One morning last week I was struggling with my toddler to brush her teeth so that we could quickly rush out the door to school and work. Instead of fighting a battle of the wills, I decided to enlist Amazon’s Alexa for support. A simple, “Alexa, play songs about brushing your teeth,” turned a daily arduous task into a moment of simple fun and smiles.

As I reflected on the lesson learned, I thought back to an event in Boston that I recently attended – The Aging 2.0 Reverse Pitch. An event where leading local companies from Boston, like Andy Miller from AARP, and others from across the country like Chetan Parekh from Proctor & Gamble and Leigh Anne Cappello from Benchmark Senior Living, spoke to an audience of entrepreneurs, geriatricians, policymakers and influencers in the aging 2.0 space about some specific problems they are facing when it comes to empowering seniors, their caregivers and those with disabilities. A lesson similar to the one that I learned with my toddler shone through the conversation:

The mistake entrepreneurs make when designing or creating technology for seniors and their caregivers is that they focus on features instead of fun, and they don’t hone in on solving for a central, fundamental problem.

While features are important – no one will combat that – they are not the end all be all. The example one speaker gave of where they see tech solely feature-focused and simply not resonating with the senior market is at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). They said, “at CES, these companies are building what they believe to be the best solution with complete transparency, but they have no idea what seniors and caregivers want.”  A prime example of this type of design miss for this market?  A company that created airbag technology for seniors to wear on their hips so that if they fall, they have a cushion. The idea of any human wearing hip air bags feels, well, embarrassing. While likely functional, the panel agreed that a better alternative would be a floor material that would give a bit upon a fall.

A great deal of discussion at the Aging 2.0 event in Boston centered on the need for “invisible” technology for this population of people. The idea being that what seniors want, and likely their caregivers as well, is technology that is simple and easy to use or connect with. Examples of invisible technology include:

  • Emerald – Instead of wearing a pendant that a person needs to then push a button on to alert someone that they have fallen and can’t get up, Emerald monitors people in their home with sensitive, radar-like technology that is based on motion sensing in wireless signals.
  • Jibo – Say what you will about their failed business model, but their technology sets an example of what could work with seniors. This idea of not putting technology as the face of interaction but instead leveraging a user-friendly, simplified robotic interface to help seniors conquer things like setting up and engaging via Facebook to address massive issues like loneliness and isolation. It’s the same idea as Alexa essentially – create an interface that acts as a coach and technology becomes less scary, complex and intrusive.

This concept of invisible technology hit home with me, as did the idea of empathetic design – or the idea of designing with the end-users feelings in mind. So often companies are designing technology for seniors with what they think the problem is versus designing alongside seniors and from their point-of-view. That’s a massive miss for all of us. One last topic that resonated from the panel event was the idea that so many companies – technology, healthcare or services-focused – are designed to help seniors “maintain” a way of life instead of improving it. Just because people are aging doesn’t mean they aren’t looking to improve!

I look forward to the next generation of ideas and companies that are looking to help seniors and their caregivers improve (not maintain) their lives. They would be well served to take this advice to heart – focus less on features, and more on fun.

Looking to better help, understand, engage with or sell to seniors and caregivers? Connect with Katie McGraw at W2O Group.

If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About and Healthcare page.

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Rock Health Summit, one of the tent pole conferences for the digital health startup universe, is being held this week. Here are some of the sessions that you won’t want to miss:

1. Anne Wojcicki, Co-founder & CEO of 23andMe, interviewed by Kara Swisher (Moderator), Editor at Large at Recode; Host of Recode Decode Podcast: The last six months have brought to the forefront what has been a theoretical byproduct of the pioneering work done by consumer genome sequencing companies – a real and permanent loss of privacy for those who aren’t users of the technology, but their close relatives are. On the positive side, the elusive Golden State Killer was identified and apprehended in April through the results of consumer DNA tests uploaded to GEDmatch. On the other hand, a study released last week says that “60 percent of those with white European ancestry” may be identifiable through commercial DNA profiles held by the company MyHeritage. While Wojcicki has noted in the past that 23andMe’s policies do not allow for the type of searches that revealed the identity of the Golden State Killer, laws and policies can change while DNA is forever. I’m very interested in the directions the dogged Swisher will take this discussion. (Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 2:15 p.m.)

