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Our connected health selves are not quite there
Enthusiasm is plentiful -- broad deployment is harder to find. For some topics, it may not be that important what year this is or what health-related event we attend – the lamentations are the same. I have been lurking around the Connected Health Symposium for a number of years – and when it is all said (and said and said again), investment in consumer health tech is at crazed levels, but actual healthcare system utilization is still hard to find. Prowling the sparsely-planted exhibit hall and the speaker agenda, it seems pretty much where we left it last year – what matters most to a hospital system conference like this? Is the future of healthcare actually healthcare at home? Given the vast brick-and-mortar Partners Healthcare establishment, not soon. Expect to hear that topic again.
Mobile, mobile, everywhere – will we be thriving through innovation? Making health addictive, patient engagement; wearable and smart phone applications -- fighting obesity is, uh, very big this year, though Weight Watchers may not be the battle plan du jour. Wearable fitness trackers and on-body devices are hot-hot-hot, as is care coordination and, of course, that still-not-broadly-deployed but compelling stand-by, telehealth. One session called "Lessons in taking Connected Health to Scale" was actually about significant difficulties in taking it to scale. For example, the California Healthcare Foundation’s Margaret Laws spoke about the struggle of converting endless remote patient monitoring pilots to actual usage. Meanwhile, stalwarts like robotic VGo remote-control tele-consultation units, the ever-funded Intel-GE Care Innovations, and Ideal Life were still present, but not anywhere near adoption tipping points of their various markets. No matter, ever onward.
Catching on -- speed-dating innovator presentations. This symposium offered up two rounds, 10 participants each, of rapid-fire presentation/demos. This is becoming the very welcome template for startup company presentations. We are in the age of far too many Kickstarter requests and a percolating plethora of incubators and accelerators -- too many to count and too many companies to survive. Take a quick look at a few: TechStars, Bizdom, CITRIS Foundry, 1776DC, The Startup Factory, Cambridge Innovation Center at MIT (175 companies!), and Forbes Top Ten List of incubators. For these new entrants, learning to present your value proposition in four minutes or less has become Job One. And visuals matter during these quick tours -- for example, the Kinect-using Reflexion Health, Inc. software for measuring whether you are doing your prescribed physical therapy routine correctly.
Not present, not much accounted for – the connected health of seniors. This symposium touched many topics, but pretty much avoided directly discussing the topic of seniors, their lack of technology utilization, the non-tech talking Medicare and/or its 49 million participants. Even though most states have decided that telehealth makes a difference in keeping Medicaid costs down and that private insurers most cover remotely delivered care (in rural areas). Even though pilots have come and gone and been regurgitated yet again in new locations, CMS still waits for proof, still granting innovation awards that study, but do not broadly reimburse, remotely-delivered care. Meanwhile Medicare penalties for patient readmission will rise next year. Seriously, is prevention the key to controlling revolving door readmission? Seriously, is the key to keeping these seniors at home a combination of greater emotional connection and improved patient engagement? What about mitigating loneliness and isolation? Could remotely delivered telehealth services help? Wait until next year for answers. Only the doctors know for sure.