My Day at Converge

I was in Philadelphia today for the MedCity Converge conference. I was only there for the day, but I attended the reception and the startup showcase. The event was well represented with people from payers, pharma, funders, health systems, and of course lots of startups. It was more intimate than the HIMSS conference or mHealth Summit.

The startup showcase featured 24 companies in a packed space, so you could see them all quickly. It’s obviously meant to get the companies in front of potential customers and partners. I wonder how well it works. Startups usually get pilots through direct connections and warm intros, not meeting cold on a trade show floor.


I tried Google Glass for the first time thanks to our own Kyle Samani, who was part of the Converge startup showcase with his company Pristine. I talked to Glass, recorded a video, and took a picture. It didn’t fit over my own glasses, so that restricted my use of it because of my limited ability to read what was on the screen. It felt strange talking to it, but I’m sure it gets more comfortable wearing Glass and interacting with the outside world at the same time.

I’m not sure I’d wear Glass as a consumer device, but I can see the applications in health and other professions and industries. I don’t think I want to be that connected at all times. I’m still trying to remove myself from my phone as a distraction while I’m working, though it’s nice on breaks as a virtual water cooler and when I’m with family and friends.

But in health, there is a data access need and a documentation need, and Glass seems like a great way to  address that while not requiring providers to break their sterile field or turn to look at a device. It could be a way to get a message to a surgeon in real-time collaboration instead of having someone read and call back pages during cases.

We’re starting to see some interesting use cases of Glass in places like the OR. I’m sure Augmedix, the new Rock Health company, will come out of stealth mode sooner or later. I’ve been approached by a few people with ideas for Google Glass apps in healthcare. Some require access to data that is not easy to get, like out of the EMR, but some seem like good use cases and low-hanging fruit. The question remains as to when and if providers will have Glass.

Pfizer was the major sponsor of the conference. Today there was a keynote by Adrian Rawcliffe from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). We’ll see more of pharma in health IT as drug companies are investing heavily in what they see as the future of healthcare. GSK is focused on delivering value to patents and clinicians, which includes education, access programs, and the technology needed to support that value.

I interviewed Mark Blatt, MD, MBA, worldwide medical director and health IT evangelist for Intel. He has impassioned views on the direction healthcare needs to go. I’m not sure I agree on his timelines or optimism about the pace of change, but I love how confident he is that it has to happen and faster than I think. He believes most outpatient care will become virtual, and that real-time — or close to real-time — collaboration among physicians will occur sooner than I think, initially in larger integrated systems like Kaiser. During our fireside chat (sans fire), he had some great sound bites like, "It’s time to put Marcus Welby to rest," referring to the end of having all care delivered by providers who lay hands on patients.

Dr. Blatt talked about service level agreements (SLAs) for physicians and why systems need to mandate them, rewarding those that comply and not contracting with those that don’t. SLAs are interesting as a model for physician collaboration. He mentioned a system in Canada that did it with different groups, requiring responses to consults or imaging reads within two or four hours or even shorter in some cases. I’m curious if readers have any experiences with this.

I wonder how certain specialties and groups would react to being told how quickly they must respond without regard to the day of the week or time of the day. Specialists I know wouldn’t be terribly keen on it even if the incentives were in the right place. Dr. Blatt gave specific examples where it has worked. Long term, as artificial and prohibitory state rules about virtual care and practicing over state lines are relaxed, we’ll see more of a competitive market, and systems will have an easier time finding replacements for providers and groups that won’t agree to SLAs.

I’m sorry I missed the rest of the conference. If you are there and would like to share your experience, e-mail me or leave a comment below.


Travis Good is an MD/MBA involved with health IT startups. More about me.

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