Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Connected Health Conference in Boston. With a focus on the intersection of healthcare and technology, I was excited to hear about innovations coming from both the large companies presenting keynotes and the emerging companies offering small-scale sessions or even posters. What stuck with me most post-conference, however, were the valuable human connections that were made. Not surprising, actually, since so much of the conference focused on balancing technology and the human elements of healthcare.

Having been focused in the digital health space here in Boston for more than a decade, I’ve been afforded the opportunity to meet, engage and learn from the luminaries in our space. People like the Rasu Shrestha from UPMC, Matthew Holt from SMACK.health, Health 2.0 and the Healthcare Blog, and Jonathon Dreyer from Nuance are leaders that I’ve followed closely as it relates to trends and insights, but they are also people who have helped me understand the power of human connections both in work and life. The Connected Health Conference further reinforced the notation of human connections having the potential to drive positive change and innovation for individuals and industry alike.

As I’ve spent some post-conference time reflecting on lessons learned, I thought a lot about the value these connections can have for emerging digital health start-ups and even larger established companies looking to expand their healthcare footprint. The business case for devoting time to relationship building and human connection is far reaching but, it’s important to consider the type of relationships that are most mission critical for you and your organization:

  • Fine-tuning and Funding – Emerging start-ups are well-served to look to bridge relationships with communications and marketing experts (like W2O Group!) that can help craft an on-point go-to-market strategy and positioning that will resonate with investors and key buyers. In addition, organizations like RockHealth, StartUp Health, Venrock and Oak HC/FT are go-to places for focused relationship building as emerging companies look to build their business model and fund their big ideas.
  • Innovation and Inspiration – Larger companies like Johnson & Johnson are increasingly looking to emerging start-ups for potential partnerships and even backing to broaden the reach of their own portfolios. For the more established “Goliath’s” of our industry, partnering with local incubators like the one here in Massachusetts run by Nick Dougherty from MassChallenge HealthTech is a great opportunity to identify and engage with inspiring start-ups that could help spur much-needed innovation or disruption. These incubators, which are established in a lot of cities at this point, serve as a catalyst for connecting both regional and national organizations of all sizes to solve longstanding healthcare problems.
  • Trends and Tipping Points – Media and influencers often have the inside scoop on emerging trends that are poised to drive healthcare evolution in short-order. Go-to resources like Chrissy Farr from CNBC, Nikhil Krishnan from CB Insights and Jess DeMassa from WTF Health each offer a unique perspective on what’s next in healthcare and are sources of truth for things ranging from breaking news via Twitter to deep-seeded research on topics like the future of blockchain in healthcare to executive interviews with the who’s who in healthcare.

The concept of Six Degrees of Separation is a powerful one and based on my experience at Connected Health, it holds true. In the digital health space, valuable connections are easily identifiable and pursuable given you take the time and come at people with a genius interest in moving advancements in healthcare and technology forward as a collective “long hallway” team. Time spent at conferences like Connected Health isn’t about the educational sessions or booths, it’s about the people you run into in the hallways and the connections you make over friendly conversations at lunch or over a dinner and glass of wine. These connections are the lifeblood of making innovation at the intersection of healthcare and technology a reality.


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