5 Innovative Insights from HLTH 2019

5 Health Innovation Takeaways from 2019 HLTH Conference

In only its second year, HLTH 2019 had a lot of hype to live up to. The innovation-focused health conference did not disappoint with the level of education and collaboration that was able to happen simultaneously in such a short period of time.

With over 6,000 attendees — almost double from last year — the most notable difference with this healthcare crowd was its wide audience of stakeholders represented. From small startups with only a couple of individuals, to large organizations such as Lyft and Verizon, the sessions provided a great variety of topics to hit on all of the industry verticals represented as well. Here are the top five takeaways the Bridge Connector team reported back from the conference.

1. Identifying SDoH means nothing if we don’t address them

It’s not surprising that Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) was a center-stage topic at the HLTH conference. SDoH has become an almost inescapable buzzword, with a mountain of white papers written on the topic.

There are still plenty of challenges ahead for a nationwide adoption of a standard model for how and when to address social factors as part of a care plan, but HLTH gave us a chance to learn some actionable insights from emerging leaders on the subject.

Identifying and surfacing the actual barriers to care is the first challenge. Many patients won’t be forthcoming with barriers, as many are so personal in nature. Food security, housing security, and lack of transportation are sensitive topics to talk about for most. Open communication with the patients about how this data will help them, though, can get buy-in and help surface underlying barriers. You can have the greatest infrastructure in place, but if you don’t know who needs help, then it will never be valuable to your patients.

Once a barrier is identified, there should be a playbook of next steps that’s repeatable, predictable, and trackable. While there are no nationwide standards for documenting SDoH, it is still important to create an internal structure that creates a consistent experience for patients. And the patients should have a consistent experience and understand what to expect when being connected to a social service that is meant to improve their health outcomes.

Tracking is often the biggest missing piece, though. Without creating a trackable method of engagement, it’s not possible to quantify if what you are doing is making a difference, or to identify patterns across different types of interventions. Knowing the most valuable interventions for your patients will help eliminate waste and ensure the most meaningful interventions are prioritized for patients that need them.

The agenda was full of great SDoH-focused sessions, including sessions focused on using integrated technology to address SDoH as part of a holistic health plan, and how to ensure the most vulnerable among us, such as homeless or isolated seniors, are not left out of the conversation.

2. Healthcare is for all (no, really)

Have you ever had an issue receiving the healthcare you think you deserve? Either it’s too expensive, or you’re too busy, or there is some other physical or emotional factor holding you back from receiving care. If you’ve never felt jaded or inconvenienced by the healthcare industry, hat’s off to you, because you are in the minority. Why does it feel so hard at times to receive convenient, quality, affordable care for our needs? Many people at the HLTH conference asked that same question. However, rather than call their moms and complain about it (as most of us do) these companies decided to do something to affect change.

Take, for example, HLTH Pitch Competition finalist, Mira. When its founder was hit with a $14,000 surprise medical bill, he decided to hone in on the 60 million workers who comprise the gig economy in the U.S. who are uninsured or underinsured. His idea: Create a digital platform that gives everyone access to healthcare regardless of insurance status with simple pricing, pre-paid services with pre-negotiated rates. While not an insurance company, Mira claims to save small business employers 18 times less than the cheapest health plan, because they know these costs are unaffordable for many small business owners. Yet, offering insurance benefits is critical for employers to attract top talent in the current, competitive job market. Mira also aims to simplify processes and payments for providers, while increasing patient access to low-cost urgent and primary care for those in the growing gig economy we keep hearing so much about.

While Mira is helping out in the financial arena, others, such as the American Telemedicine Association, are tackling the convenience side of things. Whether your patients live in a rural area or just can’t get the time off work to get to an in-person doctor’s appointment, with today’s technology, that shouldn’t hinder them from communicating with their care providers. About one in five physicians are currently utilizing telehealth and 93% say it improves patient access to care. At HLTH, organizations such as American Well and InTouch Health highlighted the success of healthcare organizations they work with that utilize their telehealth platforms.

