Health 2.0 in 2015: Big steps forward

This week I attended Health 2.0’s Annual Fall Conference for the third year in a row.

I came away more impressed than I’ve been in previous years. Here’s why.

The Unmentionables Focuses on Aging, Caregiving, and Hospice

The Unmentionables session hosted by Alex Drane is always terrific, but this year was especially so, since it focused mainly on aging and caregiving.

If the video is ever made available I’ll post it here. In the meantime, you’ll have to make do with my Storify collection.

Particularly notable:

  • Bill McIvor from SeniorLink delivered an incredibly compelling and talk on family caregivers, centered on the story of “Alice.” I especially liked the way he highlighted the stakes for different entities: for Alice herself, for Alice’s father, for Alice’s employer, and for the father’s insurer.
    • “Caregiving is the new smoking.” Telling statement re the health impacts of smoking.
  • Kai Stinchcombe from TrueLink told the story of his family struggling to cope with his father’s cognitive challenges. He especially focused on his mother, who has been so focused helping her spouse and children that she can’t spare any effort for her own health. Don’t send her a reminder to just “go get a mammogram,” he tells us.
    • Also from Kai: “Aging is humiliating, because you lose capacities and that’s humiliating.”
    • “Independence doesn’t mean you don’t need support. It means you have the support you need.” Well said!
  • BJ Miller of the Zen Hospice Project gave a short but intense talk about death and dying. He urged the audience to focus on “human-centered care” that brings attention to the human needs of patients, families, and clinicians.
    • In an interesting moment, BJ asked people to raise their hand if they would take an immortality pill. Quite a few people raised their hands, and BJ noted that usually only 1% of the crowd admits to wanting this.
    • Worried about being a burden? “Get over it,” says BJ. I’m still mulling over whether we can adopt that one in geriatrics.
    • Closing words: “Let’s make space.”


More input from “regular doctors”

In past years, it seemed to me that almost all doctors on stage were involved in start-ups, or pitching something, or at best representing the leadership of some large health provider or insurer or other big organization. This meant there was little representation from the front-lines of delivering healthcare. But this year was different.

  • The American Medical Association sponsored and participated for the first time.
    • Now, I’ll admit that like many progressive doctors, I’m not a huge fan of the AMA. That’s partly because they mainly defend physician privilege, plus they usually don’t support progressive legislation. (Famously, they opposed Medicare back in the day.)
    • Still, for them to participate at Health 2.0 seems notable. They led two sessions related to the physician’s user experience with technology. (Predictably, doctors aired a lot of frustrations with EHRs.) They also announced their intention to soon launch an innovation lab based in San Francisco.
  • Bob Wachter gave a keynote related to his book, The Digital Doctor.
    • I found Wachter’s stories to be a welcome reality check, given how often people seem to think one can just add technology and things will be better.
    • He especially noted that “the chart is a deep mysterious and messy place” and cautioned the crowd against adding still more data to it – from wearables, presumably – until we’ve found a way to make it more manageable as it is.
  • Sachin Jain, CMO of CareMore gave feedback during one mainstage demo session, from the perspective of an organization that mainly cares for medically complex older adults post hospitalization. (CareMore’s model of care for older adults is fascinating — they co-manage with PCPs! — read about it here.)
    • He noted that many of their patients do not want to be activated, they just want to be taken care of.

It’s terrific for Health 2.0 to give voice to doctors who are open to tech but haven’t been drinking too much techie kool-aid, or otherwise can voice the real concerns and skepticism of clinicians. Innovators need to create solutions that work for these kinds of clinicians, so it’s important to hear from them.

The Surgeon General Speaks at Health 2.0

This year the Surgeon General himself, Vivek Murthy, presented a keynote address. I’ve made a Storify of that part too. Highlights and key points he made:

  • He shared two big lessons he has learned since he became Surgeon General 10 months ago. First: we face a lot of disease burden in our country. Most of it is from chronic disease. He notes that much of it is preventable, and calls for us to invest as much in prevention as we do in treatment.
    • “Can technology and innovation help us prevent disease, as well as it helps us treat disease,” asks the Surgeon General.
  • Lesson #2: People have lost faith in their ability to manage their health, and this sense of dis-empowerment is worrisome.
    • “Can technology restore a sense of agency and empowerment to people?” he asks.
  • He proposed to focus on three pillars of health: nutrition, active living, and emotional well-being.
    • He noted that complex problems don’t always require complex solutions, and points to walking as a simple intervention with profound benefits.
    • He said he’s noticed quite a lot of stress among people of various ages. He later suggested promoting mindfulness and gratitude as one approach to addressing this.
    • He also noted that social isolation is pervasive and asked tech to help address this.
  • He ended by calling on the innovation community to help make healthy choices easier, eliminate disparities, and make health a team effort that supports community building.

I was glad to hear the Surgeon General, even though it was a little sad that he didn’t say much about aging. Of note he’s younger than most people who fill this role, so should be interesting to see how his tenure will dovetail with the ongoing innovations and changes in healthcare.

The (First Ever) Sleep Technology Summit & Expo

This year Health 2.0 included the Sleep Technology Summit, sponsored by the National Sleep Foundation.

It seemed to be an event-within-an-event: free to Health 2.0 registrants and ran in parallel to some other Health 2.0 session. I attended about half of the sessions and they were terrific.

At the start of the Sleep Tech Summit, the organizers noted that sleep IS a pillar of health. They also pointed out that poor sleep is endemic and causes short-term and long-term health problems.

As an internist and geriatrician, I have found that sleep complaints are very common among older adults and family caregivers. (Also, like many busy younger people, I’ve had my own run-ins with insomnia and chronic sleep deprivation.)

So I especially enjoyed the sleep summit because it addressed a health problem that is relevant to the health of older adults, relevant to me personally, and of major public health significance. Plus, some interesting new technology tools can likely make it easier for us to help people with their sleep.

But I’ll have to cover the things I learned about sleep in another post…possibly once I’ve tried and reviewed one of the devices I heard about.

All in all, good things at Health 2.0 this year.

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