On the annual springtime migration to Austin, our clients, partners and friends—without fail—take one look at the super packed SXSW Interactive schedule, get excited, get overwhelmed and then proceed to have nasty flashbacks to first year course selection at university. Well, with deep gratitude to my esteemed colleagues Kristen Grant and Melissa O’Hara for their SXSW sleuthing skills, we’ve tried to take out some of the guesswork.

The team waded knee deep through the SXSW Interactive Health & MedTech stream of events to find what we hope will be some of the golden nuggets. Just think of us as your team of guidance counselors, here to help you pick your major, minor and maybe a couple electives.

But before we get to the list, I want to highlight our own MDigitalLife team who will have a standing presence at the SXSW Health & MedTech Expo. They will be showcasing how we can help you understand and leverage the online healthcare ecosystem, having mapped the digital footprints of over 700,000 stakeholders worldwide. Be sure to stop by and visit them as you make your way around the sessions.

Now, let’s get to our recommended sessions. Each link takes you to the relevant page on the SXSW site where you can add the event to your schedule.

Friday, March 11, 2016

2016 SX Health & MedTech Expo

Time: 10:00am-6:00pm

Location: JW Marriot, 110 East 2nd Street

SX Health & MedTech is an integral part of SXSW Interactive, brings together many of the conversations being discussed at SXSW – not to mention that everyone has a personal relationship with health. Look for the 2016 event to expand the number of exhibitors, broaden and deepen the discussion topics, and make it even more accessible for the SXSW community to participate in the conversation.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Value Revolution: Transforming the Health Business

Time: 9:30am – 10:30am

Location:  JW Marriott, Room 203-204 110 E 2nd St

This panel will explore the groundbreaking solutions to the problems that have driven the system to the breaking point, along with specific regions and ecosystems that are making those solutions real.

Apps and Better Medical Outcomes: Real Solutions

Time: 11:00am-12:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

This panel will discuss cutting edge mobile solutions that help with communication among caregivers, educational or job re-entry, organization of medical records and independence

Virtual Health: Is it Real or Just Fantasy?

Time: 11:00am – 12:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 203-204 110 E 2nd St

Experts will speak about a number of topics including the historical legislative and policy initiatives that have hindered and promoted the use of virtual health at the state and federal levels and the rapid development of technology that is enabling these platforms to provide improved access and quality driven outcomes.

A New FDA: A Partner for the Digital Future

Time: 12:30pm-1:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, MedTech Stage 110 E 2nd St

Leading this charge is Bakul Patel, Assoc. Director for Digital Health at the FDA, who will provide insights into the FDA’s current and future plans for regulating digital health and answer those questions you were afraid to ask.

Rare in Common: Building Rare Disease Communities

Time: 12:30pm-1:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

This session will explore the potential and impact of these digital communities with rare diseases in common from the point of view of multiple stakeholders: the people facing rare diseases themselves, companies dedicated to developing medicines for them, and thought leaders in rare disease communications.

Virtual Physicians: The Future of Healthcare

Time: 12:30pm-1:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 203-204 110 E 2nd St

Join us to explore the revolutionary role virtual humans may play in your healthcare future! Part of the IEEE Tech for Humanity Series.

New Prescription: Mobilize Patients’ Communities

Time: 3:30pm-4:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

Hear from the President of Seton Medical Center Austin and CEO of Rallyhood, who created an innovative program to mobilize patients’ personal communities that aide hospital recovery.

Digital Health and Outcomes: Where’s the Evidence?

Time: 3:30pm-4:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, MedTech Stage 110 E 2nd St

This panel, moderated by BuzzFeed’s Stephanie Lee, will explore how digital health companies can use clinical evidence to succeed through the lens of a company that has commercialized its outcomes (Omada Health), a company that validates emerging products (Evidation Health), and an investor that evaluates hundreds of companies each year (Rock Health).

The Future of Medicine: Where Can Tech Take Us?

Time: 5:00pm-6:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, MedTech Stage 110 E 2nd St

From the prospective of a leading physician, scientist and innovator who is Chair of Medicine at Singularity University, this talk examines rapidly emerging, game changing and convergent technology trends and their potential to change the face of healthcare and the practice of medicine.

Are Medical Devices and Systems Hack Proof?

