Fliying Cars

If I would summarize innovation in Healthcare, I would say,

“We dreamed about flying cars and got 140 characters”.

The recent Health 2.0 conference in Barcelona (May 2016) has confirmed my feelings. Innovation in healthcare struggles to persuade all major stakeholders: doctors, insurance companies, researchers, patients.

As 700 entrepreneurs, innovators and VCs spoke about innovation in healthcare, it become obvious there is no simple answer for the current tough situation. A major shift in technology has happened, but major stakeholders are reluctant to adopt it.

Let us start with healthier lifestyles. Esther Dyson started her session with the words

“It is much cheaper to keep people healthy than to pay when they are ill.”

So true and so far from current reality. So many of us move away from keeping ourselves healthy into the “ache-pill” framework. It is simpler. Pharma and doctors are happy – they get their (p/b)ills paid. The only one who loses is the patient.

After watching over 52 live demos over 3 days certain trends in digital healthcare become obvious. Now, let us look at a summary of them.

Trend 1. “Health consumers.” Basic healthcare problems are still there, will technology help? Many companies try to incentivize people to do more sports, quit smoking, manage stress, etc. They see people as “Health Consumers.” So healthcare becomes a consumer product to buy and to sell.

Can an app incentivize you to increase your exercise levels? Maybe. Still, I am afraid the result will be short term. Technology can incentivize the population to live healthier lives, but the decision to live a healthy lifestyle happens much deeper. It is a personal decision; apps and graphs are only helpers to stay motivated.

Trend 2. “The more disruption the more obstruction” – doctors are very risk-averse. Rafael Grossmann, the doctor who first tried to use Google Glasses in operations, shared his ideas on how available technology can already help today and how conservative the field of medicine is. A lot can be done now in emergency treatment, in surgery, by general practitioners, etc.

“Now the odd one out is the one who is not connected to a device whenever one has an idle minute or second,” said Rafael.

Just imagine Skype-visits instead of visits to the hospital. So why are these technologies not embraced or embraced so slowly?

The reason lays in risk-tolerance, which is very low in healthcare. “The more disruption the more obstruction,” say doctors and continue to use paper instead of the IPad.

Nevertheless, medical education, as education commonly does, is transforming doctors’ mindsets step by step, helping them with virtual reality for mastering surgery, tomography, operations planning, etc.

Trend 3. Structuring information for decision-making. More and more companies analyze big-data and present it in a simple way for smart decision-making. For instance, observing patients’ conversations in real time – useful for marketing in pharma – e.g. the company Quid.

Trend 4. Optimization of patient-doctor interactions. Optimization of appointments, emergency treatment, therapies, and patient-doctor interactions.

Trend 5. Flying beyond the pill actionable data for pharma. Currently pharma wants to get more from the amount of data it captures and be forewarned about any unpleasant surprises, ideally even before they have happened. See the demo on Cyntegrity’s risk-management portal.

Current technology challenges:

When a technical glitch happened with the loading of slides, Esther Dyson said:

“The problem with technology is that it is working, but not as you would expect.”

I think, this exactly summarizes today’s technology situation in healthcare. Today, many companies draw “fancy-looking dashboards.” The challenge is to understand in depth what problem you are solving. Software must help, when needed, show the data that you need, so that a user can understand without reading help. Software must become your best friend at work. Very few technology companies have understood this and even fewer have achieved it.

About Health 2.0: One can hardly find a place, where one would meet so many healthcare entrepreneurs and forward thinkers. This is an event that “stretches” your body and mind. All demos run live and show the naked value of each product without “PowerPoint curtains.”