An interesting observation from this year’s conference is that its focus seems to have shifted significantly from prior years towards exploring and exposing a deeper understanding of the actual needs that providers and point of care organizations have, and how these that can be solved by innovation (rather than it being just a showcase of solutions looking for problems to solve). At the same time, it has become clear that some providers and insurers are also making more of an effort to better understand their individual customers, and what they they actually need and expect as consumers.
Providers and insurers are beginning to address those needs in a variety of ways, reminding themselves that their customers rarely think of themselves as “patients”, and only when the need arises.
Most of the time, they are regular people going about their daily lives; those are the times when a proactive approach to instill behavior changes and lifestyle improvements can benefit those consumers, and their health, the most.
As it often turns out, technology and market needs evolve in parallel and this year’s conference seemed to validate this fact, by featuring many innovative solutions that leverage technologies such spoken voice interfaces, driven by Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and overall more holistic approach to interpreting the myriads of real-time data sources from wearable’s and other devices to determine individual user needs.
Another interesting development was seeing a significant number of startups introduce products that leverage non-traditional methods to deliver health and wellness benefits, which consumers are adopting to maintain their health, or to speed recovery from a medical procedure. In prior years the conference’s speakers have portrayed a future vision of the upcoming “consumerization” of health; this year’s program and products being presented were proof positive that this moment has indeed arrived and that the healthcare equation has moved squarely in the consumer’s end of the playing field, leaving the rest of the industry to figure out how to adapt their services and processes to fulfill the needs of consumers now fully able to take charge of their own health.
A consumer driven health
When it comes to putting the actual consumers/customers in the center of that equation, there was a very interesting panel conversation called ”The New World of Consumer Tools and Health Models” led by Health 2.0 and co-founder and CEO Indu Subaiya . The panelists were Jeff Margolis, founder of Kyle Rolfing founder of Bright Health, and Jackie Aube VP Customer personalization and experience at Cigna.
Jeff of Welltok felt that the current systems and platforms providers and insurers use are not set up at all to support patients in an individualized and personalized ways. The platforms were built for a different world and sets of concerns. He reiterated that:
“99% of the time people are not in “patient-mode” but in “consumer-mode” so existing platforms that do not take into account lifestyle and environment and the related data, are inherently not able to provide the full range of personalized services and benefits for when those consumers have to pivot to being patients”.Said that he felt that, rather than abandoning or replacing them, it is critical that these legacy systems are integral to the new systems and platforms being built, and for them to work together as seamlessly as possible.
Kyle explained that Bright Health is a consumer driven health plan and individual consumers decide that they want to work with the plan.They are the end customer and ultimately their only customers to service, without having to deal with a B2B model to large corporate clients. Doing so enables Bright Health to focus solely on the needs of direct customers and design systems and services that make sense for them.
Jackie said that the shift for Cigna was in how they went from consumer engagement based on health education to a different model altogether. There was an absolute need to shift and have consumers/customers being at the center of all of Cigna’s initiatives and not just patient education. Consumers continue to want to make choices about their healthcare, so Cigna makes sure that they maintain a network of excellent provider partners, and the value provided to consumers is in making sure to make it easy for consumers to understand what they will need to take care of their own health conditions so that Cigna can focus on the part it needs to do to address the medical portion of their condition. Cigna launched a product to make it easier for consumers to get the best and most affordable quality care and to help them navigate the ecosystem using data analytics and machine intelligence from everything learned about that customer to make it an absolutely and friction free-experience for things such as finding the right lab facility near their house, or to recommend the types of interventions that best fit their lifestyle and needs whenever possible.
Other provider presentations during the conference sounded a common theme in that they feel overwhelmed by the myriads of complex issues inherent to the delivery of care, and there is only enough bandwidth for their decision makers and innovators to dedicate to discovering new products and services to adopt. Being bombarded by hundreds of startups with a wide range of untested digital solutions results in an inordinate amount of time and effort being spent just to evaluate these companies to see if their products are fit to solve any of their actual needs to begin with.