2. Bernard J. Tyson, Chairman & CEO of Kaiser Permanente, interviewed by Elisabeth Rosenthal, MD (Moderator), Editor-in-Chief at Kaiser Health News: Rosenthal, who recently published a book documenting the evolution of America’s for profit health care system, will be an expert guide as she quizzes Tyson on how technology can improve our health care system. We can expect her to be informed and appropriately skeptical of any claims that exceed what’s reasonable. I’m interested to hear what gains the leader of what might be the most influential health system in the country says technology will bring us – especially those that can be rolled out to the millions of Kaiser members. (Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 4:45 p.m.)

3. Mario Schlosser, Co-founder & CEO of Oscar Health, interviewed by Megan Zweig (Moderator), Director of Research at Rock Health: To paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of Oscar Health’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. I worked at a payer for 5 years earlier this decade, and the view of Oscar Health vacillated between skepticism and curiosity. There was never alarm. Fast forward to 2018, Oscar has reported its first quarterly profit and raised another $165 million. It’s built a claims system from scratch and has a legitimate pathway to success. While it’s hit its share of potholes along the way, this session by Oscar Health’s CEO is bound to be enlightening. (Wednesday, Oct. 17 at 10:05 a.m.)

4. Karen DeSalvo, MD, Former Acting Assistant Secretary at HHS & Professor at Dell Medical School, interviewed by Farzad Mostashari, MD (Moderator), Co-founder & CEO of Aledade: In a rare situation where the moderator may be as interesting as the featured guest, this session on how Washington D.C. affects the start up space will inject a dose of realism into the digital health discussion. With public funds accounting for more than 70 percent of healthcare expenditures in California (per an analysis by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research) and 45 percent of health care expenditures being paid directly by state and federal tax dollars on Medicare, Medicaid and programs for low-income children, what government thinks and how it will reimburse has never been more important. While neither speaker has worked for the current administration beyond the transition period, their views and knowledge of the inner workings of the federal government will prove valuable. (Wednesday, Oct. 17 at 11:40 a.m.)

5. Toby Cosgrove, MD, Executive Advisor at Google Cloud & Former President & CEO at the Cleveland Clinic, interviewed by Christina Farr (Moderator), Reporter for I’m excited about this session for two reasons. First, no digital health reporter has as fine-tuned a BS-detector as Farr, so you know that any session she’s involved with won’t just be filled with fact-free hype. Second, many times tech companies fail at entering the health space because they don’t take an interdisciplinary approach. Engineers without a medical background (or even worse, marketers) run the show without the necessary input of those with domain expertise. Google is taking a mature approach and includes experienced medical practitioners and administrators to its ranks. I’m especially interested in hearing what Dr. Cosgrove says about Google using its cloud to democratize AI and how it intends to protect medical records in light of the recently-revealed bug in Google+ that exposed private data to app developers. (Wednesday, Oct. 17 at 4:10 p.m.)

Agree or disagree with this list, Rock Health should be another great event this year. If you plan on attending and want to meet up to share your favorite sessions, you can contact me on twitter @DarrelNg or via email at

If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About and Healthcare page.

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Integrating across people, tools, and systems is the key to bettering US healthcare. In order to improve the current system it’s going to take a variety of disciplines, working together, toward one common goal: strengthening America’s healthcare.

Matt Menning, Director of IHMI Engagement at American Medical Association, expands on this idea in this week’s episode of What2Know. Plus he discusses data, Obamacare, and an obscure band from the seventies he believes everyone should know. Take a listen below.

Don’t miss an episode of What2Know, subscribe to our podcast on iTunesStitcher or Spotify!

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Improving healthcare through technology is both our reality and future. Both industries must not only recognize this, but work together to achieve success.

This week’s guest Tanvi Vattikuti Abbhi, Co-Founder of Veta Health, not only understands this challenge, but fully embraces. Tanvi dives into this, how to effectively use data, fitness wearables, and Britney Spears. Take a listen below.

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We’re thrilled to be working with the latest Texas Medical Center Innovation Institute Accelerator (TMCx) cohort on building a powerful public presence.

On October 5, we’ll be on site for Building Your Brand and Digital Presence, a fast-moving, interactive session that will build the case for a strong social presence.

Using TMCx companies as examples, we’ll work through real-life strategies for public engagement that can be applied immediately at the end of the session. With a goal to motivate as much as inform, this session is always a lot of fun.

