Those of us of a certain age remember the Timex slogan that bragged about its watches’ durability: “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking.” A recent article about our military, of all things, made me wish we had a healthcare system that prized that kind of durability.
I can never resist analogies between the U.S. healthcare system and the U.S. military system. They’re both huge, they’re both wildly expensive, they both rely on a combination of high tech and front-line people, and they both protect us from threats. In some ways, both are the best in the world, and, in other ways, both have weaknesses that are embarrassing. And, as I wrote last year, both are often still fighting the wrong wars.
Ms. Herz notes how Americans love innovation, but:
This mythos informs a narrative that what is valuable is The New—the upgrade to something bigger, badder, and sexier…What the United States needs to reinvigorate its defense base, compete with China, and win the global economy must be more innovation.
Except the United States does not suffer from a lack of innovation; it suffers from a lack of resilience.
Crises — like our
current COVID-19 pandemic — force people to come up with new solutions.
They slash red tape, they improvise, they innovate, they collaborate, they cut
corners. Some of these will prove inspired, others will only be temporary,
and a few will turn out to be misguided. We may not know which is which
except in hindsight.
If, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention, then you’d have to say that the COVID-19 pandemic is proving to be the mother of invention and innovation. And, like Isaac Hayes sang about Shaft, it is a “bad mother…(shut your mouth).”
Many believe that the Allies won WWII in large part because of how industry in the U.S. geared up to produce fantastic amounts of weapons and other war materials. It took some time for businesses to retool and get production lines flowing, during which the Axis powers made frightening advances, but once they did it was only a matter of time until the Allies would prevail.
Similarly, COVID-19 is
making scary inroads around the world, while businesses are still gearing up to
produce the number of ventilators, personal protective equipment (PPE), tests,
and other badly needed supplies. COVID-19 is currently outnumbering
these efforts, but eventually we’ll get the necessary equipment in the needed
Andy Slavitt, former Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and founder and partner at Town Hall Ventures, talks about how venture capitalists and health tech startups can help make healthcare more affordable and accessible for the 130 million Americans beyond the “Peloton crowd.” We ask Andy if he thinks “social determinants of health” is more than just an industry buzzword, get his advice for startups motivated to make a difference, and hear his predictions for what will change healthcare in this new decade.
Filmed at J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, January 2020.
Financially backed by the EU, EIT Health is a pan-European network of health innovators and 150+ corporate and academic partners across the continent who pool their assets to support widespread health innovation across Europe. We caught up with Katharina Ladewing, Managing Director for EIT Health Germany, about the group’s priorities, how they enable early and late stage startups to find funding and business partners, and how digital health has been evolving (rapidly) in the EU over the past few years. Wondering what the differences are between the health tech startup ecosystems in Europe versus the US? Katharina shares some of the insights she’s gained after four years watching this space mature.
Filmed at Frontiers Health in Berlin, Germany, November 2019.
Is healthcare innovation more challenging in a public healthcare system? We sat down with the Chief Medical Officer & Director of Innovation for the Hospital Clinico San Carlos, Dr. Julio Mayol, to find out! A large, academic research hospital in Madrid, Hospital Clinico San Carlos is an 800-bed facility that has served Madrid since 1717. The hospital counts the entire population of the city (all 6.5M of them) as their patient base and, as such, takes a different approach to integrating new health technology and innovations. Dr. Mayol unpacks the way he leads population health initiatives in his institution, talking through his approach for engaging physicians, external partners, and patients alike to improve the quality of care. Is it different than the way it works in the U.S.? Tune in to find out!
Filmed at Barcelona Health Hub Summit in Barcelona, Spain, October 2019.
As we near the end of the year, rather than reflect on fond memories of 2019 (for which I’m grateful for my family, friends, readers, and Twitter followers), I’ve already started thinking about 2020. If you ever wanted to get inside my brain for 5-10 minutes (scary proposition I know) related to healthcare startups and innovation, here are some areas or trends that I will be following in the new decade.