During the “Integrating Digital Health into Traditional Healthcare Settings” session, Alejandro Foung , the co-founder of a digital mental health platform called Lantern says that one of the things that have made it possible for his company to get traction with providers is to have been able to spend enough time with individual provider to truly understand what their top issues were, and at that point articulate and pitch their product in a way that very closely addressed how it could solve the needs of the provider and their patient population.
Lantern was one of many new digital health companies presenting at Health 2.0 and while their focus was on mental health, other companies showed the health benefits that can be had from non-traditional and somewhat esoteric sources in areas such as breathing monitoring for stress reduction, dance, as an accelerator to recovery from health situations, and even music as prescribed therapy with distinctly measurable outcomes.
Health benefits from non traditional therapies
In the first category we saw a demonstration from Neema Moraveji of Spire, a breath and activity tracker that is the only one of its kind proven to decrease stress and increase productivity. Spire measures breathing patterns to help users achieve a calm state. Although it does not make any medical claims of effectiveness, Spire is already recommended to patients by doctors and mental health professionals. Spire is available in the Apple store.
“While Spire cannot be considered a “startup” since it already has a product in market, their approach pushes the envelope of what can be achieved with measurable outcomes in a purely digital solution”.A clinical trial is in the works, as well as a new version of the device that does not need recharging for weeks, can be permanently attached to clothing and thrown with them in the wash.
Another interesting startup is Amy Li ’s Dance4Healing. A stage-4 cancer survivor, Amy credits her vitality and recovery also on the energy that an active participation in dance has had during her cancer treatment journey. Backed by clinical research that shows that regular physical activity such as dancing has on pain management, shortened hospital stay, and quicker recovery in many situations, Amy launched a trainer-led in-app video dance program that lets users dance along with the recorded instructor, as well as together with recovery buddies over the net in a live video-window.
“Research shows that people teaming up in their health journey achieve significantly higher outcomes, and the Dance4Healing app leverages this component in its design”.Dance by itself can lack in emotion without a good musical backdrop, and the power of music was brought forth in the conference by a presentation from Walter Werzowa, founder of a startup called Health Tunes. Health Tunes uses the characteristics found in different musical styles and compositions that can be matched to specific pathologies in their ability to trigger reactions that improve health conditions measurably. The music selections are not only indicated for certain conditions, but also must be contextually applied in order to achieve the desired results.
“Improvements in conditions from pathologies such as depression to parkinsons can be measured with a degree of medical efficacy, which makes the study and prescription of Music Therapies an exciting field to be explored further”.Walter will again be demonstrating his ground breaking work in Music Medicine Nov 16-17 at the upcoming Frontiers Health conference in Berlin, Germany.
The “transformation of pharma”
When it comes to seeing how startups can evolve and eventually become big players in the healthcare ecosystem we were proud to see our good friend Frank Westermann, co-founder of Austrian based diabetes startup MySugr present the future plans for his company, now that it has become part of the Roche group in as part of a $100 Million acquisition.
Another exciting development in what can be best described as the “transformation of pharma” was Bayer’s announcement at the conference that they they will be launching a US accelerator program specifically focused on the self care markets. The news was delivered on stage by Barton Warner, VP of strategy, and Eugene Borukhovich, Bayer’s global head of digital health innovation. Their message was that:
“Consumers are more and more interested in drug-free solutions, This could be through medical devices, this could be through natural solutions. The second thing is people are looking for solutions well beyond medicine. They’re looking for alternative therapies. We’re seeing this whole area of digital really starting to take hold and grow. So the growth is happening, it’s just not happening in the spaces where Bayer traditionally operates”.The MySugr acquisition, and the Bayer announcement are testament that the age of Digital Health and Consumer centered healthcare has truly arrived and here at Healthware we are looking with excitement to all the amazing progress in this area that 2018 will bring!