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CA-1 Myro Figura: Health 2.0, Innovation, and ZDoggMDOctober 11th, 2016
"Health 2.0" is a major conference on health technology and innovation that takes place every year in San Francisco. This fall, as a CA-1 resident, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to join over 2000 other attendees at the event — many of whom were chief executives, chief information officers, and venture capitalists. Others were physicians like me, interested in becoming inventors and entrepreneurs.
Of course, since it takes place in Silicon Valley, the conference is all about using technology to disrupt the healthcare industry. No doubt everyone agrees that healthcare has its kinks, but the trend is certain: there is significant interest in its evolution. Digital health stands at the forefront, and investment in digital health shows the growth of the industry from $110 million in 2007, ballooning up to $1.1 billion in 2011, and further to $4.5 billion in 2015. This past year was a record-breaking year for merger and acquisition activity in the sector as well.
Between startup competitions, technology workshops, TED-style talks, and new venture showcases, the conference was a dusk-to-dawn marathon highlighting the new developments of the year. There were opportunities to attend networking events as well. As someone who has been involved in the startup world, and has taken a product from an idea to the market, I can readily attest to the amount of effort and dedication it takes to build something that has a use. Now, as a clinician, I kept hearing the same advice again and again: "Get involved!"
Darren Dworkin, Chief Information Officer at Cedars-Sinai Health System, talked about the hazards of a startup venture. "You take a startup at the inception," he said, "and they may be one percent off, but launching a startup is like going to Mars. By the time you get there, unless you fix that one percent, you will be way off!"
At times the ideas behind healthcare startups are very solid, with patients and cost savings in mind. But in the end, adoption often fails either because the intervention doesn't fit our workflow, or because there is no one to reimburse it. Often these startups spend time and effort building solutions to problems that clinicians don't actually have, even though the solutions look great on paper.
James Madara, MD, the Chief Executive Officer of the AMA, pointed out that 50 percent of physicians' time is now spent charting in an electronic medical record (EMR). "If physicians were involved in building the EMR in the first place, maybe this wouldn't have happened," he said.
The takeaway is evident. There is enormous need for clinicians (and healthcare systems) to partner with startups, and to do so early on in the process. The acceleration in funding healthcare technology is bringing a lot of talent to the industry, and there is increased effort to solve healthcare problems. These problems revolve around all sorts of gaps, including transitions of care, patient engagement, social determinants of health, access to care, health disparities, and the EMR. There are also great opportunities in devices, personalized/precision medicine, and genomics.
Unfortunately, the solutions are often being built in silos, away from actual healthcare systems and away from clinicians and the patients they are trying to help. Clinicians can add most value by getting involved and partnering early, so we can help the ventures rapidly iterate and pivot. This would improve the likelihood of solving our problems and making healthcare better both for us and for our patients.
Innovation has fascinated me from an early age. In college at New York University, I started a student volunteer organization, working with fully trained EMTs to be first responders for campus emergencies. We partnered with a local ambulance corps to train our EMTs at no charge in return for having our volunteers help staff their ambulances, and we held community outreach events for CPR training. As a medical student, I developed a Kidney Screening and Awareness Program to provide access to care in an underserved community at high risk for diabetes and renal disease.
Over the past three years, I've been working on my own startup, partnering with entrepreneurs to bring their ideas to life. Our flagship product is a portable, battery-powered coffee mug that also brews coffee, and we are currently in the process of launching it on the market. The experience of starting from a silly late-night idea that came to me as I was studying for my Step 1 exam, taking the product through development and design, and finally putting it in the hands of people, has been incredibly rewarding.
Since I ultimately want to use these experiences to innovate in healthcare, there was no better way to begin than by attending Health 2.0. I applied for admission, and was lucky enough to receive a waiver of the $2,500 ticket price.
One unexpected benefit of attending the conference was the chance to see Zubin Damania, MD, in action. Dr. Damania is the Director of Healthcare Development for Downtown Project Las Vegas, and a YouTube rapper better known as "ZDoggMD", whose goal is to "unbreak" healthcare. At Health 2.0, he showcased a new video designed to encourage every physician to break away from our flawed healthcare system. He believes that the #unbreakhealthcare movement can deliver better care for our patients, as well as combat burnout, a very significant trend in trainees and attending physicians alike that affects the majority of us in some way.
Myro Figura, MD
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