Silicon Valley’s behavioral pattern is, by now, predictable. They recognize a pattern in need of disruption and then swoop in, like binary superheroes, to set things right. Whether it’s education, entertainment, or health, there’s something about calling in the techies that’s like calling in the consultants. They’re often removed from the problem, and almost never stick around to see what they’ve wrought.
With health, the techie savior syndrome gets even more complicated.
First, human lives are at stake. Second, the basic knowledge necessary to make an educated patient diagnosis and treatment plan grows exponentially more complex while doctors tend to remain siloed in their fields of expertise. And then there’s the nightmarish infrastructure of creating payment and management systems.
Once every summer, the Digital Health Summit holds a conference to take a deeper dive into both the potential and the pitfalls of the growing digital health sector. One of the missions of the conference is to bring the stakeholders — practitioners, technologists, investors, payers and, yes, even patients — together to make sure that there’s a common understanding.
The big takeaway from this year’s summit was that we’re moving closer to an environment where the vested players are playing nicely in the sandbox. And nowhere is this more evident than in Silicon Valley itself, where techies are embedded in the daily lives of a wide variety of physicians and medical researchers. The summer’s conference kicked off with behind-the-scenes tours of three innovation centers on the brand-spanking new and beautiful UCSF Mission Bay campus — a bricks-and-mortar testament to the power of the embedded techie.
Two stops on the trail were created by two very recognizable Silicon Valley names: Benioff Children’s Hospital, and Samsung Research Lab State of the Arts Center at the USCF Mission Bay Campus.
The Benioff Children’s Hospital is a warm, yet high-tech medical experience. Multi-touch gesture screens invite kids into the hospital, and from there it just gets better. Kids get to collaborate and play games via the large entertainment screens in their rooms. They can attend school via tele-presence. And robots that do everything — from serving lunch to delivering the linens — frequently roam the halls.
At the Samsung Lab, we visited the Human Performance Center, where we saw a team of researchers, clinicians, athletes, game designers, physical therapists, coders, and UI experts conduct kinematic studies helping to create better physical therapy outcomes using completely wireless technologies like 3D motion tracking, wireless EMG, and force plates. At the Gazzaley Lab, EEG, MRI scanners, and games were used to study the effects of physical activation on cognitive activation, and vice versa, as gorgeous 3D images of brain activity was beamed onto the walls.
The teams are multidisciplinary, the real-world patients plentiful, and the clinicians and practitioners geographically pre-disposed to liking technology. It’s a winning recipe. Much of the conference was devoted to looking at the myriad ways to structure partnerships in medical ventures, but it’s clear that they are being structured. Dr. Robert Wachter, author of the New York Times bestseller, The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype, and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine’s Computer Age, summarized it like this: “There have been $30 billion of federal incentives in the last years, and people have emphasized the fact that these investments helped hospitals and doctors’ offices put in electronic records, but the other thing it did is what we’re seeing at this conference — it got venture capital interested. It got Silicon Valley interested.”
The flip side, of course, is that some would-be practitioners have tech stars in their eyes and are leaving the medical world for the digital health world.
At the conference, we heard from a number of ex-practicing doctors who left their practices to play a part in redefining what they see as an enormously troubled medical sector.
As the great technology-healthcare disruption continues, it seems the embedded technologist is going to play the central role. What if every large hospital had a commitment to high tech? The friction between worlds might be different.
The fourth annual Digital Health Summer Summit (DHSS) was produced by Living in Digital Times and co-hosted by the Center for Digital Health Innovation at UCSF. It took place from June 18–19th in San Francisco. It brought together many of the leading health tech investors in an effort to drive investment, innovation, and partnerships. In addition to the annual Summit in San Francisco, DHSS also produces events at CES and CE Week.
Living in Digital Times, of which Robin Raskin is president and producer, brings together the most knowledgeable leaders and the latest innovations impacting both technology and lifestyle. It helps companies identify and act on emerging trends, create compelling company narratives, and do better business through strong network connections. Living in Digital Times produces technology conferences, exhibits, and events at the International CES and other locations throughout the year by lifestyle verticals. Core brands include Digital Health Summit, FitnessTech Summit, Lifelong Tech, Kids@Play Summit, Family Tech Summit, TransformingEDU, MommyTech TV, Wearables and FashionWare runway show, Mobile Apps Showdown, Last Gadget Standing, Battle of the Bands, Robots on the Runway and the KAPi Awards.