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Health 2.0: Up, Down and Sideways

by John Moore | October 09, 2009

h20Another Health 2.0 Conference has come to pass and with broken wrist limiting typing fluidity, going to keep this synopsis short and sweet.

Not sure who said first impressions are lasting impressions, but coming up on the facilities that were to house this year’s Health 2.0 conference, I had a moment of trepidation upon seeing the signage for Health 2.0 (yes, the picture to right is real) with a back-drop of a funky auto parts and repair store across the street.  Once in the cavernous hall (note to self – cavernous halls should not concurrently house exhibits and stage) all went smoothly until one opened up the laptop and alas, no Wi-fi (actually there ended up being sporadic service but it was so bad as to be almost worthless).  An event focusing on Internet tools for health and no Wi-fi – am I in some sort of perverse David Lynch movie?

On to the event itself…

Highlights:

The Health 2.0 Accelerator demonstration was pretty impressive.  In the demonstration, nine different applications were used in a fairly seamless fashion to facilitate a consumer’s interaction with the healthcare system. A simple, yet powerful demonstration of what is possible when independent software vendors (ISVs) agree on some basic open standards, in this case OAuth and CCR to securely move data around a network. This example, while still a little too cumbersome or most consumers, points us in the right direction and might make an ideal case for the Health Internet.

Ability to meet many innovators in one place.  Health 2.0 is really the only game in town today that draws a wide range of innovators to one location.  J.D. Kleinke wrote a very good post on the event where he thought maybe the event was becoming a little too corporate.  I really do not see much problem with that, in fact, would like to see more realism demonstrated by these innovators through their articulation of clear and compelling business models, but I digress.

Best Demo: A tie, HealthVault & Quicken Health are the hands-down winners for best demos (outside of the Accelerator mentioned above).  HealthVault demonstrated their new “widget store” that is available within one’s personal MSN Health & Wellness account.  Leveraging data that one has in their HealthVault account, the MSN health widgets make that data truly actionable.  Over time, one can envision a health “AppStore” in MSN Health quite similar to Apple’s AppStore for the iPhone where ISVs build a wide range of health apps for the consumer that can be readily accessed all in one place.

While I have always had reservations about Quicken Health (too limited, only addresses one problem, financial) was very impressed with the architecture of the application.  Beautiful user interface, very nice tools built right in (e.g. hover over a given lab and you get a brief abstract of the lab test and its purpose). Another nice feature was the ability to contest claims, electronically, right from within Quicken.  Having dealt with many a mis-labeled/assessed claim before, that feature alone (no more voicemail hell) practically sold me on getting this app when it is released later this year.  Upon further thought though, better check with my payer first to see if they even would allow me to contest a claim electronically.

Excellent briefings with several companies including an update with Google Health, a deep and thoughtful dive with Within3 (keep track of them, they may have something if they move fast enough), a good update from Allviant (product CarePass is in beta), a great conversation, as always, with the folks of Polka and a surprising interview (amazed at how far they have come, more in near future) with MedHelp (another one to watch).

Disappointments:

While the Health 2.0 Accelerator succeeded, the Clinical Groupware session failed.  First off, I am not sure those in the audience fully understood what the term “clinical groupware” means and why it is important to consider.  Second, there was almost no discussion on what type of underlying architecture is required to make apps run in a clinical groupware environment.  So what we were left with was some very broad statements that clinical groupware is good for you, good for the industry, etc. but nothing about how it would actually work. Then there were the vendors in this session that did little to further the discussion.  Instead of demonstrating data sharing and substitutability of their apps, key tenets for clinical groupware to work, we were shown apps working in isolation.

Payers certainly have a voice in the healthcare discussion but do they really have a voice in the Health 2.0 discussion.  Certainly the organizers of this event think so but I differ.  Ultimately, it is employers that are footing the bill and have the most to potentially gain in offering their employees such tools.  And if not employers, how about the benefits consultants who advise them?  Getting quite tired of sessions composed of payers talking about how they always want to do good for their members.  Let’s be real, they want to maintain and/or improve margins and few consumers trust them.

The apparent fawning over the latest Health 2.0 rock star(s).  At the Spring event it was Jay Parkinson and Hello Health.  This fall it appeared that we had two: Roy Schoenberg of American Well and Adam Bosworth of Keas.  I’ll give credit to American Well to at least having a product/service in the market, but do they really need to be placed on a pedestal as the poster child for telemedicine? Roy is extremely polished and presents well, but hey, they are far from being the only game in town and not sure why they had two separate stage apearances, one on each day.  As for Adam and Keas, Adam certainly has a great publicist (gets an article on Keas in the NY Times on the first day of Health 2.0, coincidence, I doubt it) and is well known in IT circles, but he has also been extremely slow in introducing his product – suppose to go GA sometime this month.  So here we have a company founder without a live product in the market again being invited up on stage on two separate occasions.  Why, I can’t figure it out as my initial assessment of Keas is that it is a fairly simple product with low barriers for competing products (e.g., if Google put their mind to it, they could do the same with their search features and Google Health pretty easily).

The venue was just a disaster, enuf said.

Where are the established HIT companies, where are the intersections between these traditional ISVs that ultimately hold the data and these Health 2.0 ISVs looking to get their hands on it to power their services.  Bridges need to be built as today, Health 2.0 sits like an island, isolated in a very broad sea.

Wrap-up:

Health 2.0 is a great networking event.  Just about everyone in this particularly market is there and its always good to connect with people face-to-face as phone calls, emails, etc. only go so far.  Content of sessions though is a very mixed bag and appears highly slanted to those vendors who pay to play (sponsors, exhibitors, etc.) and not as expansive as it could be.  Hopefully, like many things in life, the organizers of this Fall’s Health 2.0 will learn from the many mistakes made and the next one will bring more value to attendees.

Stay up to the minute.

“As biometric data becomes cheaper and easier to collect through smart sensors, devices, and mobile apps, expect to see more innovations in consumer health.”

-Alicia Vergaras