How to Improve Health 2.0 (and Every Other Health-Tech Conference)

6 ways to make the most out of health IT meetings.

Janae Sharp got a lot out of Health 2.0, but she also has some advice for health-tech conference organizers everywhere. Photo credit: Rasu Shrestha, M.D., MBA.

I was delighted to attend the annual fall Health 2.0 conference in California last week, and I was proud of the leadership and caliber of attendees. I spoke to a few of them about the event, asking for ideas that could make it better in the future. The feedback, it turns out, can apply to just about any health-tech meeting.

One participant said that while Health 2.0 was overall an impressive event, many startups didn’t seem to recognize the opportunity to collaborate with leadership. Another participant was pleased that organizers invited patients and provided scholarships for them, further praising how it highlighted aspirational problems — Health 2.0 wasn’t afraid to address some of the “uglier” parts of healthcare.

I wanted to say positive things because Health 2.0 was a great experience. It feels like saying, “bless your heart,” but I wanted to point out that this event is going the right direction. Building on the “wins” of the conference is important. It’s also valuable to explore the shortcomings. Here are six ideas for how to improve Health 2.0 — and any other health-tech conference.

"The electric light did not come from the continuous improvement of candles." - @HalWolfIII 🕯💡#Health2Con @health2con @HIMSS @SCConventionCtr #MondayMotivation pic.twitter.com/A2whPBPTii

— Ryan K. Louie, MD, PhD (@ryanlouie) September 17, 2018

1. Healthcare Investor Matchmaking

I went to the investor breakfast on Monday, where I spoke to an investor. She mentioned that Monday is usually not a day that investors go to events, as they tend to review deals at that time. Holding the investor matchmaking breakfast on a different day would be beneficial.

>> READ: 6 Top Takeaways from Health 2.0 for Healthcare Leaders

Another other key missed opportunity was in the area of research. Some of the startups were seed or pre-seed. I spoke to Gene Wang, CEO of People Power, a company in the “aging in place” industry and home security marketplace, which has raised funding in the past and is planning to raise its Series C round later this year. I don’t know that any later-stage funds’ reps attended the breakfast (although I didn’t meet all the investors). The research and vetting of startups was not clear. I would love an event where there was clear information about how much people had previously raised — and pre-match funds that share a very clear investment preference.

2. We Need More Startups

Most investors are very open about the type of companies they are looking for. Before a startup meets with them, it makes sense for the startup to research whether that investor has already invested in that space. First meetings can be valuable for new startups that want to get more feedback, but several of the investors mentioned that they didn’t find great investment opportunities at Health 2.0. Market trends and valuable connections in the healthcare investment industry, as well as among operators, were clearly present.

To create a successful investor event, it is important to invite talent — and there were impressive investors and portfolios represented at Health 2.0, as well as corporate financial decision makers for many of the major insurance companies and electronic health record (EHR) vendors. The leadership of HIMSS was present and very accessible. I wonder if knowledge about the funds and leadership attending the conference was under-represented, which led to a seemingly small number of startups.

"The electric light did not come from the continuous improvement of candles." - @HalWolfIII 🕯💡#Health2Con @health2con @HIMSS @SCConventionCtr #MondayMotivation pic.twitter.com/A2whPBPTii

— Ryan K. Louie, MD, PhD (@ryanlouie) September 17, 2018

3. Venue Meets Industrial Design

One of the most important aspects of industrial design is layout. When I was 18, I worked with a company that worked with Freightliner on workplace accident reduction. With tape. They placed colored tape on the factory floor and walls, which reduced site accidents and increased efficiencies. Organizational design has huge effects on output, and this industrial design concept appeared at Health 2.0, but it should be taken a step further.

I would love to see a Healthcare conference that had a similar vision about meeting efficiency as Freightliner’s.

Small details affect overall outcomes. For example, Matthew Loxton, a healthcare analyst, mentioned that small differences at the point of care have facilitated better care. When physicians are closer to the door in the emergency room setting, they can address emergencies. The PatientSafe Network specializes in simple workplace and patient safety changes, such as single valve IV Fluid Bags.

