Re-cap of my visit to the NYEC 2013 Digital Health Conference (Day 1)

After attending last year’s NYEC digital health conference, I really looked forward to this year’s conference, especially in light of all that has happened in the field of digital health over the past several months. Main themes for this year’s conference were Big Data and Analytics, Interoperability, Patient Empowerment, Outcome-based care models, and Tools for the Future. (Some of the speaker decks can be found here: https://speakerdeck.com/nyec and http://nyehealth.org/events/digital-health/). Keynote speakers included George C. Halvorson, Chairman of Kaiser Permanente and Jim Messina, President Obama’s Deputy Chief of Staff (2009-2011) and 2012 Re-election Campaign Manager.

Mr. Halvorson spoke about the importance of data and its ability to improve care, science, and save lives. He spoke about how data can cut disparities in half and how web care will be everywhere, as on-site care in the home will be the future for patients. I agree, I think that data is very important. We need access to it in order for us to study trends, areas of need, and make informed decisions as to care as well as resource allocation. In thinking about data though, we must consider sources, integrity, methodology of collection, storage and security, as well as its visualization and the tools we use to make sense of it all. I think that digital health will enable consumer empowerment and a trend back to care at home. Portable tools and Internet access will allow patients and providers more mobility, convenience and accessibility.
What I thought was really great about Mr. Halvorson’s speech was that he also addressed public health and provided concrete actionable steps that have led to outcomes. For example, he talked about how walking 30 minutes a day, 3x a week can cut diabetes and depression in half. He also addressed socioeconomic determinants, and talked about how it’s kindergarten vocabulary and being read to that can most affect whether an adolescent goes to jail. I think it says something about an organization when its leadership talks about health in a global, communal, and whole-listic way…

After Mr. Halvorson spoke, David Whitlinger, Executive Director of the NY E-health Collaborative spoke about what’s coming up in the next year. He talked about the SHIN-NY(Statewide Health Information Network of New York), which will connect New York’s 11 regional health information networks and make it easier for healthcare providers to access patients’ data (with their consent) in a secure and easily accessible way. He also spoke about future hackathons for health, open API’s (application programming interfaces, which are often 3rd party libraries that let developers/coders access other tools/programs and use them in their own applications, I like to think of it as borrowing sugar from a friendly neighbor and using that to make your own cake), and a digital sandbox that will enable developers to develop health-related apps. Last, Mr. Whitlinger spoke about different companies in the NY ecosystem that are working on different facets of digital space, as well as the upcoming NYS patient portal for New Yorkers, which will roll out in the first quarter of 2014, and allow the people of New York state access to their medical information, for about $3.50 per resident (quite a $teal).

In my eyes, what the SHIN-NY, portal, and open API’s do is enable providers, patients, and developers/designers to have access to data and be able to use it for their own personal health and potentially to develop programs/initiatives that will help others. It also addresses the headache and run around of trying to gather disparate data that comes from different care providers, hospital systems, patient generated information etc. As a native and lifelong New Yorker, I am proud that my home state is taking the lead in pioneering this and as an MD, I have an idea of how impactful this will be.

The conference was separated into 2 days and there were multiple breakout sessions. I attended the ones that related to Tools of the Future, Data, Patient Empowerment and Design. On day 1, I attended “Predicting the Future-The Re-imagination of Healthcare and What’s to Come” and “Freeing the Data: Driving Value from Using Clinical Claims, and Device Data”.

Predicting the Future Panel speakers included: Steven Krein, the CEO of digital health incubator Startup Health, Eric Gertler, the EVP of the NYEDC, Maria Gotsch, President and CEO of the Partnership Fund for NYC, Ryan Olohan, National Industry Director, Healthcare, at Google, and Todd Pietri, General Partner at Milestone Venture Partners.
I thought that the panel was really interesting and reflected the people involved in digital health (from government to startups to venture to large companies like Google) as well as the magic and the movement that is happening in New York. One of the things that was said at this panel was that we are currently in a golden age of entrepreneurship here in NY, where it’s never been faster and cheaper to start a company, and we have a government here that is willing to help (Check out the amazing projects and initiatives at http://www.nyedc.com and learn about Governor Cuomo’s STARTUP NY initiative here: http://startup-ny.com/ -operate a business tax free for 10 years in the Empire State). I think that private public partnerships are important, because I think it takes a diverse group of people and diverse mindsets to tackle the complicated problems that exist in healthcare. Problems are great opportunities for nimble and innovative startups.

Ms. Gotsch talked about the importance of domain knowledge and clinical input. Granted, I may be a little biased here lol, but I think that domain knowledge is important because developing tools in isolation from the people who will use them often leads to systems that do not have great product market fit and can also lead to inefficiency. Additionally, she mentioned the NY Genome Center (www.nygenome.org) and the intersection of genomic and clinical data. It’s interesting how science is spurred on by new tools and technology is one of them, allowing us to sequence genomes and help us better understand ourselves at levels we weren’t able to before.
Mr. Gertler spoke about New York’s DNA of industry and commerce. Indeed, New York has long been a financial center and commerce has been a part of our identity and our history. It is my hope that it will become a digital health and life science capital and I can see it happening as more people come to NY not only because it’s a diverse and exciting city but because of what’s happening here. At the time of the conference, one of Mr. Pietri’s portfolio companies, MapMyFitness exited in an acquisition by Under Armour.

Mr. Olahan talked about how Google invests in `10x ideas and how the time is now [for healthcare]. Google’s expanding venture into healthcare and life science has been really interesting. Mr. Olohan mentioned that there are thousands of videos on Youtube on health topics, put up by both professionals and ordinary people who want to share information, and share their stories. Indeed, most people who look for health information will start with a search engine (aka Dr. Google). Google has also looked at flu trends and recently announced Calico, which will look at aging (and genomics).

Freeing the Data panel speakers included: Deborah Estrin, Professor of Computer Science at Cornell Tech and co-founder of OpenMHealth, Kyle Armbrester, Business development athenahealth , Anuj Desai, VP of Market Development at NYEC, Kabir Kasargod, Director of Business development at Qualcomm Life, Patrick Roohan Deputy Commissioner of Office of Quality and Patient Safety, NYS Dept. of Health, and Karan Singh, Co-founder of Ginger.io
This panel focused on the value that can be obtained from data. The panel spoke about Big Data as well as individual data and how we can provide useful information at the clinical, individual and systems level. The importance of interoperability was stressed and the idea of “freeing the data” is about not being held hostage by legacy systems that tether providers and patients to any one system.

Ms. Singh spoke about how data can be an important component in behavior modification. Indeed, access to our own personal data can give us insights into the things we do that can promote or prevent health. At a population level, trends that can be garnered from the data could be used to analyze whether measures we have initiated are leading to set outcomes and help guide future initiatives.

Mobile will play a very big role in data. Wearables can collect data off of mobile and more people have mobile phones now more than ever. OpenMhealth, is an initiative to unlock silos of mobile health data (more info here: http://openmhealth.org/) and build an open architecture. I think that this is great because it’s almost like increasing the n value, so that trends can surface and the power of studies increase. Unlocking data is not only about being able to access it, it’s also about being able to share it and derive valid and actionable endpoints from it.

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