The following is an interview of Matthew Holt, Co-Chairman of Health 2.0.
Harriet Messenger – How did Health 2.0 begin?
Matthew Holt – My interest in health began in the early 90s when I found myself doing a study on healthcare in Japan. That then led to getting involved in Japanese versus American comparative health care; which, finally led to me getting a job in health care policy at a place called Institute for the Future. They had a huge technology forecasting component but no one was doing health information technology, so I put the two together.
Around that time the internet got going; there was a sort of E-health stock boom in the late Nineties, so I was involved in looking at that. Some years later I began a blog called The Health Care Blog and as part of that I was spending a lot of time looking at the re-emergence of ‘Web 2.0’, which was the re-emergence of information technology on the web, reaching out to the consumers, doctors, entrepreneurs, etc.
At the same time I met Indu Subaiya, who is my co-founder and my co-chairman. We realised that no one was paying attention to these guys, and that’s when we thought about creating a conference that brought all these great minds together. And that is how Health 2.0 started.
HM – And would you say that Health 2.0 is living up to your initial vision?
MH – Yes, but it takes forever to do anything in health care. Health care has the same problems it’s always had: getting data to the decision maker – whether that is patient or the doctor – and getting the right treatment plans in place for the patient. These are the same problems across the world. However, with the advent of new technology, mostly in the last 20 years, there have been big advances and changes in the way that health care is both consumed and delivered.
I’ve never thought Health 2.0 was going to change the world in three years. I believe that this type of technology is a big deal, but it is going to take time. We are now in the middle of that time – it’s starting now.
HM – What would you say at the moment are the biggest challenges for Health 2.0?
MH – Health 2.0 not only has the challenge of trying to change institutional and professional behaviour, but we also need to change the patient-doctor relationship. Patients can now access information that can make them feel more informed than their doctor. The patient still needs the health professional to diagnose and treat, but they want to be part of the decision from the prognosis to the treatment.
Another challenge is we associate a lot of new technology with playing games, social networking, and sharing photos. People do not really like to engage with their health, they would just rather ignore it. So how do you connect with people when they’re sick? Or even keep their custom when they’re not sick? It’s hard to make a sustainable business model around health technology.
HM – Why do you think so many entrepreneurs are thinking about creating health products? Would it not be easier to create apps that turn your phone into a torch, or a game that entertains the children?
MH – At Health 2.0 we run developer challenges and code-a-thons where we encourage developers from outside the health care system to come in.
The reason why developers should come into health care is two-fold. One is, especially for the U.S., but also in other countries, it is the biggest single vertical market. The U.S. spends twice as much shared GDP than anybody else, and nearly twice as much per capita [on health].
And, in the U.S., there is a huge amount of entrepreneurs/developers coming into health care – it has nearly tripled in the last 3 years.
The second reason is many entrepreneurs are drawn to health care because they had an experience in the health care system, like “Jesus, that was terrible. Why would anyone have to put up with that? There must be something that we can do with technology to improve this!”
Ultimately, we all want a more consumer and user-friendly experience in health care, and, technology is a main driver of that.
HM – For you as an individual, as a father, as a husband, what piece of software would you like to see developed?
MH – I think the underlying issue for any family is access to their data. And, as I’m sure is the case for many people all over the world, there in no one place where data is stored, which means that it is impossible to have an overview of your medical history because it is all so disjointed.
For me, for example, in my family there are three of us (my wife, my daughter and myself). I have a primary care doctor whom I cannot download information from because they are a high tech practice. My wife, who recently had our baby, had a gynecologist, who was all paper. And, my daughter does actually have a full electronic medical record, I can view it, but I cannot download it. It would be amazing if these were all in one place so I can capture them together.
In the US we are currently helping to push what is called the ‘Blue Button Initiative’. The idea is that you should be able to download your data in a machine which is in a readable format from any health care provider. There is a long way to go before we can achieve this.
Secondly, focusing on health and wellbeing, a really easy automated way to capture all our inputs and outputs, especially on food. We’re nearly there with tracking our movements – there are apps and pedometers on the market. I think the more we can track, the more aware we will be of our health and wellness, and the more likely we are to lead a healthier life. I’m the kind of person who can go off the rails in a big way if I don’t watch what I’m doing to my body, and I know I would like to make staying healthy as easy as possible.
And finally, it would be great to be able to easily find where you need to go, who you need to see if you have a specific health problem; finding the right health professional who has the right expertise. It is hard to track down the right health professional, especially in the world of cancer or conditions that are hard to diagnose. You can go from doctor to doctor, trying to figure out who can treat or diagnose you. There are some great services out there, but we’re not quite there yet. Ideally the service needs to rate doctors, tell you how to find them, set appointments, list conditions and treatments, etc.
HM – What would you say is the next big thing in health care over the next 10 years?
MH – I think it will be a combination of email plus data exchange, so you can figure out what is going on with the health care you receive. That includes providers, physicians, hospitals, etc. communicating better with each other. As well as this, the other big push is to help patients take more control over their health with various tools. At Health 2.0 we are seeing a huge amount of work go into this.
However, I think if you were interviewing Indu Subaiya, she would say that it’s more of the interaction of genomics and better understanding of robotics and artificial intelligence to improve treatment protocols.
HM – What is the difference between Health 2.0 Fall and Health 2.0 Europe?
MH – The difference between the two is that we are focusing on local activity in Europe and international activity in the U.S. (Health 2.0 Fall).
In Health 2.0 Europe (which we’ve held in Paris, one in Berlin and now Health 2.0. London) we have really featured people from all over Europe; that is the idea of seeing what is going on in Europe and to broadcast that across Europe. Because people from Finland don’t get to see a lot of stuff going on in Holland or in the UK, Germany, Austria, it is good to get all that together to show the different pieces and to look at who is really pushing harder in Europe. Everyone has a lot to learn from each other.
HM – Do companies really launch during Health 2.0?
MH – Yes, it certainly is a big impetus of Health 2.0 for pushing commercialisation and getting ideas off the ground. We’ll have small companies who consist of three guys and a dog in a garage in California, or an apartment in London or somewhere in Helsinki; who find themselves connecting with major drug companies and suddenly landing big contracts. It’s very exciting!
Check out the upcoming Health 2.0 Europe 2013 and the conference agenda.
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