Reflections on Health 2.0

I’m on my way back from Health 2.0. It was a whirlwind trip. This was my first Health 2.0 conference. My startup, (formerly called Mobicratic), demoed our apps as part of the Launch session today. More on that later in this post.

Because we were demoing and prepping, I missed some of the sessions I wanted to go to but I was able to spend time in the exhibit hall and at several of the sessions. To be honest, I wasn’t wowed by anything I saw but I think I have a distorted view because I’d heard of many of the companies, or at least heard of similar companies. Nothing shocked me. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t some very cool stuff, or some stuff that will wow me when it reaches a critical mass. It just means I didn’t see anything that surprised me.

Not surprisingly, there was a lot of focus and attention on the patient/consumer. Lots of companies there have apps or devices to track patients, display data in cool ways, and collect gobs of big data in the process.

More than the patient focus, I was impressed by the breadth of stuff represented. In addition to individual data tracking, I saw companies doing specialized billing, transparent pricing platforms, pharma marketing tools, intelligent coding analysis tools, adherence, employee benefits, telemed, and of course analytics.

The interesting part to me is not all of those tools revolutionize, or even help, our current healthcare system. I have no problem with this, as several of these products/services have very sound business models and likely represent better investments than apps that target patients; but, I think we need to be careful when we assume, and state, that being in health technology puts us on a high horse because we’re in the health and wellness business. Some business in healthcare are simply just that, businesses, and that’s fine, but it’s not any better than maximizing page views or clicks. Let’s not always talk about how great we are just by virtue of being at a health conference. Ok, had to get that out. I’m getting off the stump.

Beyond startups, the conference was well represented. I saw name-tags from major health systems (Kaiser, Mayo, and on an on), payers (Cigna, Aetna, and on and on), vendors (tons of variety here), investors, pharmacy, HIEs, benefits companies, designers, engineers, medical students and residents (or at least a few I met from California schools), and a host of others.

Despite the size, the event still felt intimate in a way. I bumped into lots of people that I wanted to connect with and feel like I had very real conversations. Obviously it’s not HIMSS, which is sort of the opposite of intimate, but I was still impressed considering the size of the conference.

One of the sessions I attended was on incubators and new crowdfunding sites for healthcare. The theme of every company in this session was that health is different from other industries. The inference is startups need specialized help, access, expertise, and unique funding. I love crowdfunding, I’m just not sure individuals (docs + patients) are as interested in funding new health services and apps as they are in funding smartphone cases and art projects (like Kickstarter).

Health Tech Hatch and Medstartr are basically Kickstarter for health and a bit hard for me to differentiate from each other. Wefunder seemed a bit more like Angelist for health. CareHubs played up the community aspect but, to be honest, I got a little lost during its demo.

Also at this session Startup Health announced its Startup Health Network, which is a huge database of startups, investors, and founders in healthcare. It’s pretty cool to be able to track and follow investors and startups. The database currently has over 1100 startups and several hundred investors. I think this is a pretty great tool for anybody interested in health startups.

Monday night I went to the Medstartr party. I wish it had been a little better attended. I felt a bit lonely while I was there. I was exhausted and left by about 8:30 but at that point the turnout didn’t seem very good. For those that did attend or are able to stay up past 9PM PST, did the turnout improve? How did other people like it?

In terms of the format of the meeting, I’m a big believer in the very short demo format. At Health 2.0, each startup gets 3.5 minutes (210 seconds) to demo its product. That’s more than I think you need. The value, as an audience member, is that you can literally see tons of demos, quickly forget the ones you’re not interested in, and follow-up with the ones that pique your interest. My co-founder went though YCombinator and companies in that get even less time on demo day, something like 135 seconds. YC has very big classes of startups but Health 2.0 also has lots of startups. The very short demo window forces companies to boil things down to a few key points, which is great.

Back to my own demo at Launch. We pathetically lost the popular vote contest, with the overall winner being TicTrac. Tic Trac is trying to bring all your data together and show you, using pretty cool visualizations, what makes you tick (TicTrac’c words).

The personal experience of presenting was a bit nerve racking, especially bouncing between mobile and web apps during a 3.5 minute demo. Matthew Holtz and Health 2.0 did a phenomenal job though, and I thank them for making it as painless as possible.

Funny story about presenting off of my iPhone. I have a new iPhone 5, which is great because it’s blazing fast, both the 4G/LTE connectivity (I am astonished that I get 20-25 Mbps download and 10-12 Mbps upload speeds, considerably faster than my home Uverse connection) and the device hardware itself. Apps seem to fly on it, which is great when we demo using it.

The problem is that Apple changed the 30-pin connector to the new Lightning connector on the iPhone 5. I went to the Apple store before I left for Health 2.0 to get the Lightning to 30-pin converter, only to discover it is not available yet, and even when it is, it won’t support video (so you can’t mirror  your iPhone screen to a projector). The Lightning to video won’t be out until sometime in November. When I asked the Apple “genius” if there was a way to do it, he suggested that it would be really simple for me to just bring an Apple TV to the event, configure it on the wireless network and connect it to the projector, then mirror my iPhone screen to it.

Needless to say, this wasn’t really an option for me. Thankfully Health 2.0 had one of those video capture tables that focuses on whatever is below it, so I was able to use that with my iPhone instead of having to use my co-founders iPhone 4. And yes, I know the whole thing was my fault for getting a new iPhone 5 so early.

So that was my Health 2.0 experience. I’ll definitely be back next year and think it’s pretty well represented. If you’re a startup, it’s great exposure to potential investors and partners. You need to be outgoing, but all the relevant people are there. If you’re a health system, payer, or other party in healthcare, it’s a good way to hear and see the kinds of products and services that are launching and getting traction. I’ll write a separate, shorter post about the Blueprint Health Demo Day event and about the Launch session.

I’m curious what others thought of the event? Was it worth your time and money? Would you go back?

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

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