Time: 5:00pm-6:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 203-204 110 E 2nd S

As clinicians increasingly rely on computers vs. common sense, and medical devices become increasingly vulnerable to security breaches, it’s time for new dialog on trust and security for Medtech.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

2016 SX Health & MedTech Expo

Time: 10:00am-6:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, 110 East 2nd Street

Look for the 2016 event to expand the number of exhibitors, broaden and deepen the discussion topics, and make it even more accessible for the SXSW community to participate in the conversation.

Telling Health Stories with Interactive Storymaps

Time: 11:00am-1:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 402-403 110 E 2nd St

This interactive workshop will use Esri’s storymapping technology and teach participants how to find health data, combine different data, and display them through interactive storymaps that create unique, holistic depiction of personal and community health. Bringing your own health data is encouraged!

Revolutionizing Med Education to Transform Health

Time: 12:30pm – 1:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 203-204  110 E 2nd St

Experts on the front lines of this revolution will discuss how medical schools are changing, what this means for students, educators, patients and the community, and how technology and innovation will help create physician lead in the evolving education landscape.

Hacking for Healing: MedTech & Chronic Disease

Time: 12:30pm-1:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

Four experts will discuss their platforms, research, and deep experience to give chronic disease patients new ways to think about managing their health — shifting from precision medicine to precision prevention.

Imagining the Future of Personalized Medicine

Time: 3:30pm-4:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

Jennifer Darmour, wearable tech expert and designer, David O’Reilly, leader in digital medicine, and Alan Levy, veteran innovator of specialty pharma products, debate the best path forward toward more engaging and personalized healthcare and lay out future possibilities that will astound you.

The President’s Precision Medicine Initiative

Time: 3:30-4:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, MedTech Stage 110 E 2nd St

The Precision Medicine Initiative, unveiled by President Obama in January 2015, is a bold new cross-government initiative to build the technology, data and policy frameworks to catalyze new insights and therapies so that every patient can have individualized, tailored treatment.

(Video) Gaming the Healthcare System

Time: 5:00-6:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, MedTech Stage 110 E 2nd St

Games, video games in particular, have shown a much more significant contribution to healthcare by providing a connective community and therapy to both physical and cognitive impairments, as detailed by our expert panel. Come play!

Millennials in Medicine: Good or Bad for Health?

Time: 5:00pm-6:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 203-204 110 E 2nd St

This panel of leading millennial physician-innovators will offer a provocative prognosis for the future of US healthcare and debate the net value of physicians disrupting rather than providing healthcare.

Deadliest Catch: New Cancer Diagnosis Approaches

Time: 5:00-6:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

Biomarkers are recognized as a critical tool for bringing new drug candidates to market and driving personalized medicine. Now, this groundbreaking science provides a powerful new opportunity to detect and prevent lethal cancers and save lives.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Wearables: The Powder Keg for a Health Revolution

Time: 9:30am-10:30am

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd

Join Garmin, a global leader in connected fitness and wellness technology, and Validic, the healthcare industry’s leading digital health platform, as they discuss how wearable technology innovation and adoption is setting the stage for a healthcare revolution.

Rethinking Healthcare Through Design Thinking

Time: 11:00am-12:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 203-204 110 E 2nd S

This panel will feature a nationally recognized health design leader to lay out the landscape of problems facing healthcare, and he will demonstrate how creativity and design can address – and have addressed – those challenges.

Consumer Reports: What’s Our Health Data Worth?

Time: 11:00am-12:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

Hear solutions for balancing individuals’ right to privacy with profound opportunities to serve the public good, advance science & innovation, and achieve a more effective health-care system. Takeaways include ideas for new regulations, systems, and best practices, plus actions we can all take to manage our valuable health data more responsible.

CDT/Fitbit: Ethics and Privacy in Wearable Research

Time: 12:30pm-1:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

Through a visually engaging presentation, the presenters will offer details on the project goals, methodology, findings, and analysis, as well as present the final guidance recommendations.

Wearables in Health: In Theory and in Practice

Time: 3:30pm-4:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

In this dual presentation, Dr. Sam Volchenboum will speak to where we’re at and where we’re headed regarding the challenges and benefits of using wearable data to inform treatment and clinical trials. Dr. Ray Duncan of Cedars Sinai Hospital will share the practical hurdles, insights, and success stories of integrating wearable data with EMRs at one of the most connected health systems in the country.