Here are a few of our takeaway points under discussion. These principles apply to anyone starting a new business, currently leading marketing/comms for their company or looking to build a solid public presence:

  1. It’s never too early to meet people. Every startup is focused on product. Of course, that’s important. But the day will come when you need to tell your story. Dig your well before you’re thirsty and begin building the basic elements of a public presence.
  2.  Create a realistic footprint. It doesn’t take much. When shaping a ‘map’ for your startup, start small. Share your successes and tell some stories on a LinkedIn page and a Twitter account and you’re off to the races.
  3.  Curate for a killer following. No followers, no problem. Collect and share the best of the best stuff you find. One great share a day offers just enough of the kind of value that will get the right folks listening and following
  4. To build an audience create value. As cold as it sounds, no one cares about your company. Deliver the stuff that serves the people you want to attract. Then when it comes to share your story you’ll be trusted and heard.
  5. Your face is more trusted than your logo. Trust is the currency of the information age. Between a branded and a passionate personal Twitter feed, I’ll take passion. For fun, here’s how Cook Medical makes its Twitter presence really personal.
  6. Conversation is good; content is better. Remember that there are only two things on the Internet: content and conversation. The ultimate move is to create the stuff that everyone’s talking about. Making is a taller order than talking, but something to aspire to. Think 2 to 3 original pieces of writing a year.
  7. Leverage surrogate blogs. (Surrogate blogs are digital properties that don’t belong to you or your company) Place your amazing thinking on someone else’s blog. TMCx has it’s own blog. KevinMD is very generous if you have something good to say.
  8. Visibility creates opportunity. I’ve taught and lived by this for a decade. Learn from it and make it your mantra for getting out there. You can bellyache about metrics and ROI but the value of remarkable opportunities can’t be measured. Try it and you’ll see.

There’s lots more where that came from. But we’ll hold it for our October 5 session at TMCx. Hope to see you there, and if you can’t join in person be sure to follow along on twitter via the #TMCx hashtag.

This blog was co-authored by Bryan Vartabedian, TMCx advisor and pediatrician at Texas Children’s Hospital/Baylor College of Medicine. He writes about medicine and technology on his blog, 33 charts.

If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About and Healthcare page.

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Early intervention is essential to providing better healthcare according to this week’s guest, Jason Alderman, Chief Communications Officer of Clover Health.

Jason dives into this, the role of comms professionals in healthcare (and beyond), the future and responsibility of those who are in the communications industry, plus he reminisces on The White Album and relives his days as a child actor. Take a listen below.

Don’t miss an episode of What2Know, subscribe to our podcast on iTunesStitcher or Spotify!

If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About and Healthcare page.

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The Digital Health universe held its 12th annual gathering in Santa Clara, CA last week, led by Health 2.0’s inimitable co-founders Matthew Holt and Indu Subaiya.

While startups continued to jockey for attention, large companies commanded more of the spotlight as they transition from curious onlookers to major players in the digital health space. Representatives from Wal-Mart, Microsoft and Salesforce shared the stage with unicorns Lyft and Oscar and with startups who had just launched their first product.

What became clear from the three-day meeting was the industry is maturing – and quickly.

Here are some quick takeaways:

1. Gettin’ Real

For those of us of a certain age, MTV’s The Real World was a defining show of our teenage years. Every episode started with the tagline, “what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real.”

At this year’s Health 2.0, the speakers stopped being polite and got real. One of Monday’s main stage sessions had startups demonstrate their technology, and expert panelists gave their feedback. At most conferences, tepid feedback is often minimized as not to embarrass the founders. That wasn’t the case at Health 2.0. While I’ll spare the company and founder further discomfort by not naming names here, the feedback was clear – there was no market for this technology.

This showed that the digital health industry has long transitioned from a collection of gee-whiz technology divorced from real world applications, to one where a product has to provide usability and value. To paraphrase Sean Handel, senior vice president of product at Proteus Digital Health, successful new digital health products have to fit into “life flow, work flow and funds flow.”

2. Where’s the Value?

In health policy circles, the term “value” has become associated with the cost of a treatment or intervention vs. the benefit it provides the payer. Recently, that discussion has started to broaden to include value to a provider and value to a patient, and that continued at Health 2.0. Speakers repeatedly described not just the problem they set out to solve, but how others in the system would benefit from the intervention. For example, David Watson, CEO of Akiri, spoke passionately about how the network-as-a-service’s trusted data network would benefit patients, providers, payers and others through increased peace of mind, streamlined and secure access to patient data reduced infrastructure costs.

For those using the traditional definition of value based care, more companies are taking it to the next level. Take Meru Health for example, a mental health startup tackling depression and burnout. In one of their initial contracts, they don’t get paid unless their product is effective.

