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Kudos to the Rock Health team for putting together yet another great conference with world-class speakers and attendees unquestionably passionate about the intersection of healthcare and technology. A few takeaways from this year’s event, below:
From lack of interoperability to a multitude of systems working in a silo to a dearth of solutions that can handle multiple modalities of data (e.g., EMR, omics, sensor, imaging), the statement that “our healthcare system is broken” continues to be uttered at healthcare conferences. These problems still exist although some bright spots, companies like Omada Health and Flatiron Health, along with new(er)comers Able Health and Sansoro continue to push towards fixing the seemingly unfixable.
As the number of “vulnerable” individuals balloons (one classification criteria would be those who are uninsured and/or on Medicaid, according to Veenu Aulakh), accelerated by the current administration’s efforts to kill Obamacare and squash hopes for a universal healthcare system, socioeconomic determinants of health is a key new opportunity in the space. On the data side, Coursera Cofounder and Stanford Professor Andrew Ng argued that digital health is finally ripe for disruption by AI and machine learning. First comes the IT revolution, converting written records to digital. Once the data is flowing, then the AI revolution steps in. In healthcare, the supply chain has (finally) been digitized, making it significantly more feasible that AI can cause disruption. As for specific use cases where AI can add value, Google Verily’s Jessica Mega discussed diabetic retinopathy and early detection through use of low-cost cameras, while Flatiron Health’s Amy Abernathy laid out her company’s continued efforts to build infrastructure and improve patient care in oncology.
Despite Verily and Flatiron making headway in the AI space, we quickly learned through one of the audience Slido polls, that AI is both the most over-hyped technology as well as the technology with the most potential to impact the healthcare space (other options included AR/VR and blockchain). While cautioning startups to avoid “AI-ifying” everything or “adding some machine learning” for the sake of adding the technology, it was noted that AI and machine learning do represent a real opportunity to continue to disrupt healthcare. Radiology and pathology continue to be low-hanging fruit for disruption by machine-learning algorithms, against which no physician can stand a chance in evaluating multiple parameters across thousands of patients. Andrew Ng suggested interventional radiologists focus on the interventional aspect, particularly for those interested in radiology as a 5+ year career. Ng also announced the launch of Woebot, an AI-powered bot designed to meet the needs of mental health patients. He noted that while there may be a limit to the number of health care providers wanting to help at 4am, Woebot would be overjoyed to.
From AirBnB providing free rooms for medical patients to Lyft transporting low-acuity patients to hospitals, non-traditional players are beginning to take note of the extensive need (and opportunity) in healthcare. By focusing on core competencies and not trying to mold into pure-play healthcare companies, these non-traditional players can be expected to continue to fill interesting roles in shaping our healthcare landscape moving forward.
Omada Health’s Sean Duffy reminded us to fall in love with the problem you’re solving, not the technology. It’s easy to get distracted by the shiny new thing – whether that’s AI, machine learning, or the latest syntax. However, when you take a step back and, most importantly, put yourself in the patient’s shoes, it’s the technology’s ability to solve the problem, rather than the tech itself that is most significant. While approximately 25% of U.S. consumers own a wearable (Rock Health Consumer Adoption Survey 2016), more than 50% of survey respondents say they no longer use their devices within 6 months of receiving it (Endeavour Partners Consumer Survey 2013). Further, while 42% of millennials have used synchronous video telemedicine, only 25% of Generation X-ers and <5% of Baby Boomers report doing the same. Ensuring patient-centric design is 1) easy to use and 2) solves the problem is essential for any new digital health technology to succeed.
Author: Mika Wang, Director of Special Projects at DeciBio
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DeciBio Consulting is a strategy consulting and market research firm focused on the global research tools, clinical diagnostics, and health technology industries. Our mission is to provide the market intelligence and strategic insights that drive disruption and innovation in these markets. We work with clients ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, conducting custom market research and strategy assessment across all areas of the life sciences markets. Click here for more information about our consulting services and here to browse our data products.
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