Tuesday. March 15, 2016

Tech in the Golden Years: How Tech Changes Aging

Time: 9:30am-10:30am

Location: JW Marriott Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

In this panel, SXSW goers will gain a fresh perspective on emerging tech in senior healthcare from an often unheard generation at SXSW: a baby boomer. HomeHero, Heal and PillPack will speak on the need for quality caregivers, physicians and easy access to medication, while the aging senior can share his own perspective.

We the People: Healthcare and the 2016 Election

Time: 11:00am-12:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

Join Jane Adams, Washington insider & Senior Director of Federal Affairs, Johnson & Johnson, & Lauren Chauret, Partner at PTV Healthcare Capital, as they discuss the 2016 election, its implications on the healthcare system & show you how to come out on top!

Inhale and Exhale: The Future of Health Data APIs

Time: 3:00pm-4:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

A generation of startups are taking on the enormous task of building simple, portable APIs for health data. These companies are building solutions that will finally bring about the interconnected health system that we are all desperately waiting for, and could hold the keys to cracking open the health IT market.

Fixing the Patient Behavior Change Gap

Time: 5:00pm-6:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 203-204 110 E 2nd St

This panel explores why behavior change is so difficult, even when it’s in our best interest, and how new technologies and smarter design can help us solve the largest problem in healthcare tech — behavior modification and engagement.

Improving Physicians’ Understanding of Patients

Time: 5:00-6:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

Based on case study data, participants at a recent health app design challenge developed a FHIR-compliant application that intuitively communicates the patient’s status to any interested party.

Of course, while SXSW sessions can be hit and miss, we hope that this curated list of recommendations helps you navigate the maze of SXSW and have a better overall experience at SXSW. And if you have other recommendations or feedback on our shortlist, please be sure to let us know in the comments below.

Learn more about W2O Group

KomenAnnouncement_800x600 (1)

Susan G. Komen, the world’s largest nonprofit source of funding for the fight against breast cancer, has been a key client of ours for almost 3 years. For many people at our firm, including myself, whose lives have been affected by cancer, it has been a deeply rewarding experience to work with such an impactful organization. And that’s why we were particularly honored when Komen named Twist Mktg, one of our subsidiary agencies, along with our partner iMedia Inc, the 2015 “Agency Partners of the Year”, for the design and development of the newly launched flagship Komen website.


(Pictured: John Huffstutler, Joel Macaluso, Dr. Judith Salerno, Jennifer Graeff, Colin Foster)

Together with iMedia, Twist Mktg implemented a much more survivor/co-survivor-centric approach intertwined with a warmer tone focused on delivering a world-class experience. Everyone was pleased with the increased engagement results that came shortly after the launch in September: 76% increase in site traffic, 59% increase in online revenue, and 12% increase in engagement (for October 2014). A strong focus on the mobile experience was also central to the strategy, and it clearly paid off, with a 69% increase in the number of mobile sessions compared to the same month in 2013.

Our Commitment to Fighting Cancer Runs Deep

Our firm’s effort in fighting cancer is part of a broader commitment that covers long-standing partnerships with several healthcare clients, ongoing support for cancer research and cancer advocacy groups, as well as cancer patients themselves.  Healthcare clients make up the foundation of our agency, with whom we focus on delivering “next-gen” insights enabling them to positively impact the health and wellness of their customers.  In fact, we currently work with more than 20 cancer-related organizations, many of whom develop game-changing cancer molecules, conduct needed oncology research, and run patient support programs. When you think about it, on any given day we probably have well over a 100 employees dedicated to helping our clients in the fight against cancer – but we know we are just scratching the surface.

Our commitment in this area extends beyond biopharma companies. Here are a few examples that show the breadth of our commitment:

Leadership and Service

We have several folks in our organization that are very involved in influential cancer organizations.

MDigitalLife Research

MDigitalLife is the world’s first and only database to link physicians’ online content to their national physician registry records. It maps the digital footprint of more than 500,000 health ecosystem profiles (including physicians, healthcare advocates and hospitals). It reveals how physicians around the world are using digital and social media to improve the health of their patients, the success of their practice, and to regain their voice as a critical player in the health system. Recently, it expanded globally, and now includes the online activity of over 7,000 physicians in 128 countries.

