It’s once again the start of Fall Conference Season in the health tech industry, heralded by the coming HLTH conference in Las Vegas next week. Admittedly, I am unabashedly excited to join the throngs of folk looking to find out what’s next in digital healthcare. Will there be over-promises? I guarantee it. Will there be buzzwords galore? My conversational AI says "of course". Will there be magical thinking and cognitive dissonance that the industry is somehow sustainable amidst its various looming clinician shortages, a tipping point toward the privatization of medicare coverage, and the consolidation of computing power to three technology companies while people pet puppies? Gosh, I hope so. I love puppies. But there will also be thousands of people that are truly trying to make a difference, many I know, so many more I can’t wait to meet. AT HLTH, you can usually ask anyone you meet how they want to change the world and when you do, their face lights up. They’ll joyfully tell you about their passion and mission-driven work and you can’t help but be filled with optimism. How could I not be excited to go (even to Las Vegas)? Here’s what I’m looking forward to the most and what I hope to hear about.
HLTH is one of the best events to go to for seeking out novel tech as, by design, it is a marketplace for VC and entrepreneurship. And while I don’t have the capital to venture, nor the energy to chase angels (well, outside my own two daughters), my work is about finding and executing the best technology that aligns to healthcare strategy. Where else would I want to start the season? There are two foci I’m hoping to observe from the tech and start up communities this fall.
Rethinking the Value Proposition
I’m hoping to see sharpened value propositions from digital health companies. We’re in a new phase of tech adoption and selection on the part of consumers, patients, providers, employers, payers, and investors. The value proposition of health tech companies need to reflect that new phase while living in the reality that is the healthcare economic system in this country. Novel technology alone should not be enough to win out over competition. Rigor in business model design and an ability to execute impeccably makes organizations stand out in my mind.
Step up to the front of the line if your company has a defined and written provider business line pro-forma that shows their path toward operation margin improvement. Healthcare systems don't have time, staff, or money to look at pilots that don't have a defined ROI. Let’s talk if you need help figuring out how you fit into their business model.
I’m eager to see health tech organizations collaborating in novel ways that make it easier for healthcare providers to use their technology. For instance, not every new diagnostic algorithm needs to also have a patient and provider facing app to access the data and insights it creates. How can you come together to be greater than the sum of your parts? Let's talk if you need help finding complementary companies with which to work collaboratively.
Further, I’d love to see health tech companies really understand how and whether their product is reducing the administrative burden of clinicians. If its not, you’re not ready for the market. It doesn’t really matter how accurate your biomarker (read correlated independent variable) algorithm is. If a physician has to log into a completely separate system to access it or it requires a network of people to operate it at scale, then you haven’t really solved anything. You’ve just moved the location of the clog in the system. Remember the phrase, ”addition through subtraction”. Use it to guide your planning.
Equity in the Spotlight
I’m grateful that HLTH puts such an emphasis on health equity. Helping to dismantle inequitable structures is one of the ways in which I hope to have some small part in changing the world. We've seen the recent regression away from investment in DEI strategies across industries. DEI officers are leaving as belts tighten and non-revenue generating departments are de-funded. I grow increasingly concerned that health equity will be treated as a faded shiny object as our attentions move on. Apropos of nothing, I'm sure Artificial Intelligence will be on everyone's lips at HLTH.
So let's prove that we can walk and chew bubble gum at the same time. If you are using some form of applied AI in your product, whether it be predictive analytics for risk scoring or computer vision for behavioral health diagnosis, or even ambient environment scanning for workplace violence, I want to know how you are ensuring that your model isn't built on flawed biases. Does your tech challenge the discriminatory infrastructure in healthcare or does it regurgitate what’s already out there? Have you considered whether your tech will reduce barriers to healthcare or further contribute to inequity within the system? Does your business model reflect that? If McCarthy can figure out how to make a deal with Democrats to temporarily avert a shutdown, then surely there's enough miracles out there to both make a difference in this area and nab some venture capital dollars.
Digital Health Hub Foundation Awards
I had the pleasure of participating as a judge for the Digital Health Hub Foundation Awards this year. In total I reviewed approximately 200 - 250 digital health companies. There is amazing work being done in this space and I can’t wait to hear more from the finalists at the awards ceremony.
I’ll also be seeking out some of those organizations that did not make the finals. Not being selected for a prize this go round is no reflection on the other candidates. It was a crowded field. I’ll be prowling around the show floor looking at those companies with submissions for applied AI and automation, IoMT, mixed reality, diagnostics and so much more. Congratulations to everyone who submitted a proposal!
No matter what, HLTH 2023 is sure to be an amazing conference because of the people that are there and the show that HLTH produces. I can’t wait to see what they’ve got planned for this year.
Some quick other things I'm excited about. I’m looking forward to meeting up with other queer healthcare leaders at PRIDE@HLTH event on Monday sponsored by OutCare. I’ll be eagerly watching the several start up pitch contests throughout the event. I’m also on the hunt for charming health tech nerds to join me as a future guest on Tech It to the Limit, the funny, ironic and surprisingly informative podcast I co-host with Sarah Harper.
But most importantly, I’ll be looking for puppies.
Note: This blog post was written without the use of artificial intelligence.