1. Medicare-For-All Will Be Everywhere
As we move closer to the Democratic Presidential caucus, some of the top-polling candidates (Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Andrew Yang) are endorsing a Medicare-For-All (M4A) platform. If one of those candidates receive the nomination for the 2020 Presidential election, private v. public health insurance will be front and center. It will dominate all major news. I’m watching how the weight of the entire healthcare industry will politically respond to a national Medicare-4-All Presidential debate (both publicly and privately).
2. Updating Physician Anti-Trust Rules To Support Value-Based Care
In October, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released their long-anticipated proposed rules to update the anti-kickback and physician referral regulations, to help spur greater provider participation in value-based care arrangements. Any changes once finalized would affect the Civil Monetary Penalties Law, the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute, and the Physician Self-Referral Law (“Stark Law”). After comments are received, I’m watching how the healthcare machine helps craft these new regulations that some would say, stifles innovation in provider care delivery.
There are many public health
conferences that focus on young people, or that center around youth issues, but
very few that actually include the young people’s voices that we are claiming
to uplift as public health professionals.
There are also very few conferences
that emphasize innovation in healthcare, that are pointed towards solutions
rather than discussing problems at length without clear ways of solving them.
These core issues are at the heart of the annual YTH Live conference. Each year (we’re on our twelfth!), we showcase the boldest technologies in health and cutting-edge research in all facets of youth health and wellness. We also have attendees that range from IT professionals to high school students, with over 25% of last year’s attendees and speakers being young people themselves.
YTH’s Communications Coordinator
Erin McKelle has first-hand experience of this. “I first attended YTH Live when
I was a senior in high school. It was the first conference I ever spoke at and
all of my fears about being the only young person in the room were quickly put
to rest, once I saw that YTH plans a youth conference that actually centers
around youth voices,” she says. “I’m proud to now be working for the
organization years later, after serving on the Youth Advisory Board, paying the
mission of youth empowerment forward to the next generation of youth leaders.”
The 2019 Health 2.0 conference just wrapped up
after several days of compelling presentations, panels, and networking. As in
the past, attendees were a cross section of the industry: providers, payers,
health IT (HIT) companies, investors, and others who are passionate about
innovation in healthcare.
One of the more refreshing themes of the
conference was an emphasis on how health IT can enable the delivery of
services. This is a welcome perspective as too often organizations believe that
simply deploying technology will solve their problems. In my 30+ years in
healthcare, I’ve never seen that work. What does work is careful attention to
the iron triad of people, process, and technology. Neglect one of these and you
will fall short of your goals. Framing opportunities as services that are
enabled and enhanced by technology helps us avoid the common pitfall of
believing “Tech = Solution” and forces us to account for process and people.
Provider Burn-out and Health IT
Several sessions focused on the impact technology is having on end-users, especially clinicians. One session featured a “reverse-pitch” where practicing physicians “pitched” to health IT experts on the challenges they face, especially with EHRs, and what they need in order to do their job and have a life. This was summed up elegantly by a physician participant as, “Please make all the stupid sh*t stop!” There’s increasing evidence that the deployment of EHRs is a major factor for clinician burnout and the impassioned pleas of the attendees resonated throughout the conference.
Other sessions explored how to we might address these problems with improvements in user-interface design, workflow, and interoperability. Demonstrations of advanced technologies like voice-driven interfaces, artificial intelligence, enhanced communications, and smart devices show where we are headed and hold out the promise of a more efficient and pleasing HIT for providers and patients.
In the Pacific Northwest, “accelerator-slash-think tank” Cambia Grove is quickly expanding as the region’s go-to healthcare innovation hub. Fully funded by Cambia Health Solutions, the organization is functioning as a neutral party to bring startups and healthcare system incumbents together to identify innovation priorities. What else is happening in health tech in Seattle, especially with a few of those famous big consumer tech companies headquartered up there? Tune in to find out!
Filmed at the Together.Health Spring Summit at HIMSS 2019 in Orlando, Florida, February 2019.