  • W2O Group has leveraged this data to fuel many notable projects, including but not limited to:
    • 3rd Annual Social Oncology Project– a report that pinpoints online trends around conversations that involve oncology. The 2014 report highlighted that breast cancer made up 19% of all cancer-related tweets, followed by lung cancer (9%) and prostate cancer (7%). We will continue to build this research to better understand who and what drives digital oncology conversation so we can then understand how to serve patients and advocacy groups online.
    • Decoding the Cancer Center Constituent- MDigitalLife partnered with GoodScout and MD Anderson to deliver specific brand preferences and key interests of individuals that currently follow the top 50 Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the U.S. This enables hospitals and health systems to better understand their customers which then informs what messaging and which spokespeople/sponsors will resonate with their audience.
      • In this video, Greg Matthews, founder of MDigital Life and Managing Director of W2O Group, discusses why, in the face of a changing model for care delivery, hospitals and cancer centers must understand their stakeholders as never before – and how the W2O Group’s SocialGraphics method can contribute to that.

This announcement by Susan G. Komen is fuel to our fire to continue to do our part, as an agency and as individuals, to contribute to the effort in ending cancer.


The W2O Health Summit convened talent across our organization to reflect and strategize on how our integrated assets can drive leadership and growth in our health care business. It was packed with insights and thought leadership from our colleagues and special guests, who discussed the current and future state of the industry, the changing digital landscape, best practices, and what’s to come. These past two days gave us a great look at what we have to offer and more importantly, it reminded us of the caliber of people we have at our company.

It’s clear that we are optimistic about the future of our health care business and are looking forward to continuing to integrate our offerings and develop broader internal partnerships to benefit our culture and the work we do for our clients. This is an exciting time for the company, so we are looking forward to giving you recaps of the sessions held over the past couple of days.

 Objectives & Vision (Diane Weiser and Jim Weiss)

Diane and Jim kicked-off the meeting highlighting the key points that allow us to do the best work for our clients, and how we can help them transform in the digital age. It was emphasized that we provide two things for our clients, insights and execution. If we continue to focus on these cornerstones of our business and establish and connect our sub-practices, we can rule-out speculation and help our clients see, think, do and change in real time. This is more important than ever in the evolving digital age, as we have power to educate people trying to access health care through these channels.

 Keynote (Jeff Arnold, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Sharecare)

Jeff Arnold joined us to speak about welcoming change and thinking differently in a changing digital health world. Jeff was previously CEO of WebMD. He stressed that our success will rely on coming to market with thought leadership to get people to think in a different way. If we take risks, maintain discipline in the perspectives we choose and believe in our partners and clients we will unlock opportunity. When approaching these opportunities we have to ask how DATA + KNOWLEDGE = ENGAGEMENT based on the needs of our clients.

We are amidst a change in the way consumers interact with their health. With so many trends pushing for consumer interest in personal health, we will be seeing more physician engagement due to increasing consumer demand. We will have to watch this evolution closely and make sure that we approach our work accordingly.

Global Industry Trends (Colin Foster and Danielle Whitney)

Colin and Danielle spoke about global trends that are shaping pricing, access, and communication and how health is evolving on a global scale. They noted as technology advances and digital platforms become more utilized in emerging markets, the opportunity for information exchange will grow exponentially. Digital social platforms will be key areas for health communications. Mobile strategy should also aim to determine how to leverage technology within divergent markets to ensure point of care engagement

Pharma companies are making massive investments in these markets to address the challenges they are facing. Our clients need our integrated expertise to break into these markets and partner with them in developing conventional and unconventional relationships. Through this partnership we will establish resonance and loyalty.

Stay tuned on Monday for insights on the patient perspective from a special guest from Susan G. Komen and the future of integrated health care delivery from panel members from Proteus, Availity and Evolent Health.

— Your Roving Reporters

Yes, it is now nearly four weeks since the largest South by Southwest Interactive Conference in history took place (nearly 20,000 descended upon Austin, TX). And truth be told, the dog did not eat my SXSW post (I don’t even have a dog). But I have been busy at my new job at WCG so I haven’t had a chance to do as much blogging as I’d like. That and this finishing off my book thing.

However, this is too important an event to NOT write a recap. So as not to be redundant, let me point you in the direction of three blog posts that I really liked. The first is from my colleague, Bob Pearson and it sums up the five trends that the folks at our company, WCG, witnessed during SXSXi. The second is from friend and Statesman editor, Omar Gallaga about five ways SXSWi could improve. The third was a post by Andy Budd passed along by Robert Scoble and it talks about the evolution of SXSWi as a conference and why it’s okay that it has changed.

