CommonSense Blog

Technology Needs to Advance Care: One Expert Weighs in on Health IT’s Mission

By Jenny Laurello | Jan 06, 2017

Every year, healthcare IT plays an even more prominent role at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference. In fact, JPM-related conversations that fell under the digital health topic umbrella surpassed that of biotech on Twitter at last year’s event.

As San Francisco prepares for its annual invasion of healthcare and biotech visionaries, W2O asked Senior Managing Director of Health Investments at GE Ventures, Lisa Suennen — otherwise known as the Venture Valkyrie — to share her perspective on the state of the industry today and what she is most looking forward to at this year’s event. Below, she discusses what needs to happen for the community at large to realize that when it comes to healthcare technology, “Trendiness does not equal value. Technology does not equal good.”

Q. What conversations/discussions around digital health advancement are you most looking forward to having/hearing while onsite at JPM this year?

A. I am most looking forward to hearing about real success stories, particularly those that demonstrate how the confluence of IT and pharma, or IT and medtech, have meaningfully improved clinical outcomes and reduced cost while doing so. I’d also like to hear some evidence of how all of this big data/AI/machine learning work is resulting in actual activity to change physician behavior, particularly around improved diagnoses and avoidance of medical errors. So far, most of the talk has been about technology and too little of the talk is about results.

Q. What individual (or group/company) in the digital health community has inspired or impressed you in the past year? Why?

A. There are many here, but I am particularly inspired by the people who truly care about serving the entire spectrum of people, and especially those whose situations make healthcare access and use more difficult due to socioeconomic status, ethnicity and language differences, age, disability, etc. Using digital technologies to empathetically and effectively serve underserved communities is essential to the successful improvement of our healthcare system. There are a number of people and companies focused on this, finally, and as we incorporate social determinants of health into effective care delivery, we will all be better for it.

Q. What area of digital health do you feel is ripest for innovation/primed for growth going into 2017

A. I think we are going to see a lot more uptake, vs experimentation and dreaded pilots, for the “beyond the product” activities of pharma and medtech. The results are starting to come in for some of these products and there is evidence that some of them can make a material difference in clinical outcome and cost, as well as improve patient experience. Any product that can demonstrate those results in less than 12-month time frames will gain traction.

Q. As a new Administration takes the helm, what is your outlook for digital health progress and HIT advancement over the next few years? 

A. It’s impossible to guess the impact of the administration as there are too many variables. What we know is that no matter who runs the place, we need to find our way to better value in healthcare. I think that the convergence of IT and healthcare is here to stay and the trick is making it useful not cool. Trendiness does not equal value. Technology does not equal good. We will see advancement in this field as long as the technology can demonstrate it is an effective tool to advance the delivery of better results by clinicians on behalf of patients. Hopefully we will also start looking for ways to more effectively align our financial interests to advance products and services that focus as much on prevention as treating the sick. The next few years will be about evidence of efficacy because the whole Field of Dreams approach to digital health (if we build it, they will come), has, unsurprisingly, proven to be entirely wrong. I also think we will soon see an end to the term “digital health.” In our US economy pretty much everything is digitizing and yet we don’t call it digital banking or digital transportation. We healthcare people need to get comfortable that technology is as much a part of the everyday armamentarium (or the medical bag) as are drugs, devices and services.

Be sure to follow the #JPM17 conversation on Monday, January 9, from 12:40pm – 1:45pm PST, as W2O Group hosts its 3rd Annual Digital Health Panel Discussion in San Francisco. Lisa will be joining a dynamic group of industry leaders to discuss market changes, challenges and opportunities across the ever-changing health IT landscape. Learn more about Lisa’s incredible work by checking out her blog and her podcast!