Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Discussing health innovation at the CONVERGE conference in Philadelphia #convergeconf

Today, I was in Philadelphia attending and speaking at the CONVERGE conference by Med City.  The morning was kicked off by Wil Yu, Director of Innovations at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT at HHS. He took us on a journey illustrating the evolving process of medical innovation. The simple treatment of scurvy took over 200 years to recognize and implement. We now live in a time when health care innovation is being accelerated because of contributions from the federal government and we are seeing types of creative collaborations and partnerships among private and public organizations.

This morning, we also heard an interesting panel about medical device innovation. Isn't it ironic that we who live in the United States are often the last ones to gain access to the latest medical technology? Is the FDA too conservative in its approval process, or are other countries too lax in their health care regulations? Globalization trends continue to challenge the medical device industry in several ways ranging from regulatory changes (rules of origin (ROO) under CEPA ) and reimbursement policies.

Dr. Harry Greenspun from Deloitte led a nice panel about accountable care during the morning breakout. The concept of shared accountability will be transformation in health care and will drive all stakeholders towards a common goal.  We are seeing innovation around patient engagement, disease prevention, and the digital tools that empower individuals. As more patient health data and physician performance metrics become available, we will see these elements driving consumer behavior.

The panel discussion that preceded lunch was focused on investors and health startups. We are seeing so many entrepreneurs creating innovative companies in the health care industry these days because of advances in technology that are now making some complex concepts possible. Unfortunately, the creative ideas that are often clinically impactful do not lend themselves to sustainable business models. So these days, entrepreneurs must ask critical questions like: What is the business model that will be successful in health care? How are inventors protecting their intellectual property? What experience does the team collectively bring to the table? These days, most startups are exiting to acquisition, not IPOs. We are entering a golden age of health care startups as we see how we can collect and analyze health data to improve clinical outcomes.

In the afternoon, there were several discussions around health care reform, retail healthcare, and pharma. These fireside chats were engaging and sparked some interesting questions from the audience. Dr. David Nash from Jefferson shared some personal health information to illustrate a point. Brandon Rowberry from UnitedHealth Group shared some of his perspectives regarding the challenges associated with analyzing the wealth of patient health data that is collected by health plans. Craig Lipset from Pfizer discussed what pharma companies are doing with patient health data to drive clinical trials.

I also had the opportunity to moderate a panel this afternoon around the innovations we are seeing in electronic health records. Joining me on the stage were Brian Wells from U Penn, Dr. Arlene Forastiere from Eviti, and Dr. Anil Jain from Explorys. We discussed how EHR technology has the capability to incorporate robust clinical decision support to help clinicians apply the latest clinical evidence when they treat patients. As clinical practice guidelines evolve, we are seeing different uses of CDS. We also find that EHR technology can help clinicians improve the quality of care by adopting evidence-based medicine.

The afternoon wrapped up with a panel discussing some of the trends in mobile health. Dr. Brad Weinberg from Blueprint Health moderated this discussion. Patients are using mobile devices at their point of care. They are using apps to manage their conditions. Given that there is such low barrier to entry, the mHealth market is booming with a huge number of mobile apps. Are they making a significant impact in health care? Or, are these apps sources of short-term entertainment? We need to make sure to see more intelligence in these apps so that they are not abandoned after a few uses.

The conference concluded with a closing message from Dr. Naomi Fried from Boston Children's Hospital. She spoke about some of the innovations they have been working on in the world of pediatrics. From Innovation Ambassadors to Innovation Boot Camps, they are building a culture of innovation within the organization.

The CONVERGE conference was a great event and I truly look forward to attending again next year!

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