For starters, personally enjoyed SXSWi this year. I think it was my second favorite (my 1st being my overall favorite). For one, I didn’t over-schedule myself. Second, I took the advice of my wise friend, Chris Heuer, and worked hard to stay focused in the moment. Fortunately for me, I bumped into Chris Thursday night at a dinner at Arts Ribs that my good friend, Jim Storer, and I were attending (hosted by Cathy Brooks and Nokia)

Jim and I were talking with Chris and Jay Adelson when Jay asked the three of us, “what are you guys looking to get out of SouthBy this year?” My knee jerk reaction response wsa, “just to survive it.” As a side note to my “not over-scheduling” comment above, last year was way too over-scheduled and it made for a schizophrenic and much less fulfilling SXSWi for me. Chris followed this up with, “my goal is that where ever I go, to ‘BE’ there.” The three of us kind of chuckled a little and then the profoundness of Chris’s comment began to sink in. I immediately stole these words and put them into practice during the rest of my SouthBy experience.

Note: one of my most favorite moments at SXSWi was during our corporate outing at the Salt Lick where colleague, Colin Foster, rode mechanical bull (pictured below). All that’s missing is the bandana and the cowboy hat.

What I found was that during the even, I had 100 quality conversations with a lot of people that I really cared about versus 500 conversations with a mix of people that I may or may not have cared about. As it turned out, this approach left me with a much more fulfilling experience and deeper insights from people like Dennis Crowley, Tristan WalkerMark Hendrickson, Rick Calvert, Simon Mainwaring, Chris BaccusLiz Strauss, Hugh McLeod, Jon Swartz, Rick Wion, Mukund Mohan, Adam Garone, Andy Ellwood and Josh Williams. It also meant that I got to spend quality time with friends, clients and colleagues like Jim Storer, Zena WeistMike Schneider, Heather Strout, Kyle Flaherty, Jeremy Tanner, Tim Walker, Mark Wallace, Francine McKennaSydney Owen, Mike Pascucci, David ArmanoJoe Jaffe, Shawn Morton, Bill Johnston, Matt Solar, Derek Peplau, Rachel Happe, Christine Perkett, Doug HaslamCappy Popp, Tyson Goodridge, Laura Fitton, Becky JohnsEkatrina Walter, Greg Matthews, Bob Pearson, Colin Foster and Paulo Simas. Arguably the biggest win was being able to share the SXSWi experience with my better half, Melanie Strout, who is now working for several different clients in the social media eyes. In addition to spending more time with her rather than leaving her a SXSWi widow, I was also able to view SXSWi through the eyes of someone that had never been before and that was a very cool experience.

While this revelation was personally helpful to me, it also dawned on me that businesses could take a page out of Chris Heuer’s playbook and stay focused on quality versus quantity conversations. That doesn’t mean that brands should ignore anyone that’s tweeting at them or commenting on their blogs/videos/podcasts but rather that more time might be invested in the people that really care about and influence their brands versus the casual bystander.

If I had to pin down the five trends I observed at this years event (borrowing a bit from those three posts I mentioned above):

  1. Social media has gone mainstream. This was reinforced by the sheer volume of corporate and traditional media participation at the event. By the way, no griping from me. This is what I’ve been dreaming about for a while.
  2. Location based services were the bell of the ball with keynotes and featured speeches the CEOs of SCVNGR, foursquare and Gowalla.
  3. There was no “one” technology or company that emerged like Twitter and foursquare did in ’07 and ’09 respectively. Hashable got some pretty good buzz and Plancast firmed up it’s already solid leadership role.
  4. While QR codes were everywhere, I’m not sure how many people actually did anything about them. I think people ARE doing something about QR codes in places like grocery stores and airports where they aren’t overwhelmed by them but there were just too darn many of them at SXSWi.
  5. Businesses curating content will win. Samsung did a gorgeous job with their media wall at taking the best of the best from all the tweets, PPTs, checkins and pictures from the conference and distilled them down to a single feed (with a little help from their friends at JESS3).

So what did you like about SXSW? What were your observations? Feel free to share them — personal or professional — in the comments below.