducted a one-on-one to discuss partnerships with MATTER and his role with Health 2.0’s SMART initiative.
The topic mirrored similar threads throughout the day. Digital Health has not succeeded at delivering on the promises given a few years ago, but the benefits it can deliver are very real, and very important.
It’s up to healthcare broadly, and decision makers specifically, to treat relationships more like a partnerships, and work together towards implementing the changes needed to improve the system as a whole.