Having a set location for meetings and brighter meeting rooms would facilitate more conference interaction for smaller sessions. Maximizing good outcomes starts with a bit of consideration for industrial design. This starts with the scheduling and venue. If we are creating leadership in health, the conference should emphasize better brain performance and facilitate interaction.

At a more granular level, putting the clinician nearest the door was a biggie. If a patient either needs emergent care or becomes dysregulated, the clinician needs direct access to the door and not have to push past the patient

— Matthew Loxton (@mloxton) September 24, 2018

4. The Unmentionable Business of Mental Health

Opportunities to make business progress sometimes require a more deft, sensitive approach, and Health 2.0 dropped the ball on some opportunities to create important conversations in a sensitive way. Featuring the unmentionables, such as physician suicide, was important — but having a party at the same time as a film on the subject seems a bit tone-deaf to the importance of mental health. Robyn Simon spoke about her film, “Do No Harm,” which addresses physician suicide. I loved being part of the panel, but I was pretty tired at the end of the screening, which occurred late in the evening. A morning screening would have been more appropriate for the subject matter, as well as a work session. The speaker talent was excellent, and I think Health 2.0 had great leadership, so more conscientious scheduling would drive its mission forward.

>> READ: Digital Health Investors Want Innovation, Even if Inspiration Comes from Fortnite

5. Great Food. But I Need a Seat

To be fair, a lack of healthy people is one of my pet peeves about healthcare conferences. These events often seem like a hotel full of healthcare people going from one alcohol-fueled event to another, with very little attention to exercise or peak cognitive performance. The food at Health 2.0 was excellent; no critique there. However, since I’m having a baby in seven weeks, I was more aware of things like needing a break. The conference needed to offer seating for meals, rather than expecting all participants to eat while standing I used to love sitting on the floor or standing to eat, but in the last few weeks it hasn’t been possible. I did really appreciate the oatmeal and the coconut water, since I still have morning sickness, and having healthy food options made the conference more enjoyable. Food matters.

I asked Matthew Holt, co-chair and co-founder of Health 2.0, what he thought about some of the feedback and he responded: “Sorry — if you'd asked me I'd have given you a chair runner — I'm serious!”

I have never been more excited to attend the next year of a conference. As someone who lacks the talent to eat standing up, this makes a difference.

6. Use the Talent You Invited

Work sessions were the last missed opportunity for Health 2.0. The pitch competitions were useful, and I enjoyed hearing some from Mona Siddiqui, M.D., M.P.H., chief data officer of the Office of the Chief Technology Officer at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She spoke about the efforts of HHS idea lab to participate in hackathons and solve problems with public data sets, as well as provide information about improving work with government partners.

The conference was near one of the country’s tech capitals, with some of the best talent in technology in attendance, and I think a work session would have been a great addition to the event. I want to see the solutions that Walmart’s leadership can develop in collaboration with leaders and startups, not a PowerPoint presentation about how they are large companies with agility that plan to use their size to make profit in healthcare. (No offense to PowerPoint, which was delightful, as were the speakers from large companies.)

One conference attendee noted that they weren't thrilled to be working on a Sunday. (I, on the other hand, appreciated this scheduling because it was easier for me to get child care.) Another EHR vendor wondered why no one from the conference invited them to the panel. For many attendees, this conference is work. I would have loved to see it go beyond the incredible conversations by pairing presenters or highlighted topics with an HHS hackathon event or local talent.

(VIDEO) @Walmart wants to influence healthcare with diet-changing app https://t.co/L7YjgSJHFX #Aim2Innovate #health2con #HIMSSTV

— MobiHealthNews (@MobiHealthNews) September 19, 2018

Health 2.0 was a great opportunity to discuss ideas that will take healthcare into the future. Noah Hoskins, M.D., discussed how one of the most important things is to get involved because, as he explains, “Physician perspective during these innovations is needed for transformation.” Health 2.0 had patients, physicians, investors leadership and startups. What it and other conferences need to really be successful is better research, matchmaking, more talent, comfortable seats and work sessions to truly drive that transformation.

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