3. AI is starting to be more than just a buzzword

Just hear us out on this one. AI is a word that has been floating around the healthcare industry since the 1960s. And what do we have to show for it? Some isolated stories of success, but few examples of repeatable use cases that can be adopted system-wide. However, the conversations at HLTH gave us fresh hope for the old topic. Companies are taking decades’ worth of AI concepts and ideas and actually starting to implement them in various ways across their organizations.

Let us also clear the air: AI is not here to replace your workforce. On the contrary, a panel of healthcare leaders at HLTH brought up ways that it will actually allow your staff to do what you hired them to do, rather than the manual back-end administrative work that most healthcare professionals find themselves stuck doing at some point in the day. Along with automating and streamlining basic tasks for your team, here are some other cool ways people are using AI:

  • AI: Radiology’s Right Hand: At this session, a panel of radiology experts shared with us some surprising stats. For example, based on their average workload, radiologists are expected to interpret one image every three to five seconds. This time crunch puts organizations at risk for errors and radiologist burnout. However, AI can now augment image analysis to identify data patterns that the human radiologist is unable to see or track.
  • AI Accelerating Drug Discovery: When developing a new drug, the amount of data that has to be sifted through and processed is overwhelming. That’s one of the reasons why it takes 10+ years and a lot of money to develop just one drug. AI can speed up the process for scientists and researchers by screening that data and identifying key data sets that might otherwise go unnoticed.
  • Early Detection & Intervention through AI: Regardless of the health condition(s) your patients have, the earlier you catch problems and detect risk, the better. Organizations like Medopad, who was represented in this panel session, are developing algorithms and testing solutions with the goal of early detection for several different diseases.

4 . “Non-Healthcare” Companies Are Here to Stay

Pulling up WebMD through your Google search bar is not the only way that Google affects your healthcare anymore. The well-known tech giant, along with some other household company names like Uber, Lyft, Verizon, and Facebook, were represented at the HLTH 2019 conference.

From platforms to build scalable apps, to consumer products integrated with an EHR, to creating better patient experiences, these companies have injected rapid innovation into a traditionally sluggish industry.

While some of these companies, like Uber and Lyft, focus on making care more accessible, others focus on treating the patient like a consumer and getting patients more empowered, more informed and engaged with their own care.

These companies are no longer novelties in the industry. The traditionally consumer-focused tech giants are driving forward real innovation that is creating change for some of the toughest challenges facing the industry today. And they are not going it alone in their efforts. At HLTH we saw more traditional players partnering with the tech giants to create incredibly innovative programs. Pharma companies partnering with gaming companies, cable companies with payers, and providers with social media were just some of the unique and unexpected partnerships we saw at HLTH.

5 . We All Want to Make a Difference

While the variety of individuals and companies at HLTH was vast, everyone had something in common: we want to make healthcare better.

Mark Cuban is no exception to that common thread, which he expressed as he took the stage for one of the conference’s keynote sessions. With heated passion, Cuban discussed some of the biggest issues in healthcare. He covered climbing drug costs, political barriers, and the lack of affordable insurance in current-day America. However, the best part about Cuban’s session wasn’t when he talked about the problems, the best part was when he discussed solutions. He didn’t just say, “This is what’s wrong with healthcare.” He said, “This is what’s wrong with healthcare, and here is what I’m going to do about it.” You can see some of Cuban’s proposed solutions here.

While not every conversation was as honest and colorful as Cuban’s, the same level of passion was brought to each one. Every person we spoke with is interested in making an impact on the healthcare industry, so it was the perfect crowd to share our latest product announcement with. Destinations, the first no-code integration platform for healthcare, is a product we were able to demo at the conference. It was amazing to see so many people excited about a new solution to a traditionally difficult problem.

If there is one thing we know for sure, it is that healthcare is definitely changing, and it appears that HLTH conference participants are leading the charge.

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