A couple of weeks ago, I was in Washington, D.C., attempting to simultaneously attend two major healthcare conferences: DTC National and TEDMED. Having recently received my “thank you” card from the folks at TEDMED, I was reminded that I had yet to write about my experiences. For a more detailed play-by-play from April 10-14, you can check out my Twitter feed on @jacthong.
Now that I’ve had some time ruminate on the key trends and opportunities, for me, the one thing that stood out was the huge opportunity in leveraging health data – both from data that is already being collected, and from data that can be collected from ordinary people like ourselves with the right apps and sensors. Several of the speakers and exhibits highlighted the insights that can be gained from using data to understand and address health issues at different levels: individual, organizational, and societal. For me, the highlights on this topic were:
The GE Healthymagination Exhibit
During one of the breaks at TEDMED, I had the opportunity to play with the interactive maps with representations of stats on healthcare services, outcomes, and risks at a national, regional and local level. I was intrigued to see the level of green grocer access my county in Massachusetts has, compared to others. The other factors I looked at were smoking rates and air pollution levels. The maps available online only go to a national, rather than county level, and don’t have all the same factors displayed, but they are still very interesting to look at. Check them out for yourself here.
Todd Park’s rousing call for the liberation of health data from silos
In his talk, Todd Park, a former health IT entrepreneur and now the Chief Technology Officer of the U.S. Government Department of Health and Human Services, evangelized the need for startups to create innovations that leverage the vast amounts of public health data to help people get healthier and help organizations optimize the way they deliver health care. His presentation really made me feel that it was up to me, my team, and all the other health technology innovators out there to go and change the world through our work. Even though it’s impossible to feel that jazzed-up every single minute of the day, there is really nothing like it when that wave of inspiration hits you. Thanks Todd!
Dr. Leslie Saxon’s presentation about the Every Heartbeat project
Every Heartbeat is data collection project that uses phone-connected sensors and smart phone apps to collect heart beat data from people around the world. With this data, the project aims to create analytics tools to identify patterns, help solve health problems, and ultimately, make us all more healthy. Dr. Saxon’s presentation was on the last day of TEDMED, and I found it to be an excellent example of the kinds of innovation that Todd Park was speaking about: apps and analytics tools that help us leverage vast amounts of health data. What Dr. Saxon and her team are working on is really amazing – her talk was a great way to cap off those intense, inspirational days at TEDMED.
If you have never been to TEDMED, and have an interest in medicine, healthcare or are a patient activist, I urge you to try to go next year. The organization offers scholarships, so start looking into it now. You won’t regret going!