3. What if Patients Don’t Want to be Engaged?

There’s been a zeal about providing digital health tools that give patients more control over their health. If only they knew what their blood pressure or heart rate was at any given moment, maybe they would change their behavior, goes the thinking. But is that true? A competing school of thought has emerged.

People want less engagement, not more, argued Livongo CEO Glen Tullman. People want technology to handle problems. Nobody needs to be engaged to use a smartphone or Google. (Related: Listen to Glen discuss empowering people to lead healthy lives on W2O’s What2Know Podcast.)

This disagreement reveals a true conflict in the digital health universe, one that I think we’ll see play out for many years to come.

4. Learn to Unlearn

In some sage advice to attendees in the opening keynote address, Rasu Shrestha, UPMC’s chief innovation officer, posed a proactive question. We all come to conferences to learn things, he started. What are best practices? What’s hot and new? Rasu asked what we should be unlearning? Are we doing something that has lost its usefulness? We should all continually examine what we do and why we do things, and eliminate what’s no longer necessary. (Related: To hear a longer discussion of the issue, listen to Rasu on W2O’s What2Know podcast.)

At a conference filled with new gadgets to fill your life with more information about your health, given how busy our lives are these days, learning to unlearn might just be the most important piece of advice shared on stage.

If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About or Healthcare page.

Curious about our work in digital health, check out this post.

Don’t miss other episodes of What2Know from the Health 2.0, subscribe to our podcast on iTunesStitcher or Spotify!

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Reimagining health care will require an active unlearning of stoic frameworks. As an industry, we should challenge ourselves to unlearn older paradigms in order to create a better system for the future.

During this year’s Health 2.0 Conference, I had the pleasure of discussing this further with this week’s guest,  Rasu Shrestha­, Chief Innovation Officer of UPMC and EVP of UPMC Enterprises. We dive into the future of health care, gene editing, and painting with watercolors. Take a listen below.

Don’t miss an episode of What2Know, subscribe to our podcast on iTunesStitcher or Spotify!

If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About and Healthcare page.

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With health care spending pending accounting for 18% of America’s GDP, it’s no wonder that Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Salesforce, IBM, GE and others are diving head first into the sector.

Simultaneously, traditional players such as payers, hospitals, health systems, PBMs, and others know change is coming and are quickly adding technology to compete.

Lastly, entrepreneurs understand that the health system is broken. Medical records are often still transmitted via fax (!), doctors can’t easily determine which drugs are covered on a patient’s insurance plan or what their out of pocket costs are, and terabytes of data remain trapped in silos. These entrepreneurs see a system in need of disruption and are seeking to become tomorrow’s leaders.

What’s one thing all three groups share? They know that efficient use of data and analytics are the key to success and are looking for marketing and communications partners who share their passion for using data and analytics to solve business problems and drive growth.

And we work with a lot of them. For example:

  • Start-up disrupting antiquated health care billing and payments systems in healthcareW2O is helping this innovative company cut through competitive jargon and drive awareness and sales with chief financial officers at leading healthcare provider organizations and medical groups. The company is focused not just on business growth but on evolving the patient experience across the patient journey.
  • Growing SaaS B2B Company: Looking to target CIOs at large payers, W2O has helped this company grow by defining and highlighting an existing problem and providing awareness of our client’s solution to the right audience. Over a 12-month period, the client has increased its user base by more than 50 percent for its multi-million dollar product.
  • Large, Entrenched Tech Player Entering Health Care: Moving from mainframes into healthcare, the company faced the challenge of speaking to a new audience. With W2O’s expertise in health care and technology, we helped guide the established company into a new growth space for the company.
  • Established, Fortune 25 Health Care Company: Looking to increase sales among health care decision makers, W2O conducted analytics to determine the best way to reach this niche audience and drove a successful earned media program highlighting the client’s innovative digital tools for consumers.

Business leaders rely on data to make important decisions every day.  At W2O we do the same with a pioneering team of 100+ data scientists that arm the companies we work with the information and insights they need to make decisions that impact critical business goals – from entering the healthcare sector for the first time to targeting chief information officers to creating a go-to market strategy for a product aimed at the C-suite executives in the provider and payer companies.

We use our deep knowledge of the healthcare space, proprietary database mapping the one million plus people active in the health care ecosystem and advanced analytics, we can find the health care audiences important to you, determine what messages resonate with them and execute a data-driven marketing and communications campaigns to help you meet your business objectives.

Forward-thinking brands partner with us. Are you ready to join them?

If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About and Healthcare page.

Want to chat? Drop us a line.

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