A year after the COVID-19 pandemic vaulted digital health into the headlines, we’re asking some big questions. Is there a better warning system for the next pandemic? Can we have consumerization of health care? Will new payment models work? What impact can we make on key issues such as health equity and vaccine confidence?
W2O’s annual Digital Health (this time, virtual) event was the place to go to for answers. As always, it took place alongside the J.P Morgan Health Care Conference and CES and featured some of the leading minds in health care and beyond.
Day One Keynote: Improving the Human Condition Through Data and Technology
The two-day summit began with an engaging discussion between former Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation CEO Dr. Sue Desmond-Hellmann and W2O’s Mike Huckman, Global Practice Leader, Executive Communications. The pair have known each other for many years, dating back to Huckman’s days as a CNBC reporter.
Dr. Desmond-Hellmann, an oncologist and longtime biotech leader, spoke about the need to make sure the tools used to make medicines even more precise are “fit for purpose” in public health. She also discussed the role of digital technology in helping those experiencing “long-haul” symptoms from COVID-19.
Day Two Keynote: Why Do You Even Call It A “System?”
Mastercard Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Raja Rajamannar highlighted the potential for tech-oriented payment companies to disrupt what he called a “mind-befuddling” health care system. He asked, “Why do you even call it a system?”
Rajamannar called for tech-focused disruption in three key areas: billing, paperwork and the catch-all category of waste, fraud and abuse.
The Evolution and Transformation of Primary Care
What’s next for primary care was the focus of a discussion between Crossover Health Founder and CEO Dr. Scott Shreeve and health economist Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, an advisor to W2O.
Dr. Shreeve, a board-certified emergency medicine physician, said that when the pandemic hit last March, Crossover – whose clients are largely self-insured companies – embraced “pandemic primary care” almost immediately.
How Far Did the Pandemic Push Digital Health?
The pandemic not only accelerated the development and use of digital health, but also pushed the FDA to be even more flexible in its regulatory approach. That was one of many conclusions in a panel discussion moderated by Udit Nagar, a Vice President at health care investment banking group BTIG, and panelists Brian Harris, Co-founder and CEO of MedRhythms, Eddie Martucci, CEO and Co-founder of Akili, and Michael Evers, CEO of Woebot Health.
How Do You Find an Ideal Patient Population?
Ron Elwell, Co-founder of Swoop and IPM.ai – which were recently acquired by W2O – talked with W2O Chief Marketing Officer Aaron Strout about getting patients with undiagnosed conditions, especially rare diseases, connected more quickly to potential treatment paths. The discussion also focused on ensuring a more representative sample of patients in clinical trials.
The New Normal: Digital Welcomed with Open Arms
Techonomy’s David Kilpatrick led a session about the “return to normalcy” after the pandemic. Kirkpatrick was joined by Denise Heaney, Senior Scientific Affairs Manager, Diagnostics Information Solutions at Roche Diagnostics, and Nick Vitalari, Chief Strategy Officer at Quantum Materials Corp.
Heaney pointed out that the pandemic “has opened up a lot of doors where digital will really be welcomed with open arms, because people have started to adopt, or at least consider, these types of virtual platforms that allow them to do a variety of virtual care.”
For more: Health Tech’s Role in Return to Normalcy
Can We Have Amazon-Like Experiences in Health Care?
Health systems are getting pushed into the digital age by changing patient demands that the pandemic accelerated. How those systems handle that was the focus of a discussion between Salesforce Executive Medical Director Dr. Geeta Nayyar, M.D., and HIMSS Senior Vice President of Enterprise Marketing and Communications Terri Sanders.
Investing in the patient-physician/provider relationship may be the best opportunity to satisfy those patient demands and improve patient outcomes, Dr. Nayyar said, and not just for large hospitals. “You have to bring value to that independent practitioner,” she said.
For more: Digital Health’s Push Into Consumerism
Public Health’s Early Warning System Is Digital
Last year, users of Kinsa’s connected thermometer provided early signs that COVID-19 was spreading. Public health officials were slow to accept the data, Kinsa CEO Inder Singh said in an eye-opening session with Techonomy’s Kilpatrick. “I’m sad it took a pandemic to bring to light how important our work on early warning of outbreaks is,” Sing said.
Critical Issue: Clinical Trial Diversity
The need to keep up the push for true diversity in clinical trials was the main subject of a panel moderated by Eric Roberts, Vice President of W2O’s Hū, with Peyton Howell, EVP and Chief Commercial Officer of Parexel, Sonali Duggal, Chief Commercial Officer of par8o, and Jackie Kent, EVP and Head of Product for Medidata.
Duggal sounded a note of optimism: “It’s more than just lip service. It’s actual people, it’s budgets, it’s time, it’s executive attention, and that is something that feels really new, and that it will last and stick beyond COVID.”
Media Chat: Stories from the Frontlines
Wired magazine Co-founder Jane Metcalfe and ex-CNBC reporter Christina Farr, who moved from journalism to OMERS Ventures last year, had a wide-ranging chat on the event’s final day.
Farr discussed her jump into the VC world from media, saying she wanted to be “more of a source of help behind the scenes,” and Metcalfe talked about how her science-focused NEO.LIFE brings together “a community of people who should all be talking to each other.”